ABBA (The tourist on OPL) : well that blows what I thought was a rather neat start to this enterprise (for years Alvaro below was the opener) and here we are with a famous name from what was the latest (September 2005) Ray Davies tune to see the public light of day. Not a lot of mystery about the identity of Swedish pop group Abba, who were greatly loathed in ‘real’ music circles for a long time (Eurovision Song Contest, ‘Waterloo’) but underwent something of a critical re-evaluation, particularly the two blokes as songwriters, in the ’90s. Richard Thompson gives ‘Money’ a great going over in his ‘1000 years of popular music’ show and you cannot help being deeply moved by ‘Fernando’ but it’s ‘Dancing queen’ that’s the real ace in the hole. To be in the same room as a bunch of women of a certain age … no, scrub that, of any age … singing ‘Dancing queen’ in unison and abandon is to witness the life force in action; first time was a revelation to me (hi Sally, hi Emma, hi Claire). And R.I.P. to my mate Nigel who, to my good hearted scorn, always championed them. At his funeral we entered to Abba (‘Our last summer’, ‘The winner takes it all’), Scott Walker (‘Such a small love’), sang ‘Jerusalem’ and exited to Bryan Ferry (‘These foolish things’); as I say, lively musical debate was always likely when we met for a pint or three.
ALVARO (Where are they now? on PA1) : an auspicious beginning. I find myself completely stumped here. Best I can come up via the search engines is a Portuguese architect of international reknown but apart from being alive at the right time I’m not aware he did anything of significance in London. He’s not indexed in Ossie Clarke’s diaries (or at least not as Alvaro …). A restauranteur, a friend suggests. Help! I have to admit I quite liked not knowing this … here we are at the start of this heroic venture and the first entry is a blank. (Or was until Abba got their namecheck – see, fairly obviously, above). So it was almost disappointing to discover the undoubted identity of the man, courtesy of Shawn Levy’s ‘Ready, steady go! Swinging London and the invention of cool’ (London: Fourth Estate, 2002), which is an excellent introduction to its subject, and is particularly good on the elitist origins of the ‘scene’. As for Alvaro himself, let me guide you to Alvaro MACCIONI
AMERICA, Captain (Catch me now I’m falling on LB) see CAPTAIN AMERICA
ANGRY YOUNG MEN, The (Where are they now? on PA1) : an English literary grouping of the 1950s. The debate is still on as to whether or not they did actually constitute a genuine movement (alongside The Movement – no really!) or not. A number of the main ‘members’ are listed in this verse of the song and have individual entries elsewhere. Some were very angry indeed; others had a career to forge. A UK ’50s literary brat pack if you like. Here’s Arnold Wesker, a fellow traveller, reviewing Humphrey Carpenter’s 2002 ‘biography’ of the movement ‘The angry young men : a literary comedy of the 1950s’ on the origin of the phrase: “Carpenter names the title of a book of memoirs by Leslie Paul, co-founder of the Woodcraft Folk, called Angry Young Man , published four years before the appearance of Look Back in Anger ; and John Osborne, in the second volume of his beautifully written autobiography Almost a Gentleman , tells a story about the Royal Court Theatre’s part-time press officer, George Fearon, who “told me with some relish how much he disliked the play and how he had no idea how he could possibly publicise it successfully… ‘I suppose you’re an angry young man… aren’t you?’ “”
In 1959 Souvenir Press put out a bizarre anthology entitled ‘Protest: the beat generation and the angry young men’, designed as a portrait of a generation (the paperback cover appears here) which rather shows where the cultural power lied until the Beatles came along. In the American corner we have Kerouac, Ginsberg and Norman Mailer; in the British corner John Osborne, Kingsley Amis (a funny and occasionally humane man – ‘The old devils’ of 1986 is a lovely book), Alan Sillitoe and John Braine. ‘Howl’ versus ‘Lucky Jim’. No contest really unless you’re looking for laughs.
It strikes me that the English writers Ray Davies’s work seems closest to were both neither angry enough (or at least not that kind of angry) or young enough to be included here, though their later writing continued to feel fresh and young long after this bunch had turned into a reactionary establishment. I have no evidence whatever that Ray ever read them, but if Village Green and Arthur are among your favourite Kinks albums I would venture that you’ll greatly enjoy the novels of Jack Trevor Story – one of the great hidden treasures of English literature, in particular the Albert Argyle trilogy starting off with ‘Live now pay later’ – and also those of J.L.Carr if you’re lucky enough to stumble across them in a library, car boot sale or second hand bookshop. The link above is to a wonderful website devoted to JTS … I could get evangelical about this. His ‘Hitler needs you’ (1970) is thinly veiled ‘spiritual’ autobiography, ends triumphantly with him careering down a country road on his bike: “Horace Spurgeon Fenton. Writer. Artist. And yearbook!” That’s from memory, but it’s accurate save for the punctuation I’m pretty sure. The reference is to the UK annual publication The Writers & Artists Yearbook, the practical bible for working authors and illustrators. Essence of Ray on an up day?
ANNA (Spotty Grotty Anna on the DES bonus 10″) : a rare Kinks instrumental, dedicated with all the usual charity to someone once known, no doubt. Children can be so hurtful. Obviously not the Anna that Arthur Alexander and the Beatles serenaded. In fact, according to Pete Quaife in Andy Miller’s book, one of London’s most notorious groupies: “Every group knew her, especially the Dave Clark Five.”
