Monday, January 2, 2017

Good News (SIr Ray)

So, 2016 was a year that had its ups and down but whose downs are much more vivid in my memory: the unexpected entry into hospice and shortly thereafter death of one of my Tolkien friends, who I'd enjoyed seeing yearly for a quarter-century; various family crises; a health scare that turned out to be just a false positive but nonetheless threw me for a while there; the appalling results of the election; a publication that came back so many times with requests for changes that when the final printed copy finally arrived I cdn't bring myself to look at it; the death, in the final days of the year, of the man I considered the greatest living fantasist.*

Distinct from this, but still a factor, there's the in-for-the-long-haul feeling in that I'm at the mid-point of two long projects that, while I'm v. excited about and enjoying working on both, still see that there's a lot of work done and a lot of work ahead to bring each to a satisfying conclusion.

The turn of the new year seems a good time to try to shake off the malaise.

So, turning instead to some good news for a change, the queen's Honours List this year included a knighthood for Ray Davies, frontman for The Kinks, one of the quirkiest and longest-lived of the British Invasion groups. There were plenty of one-shot wonders in those days, but The Kinks had two: "You Really Got Me" and "All Day & All of the Night". Then a half-decade later they reappeared with "Lola", a more complex song than their early  hits. And about a decade after that they had a final burst of glory (if you can call it that) with the schmaltzy "Come Dancing" (my least favorite of their songs).

While never stars of the caliber of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or The Who, the Kinks were much admired by their peers, said admiration manifesting itself in somewhat odd ways. The Doors, for example, flat-out plagiarized "All Day & All of the Night", lifting its hook whole for their own "Hello I Love You". And Jimmy Page, renowned as a session musician for years before becoming legend as the founder of Led Zeppelin, used to like to let it drop that he'd been the guitar player on "You Really Got Me"-- something which he now admits was not the case: it was all Dave Davies (Ray's brother and partner in the band).

Sad to say, while I like (some of) their music, the only Kinks album I own is an old cassette of STATE OF CONFUSION which has seen better days, plus a smattering of songs on old tapes dating back to my Fayetteville days, with only a single song on I-tunes ("Around the Dial").  Accordingly, today I visited I-tunes and added several favorites so I can listen to them on the laptop and i-Pod: "You Really Got Me" and "All Day & All of the Night" for their early hits, "Lola" plus the wicked little "Top of the Pops" and wistful "Ape Man" for their middle period, rounded out by "State of Confusion" and "Around the Dial" for their defiant latter days.

So, I've been giving the speakers a good work-out today, as the cats can testify, enjoying some good music I hadn't listened to in a while. Nice to be able to celebrate Davies' contribution to rock music and know he's getting some once-in-a-lifetime recognition.

--John R.
in process: THE CANTOS by Ezra Pound (forty cantos in so far).

*Richard Adams, author of WATERSHIP DOWN, the first post-Tolkien fantasy I read and enjoyed.

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