ANNABELLA (Wicked Annabella on VGPS) : not a nice person, but a creature of fairy tale. English whimsy rather than your hardcore Grimm.
ANNAN, Kofi (No one listens on Working man’s cafe) : When I started this enterprise, 5 years ago or more, Wikipedia was in its infancy. These days for someone like this you don’t need this site. Nothing against him, but I have nothing to say about Kofi Annan. Born 1938 in what was then known as Gold Coast, this Ghanaian diplomat was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, the first black African to do so, serving 2 5-year terms, 1997-2006. He was the co-recipient (along with the UN) of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Kofi means he was Friday’s child but there is no comic mileage to be made out of his name, unlike his predecessor, Egypt’s Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was an equally good man no doubt. As a job it can’t be much fun, but unlike the England football manager at least the incumbent doesn’t have to put up with the UK sports press pack. Can you name Kofi Annan’s successor? Thought not. Ban Ki-moon, from South Korea. (25/10/07)
ANNE, Princess (Heart of gold on State of confusion) : can’t be much doubt about this one, given Ray said so in an interview and the words fit pretty well with her biography – Prince Charles’s little sister the sister-in-law of Diana. (At least one correspondent to the Kinks Preservation Society has rather sweetly suggested that it could be about brother Dave but you can’t really say that one’s got legs, despite the superficial parallels.) Full title, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, LG, LT, GCVO, QSO, GCL; maiden name, Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise Windsor and currently ninth in line to the British throne. Her neutrally rendered Wikipedia entry reads pretty much like a Monty Python sketch, but like the song says, her charity work – particularly for the Save the Children fund – is well regarded. There are a couple of things in her favour. On their marriage her first husband refused the offer of an earldom, which may have been at her specific wish, because she wanted to shield her future children from the publicity that courtesy titles; they were the first grandchildren of a British monarch to carry no title (though that hardly makes them commoners in any real sense). She also famously told a bunch of paparazzi to “Naff off”, the incident (April 18, 1982) which was probably the seed of the idea for the song, which is part narrated (“And I …”) by a member of said rat pack. She’s also been in court (as in Court of Law) twice, for speeding and under the Dangerous Dogs Act. Not your average royal, then – she’s also an Olympic bronze medallist equestrian – but she’s still a royal. Let me state quite plainly here my firm belief that it is utterly ridiculous for the monarchy still to exist in twenty first century Britain, not least for the psychological harm it does to the individuals born into it, as compassionately alluded to in the song in question here. Just for the hell of it, why not take a look at a couple of websites that espouse the republican cause, one a bit po-faced but eminently rational, the other more delightfully scurrilous. I would like to think I’ll die a citizen rather than a subject – I can but live in hope – and whatever else ‘we’ say about American politics and the French, we can’t take that away from them. I leave you with two more thoughts. Does she know she’s had a Kinks song about her (unlike her big bro’ or sis-in law)? And she looks a bit like my sister Brenda.
ANNIE, Fat Flabby (Skin and bone on MH) : these days we would say she had an eating disorder.
APEMAN (Apeman on LVPATM) : not to be confused with KING KONG. ‘Ape man’ was however the sub-title of the first Tarzan movie.
ARTHUR (Arthur on Arthur) (1) : eponymous “hero” of Arthur, a plain simple man whom we love, understand, and sympathise with. Also one of Ray and Dave’s uncles, married to their eldest sister Rosie, who emigrated to Australia in 196*. Oh, and legendary King of Britain of Round Table fame, saviour of the land in waiting, biding his time even now in Avalon (and still in hiding from Brian Ferry, probably). Myth and legend hold many claims but, whatever … essentially a good bloke, a source of a notion of Englishness (although there are also Welsh and Scottish claims to have been the abode of the ‘real’ Arthur), almost certainly a Celtic warrior king holding out against the tide of Anglo-Saxon conquest, probably somewhere down in the West Country. In the screenplay he’s Arthur Morgan, which underlines the mythical connection. A contemporary film (sadly rarely seen these days) and play by David Mercer – ‘Morgan : a suitable case for treatment ‘- shares that cultural resonance. There’s a classic line in the movie from Morgan (David Warner) about his mum (played by Irene Handl) refusing to de-Stalinise.
ARTHUR (2) (Too hot on WOM) see Arthur SCARGILL
ART SCHOOL BABE : (Art school babe on Storyteller) : the story is in X-Ray (or is it? – time for a re-read methinks) but certainly as elaborated in the Storyteller performances. Dressed all in black with long straight hair, the female beatnik look, proper existential like (see also Juliette GRECO). Mmm, nice. This was presumably when he was at the famed Hornsey School of Art.
AUBREY, Doctor (X-ray on Storyteller): He was the Davies family doctor; the tale is told in X-Ray. In a sad little coda to his life Ray relates, in Jon Savage’s book, how he would peruse the local newspaper for topical ideas for the weekly song he provided for a TV programme called ‘At the eleventh hour.’ “I was looking through various stories … in the local paper because I had to write a story about a man with a tragedy in his life. I saw an obituary for Doctor Aubrey, and it made me feel a real shit for getting stories from ordinary people.”
AUNTIE (Art school babe on Storyteller) : it could be any of them I guess, up against adolescent beatnikery. ASB accuses Ray: “Arty farty, you’ll never fool your auntie.” And she was probably right. A nice bit of debunking.
AUNTS are distributed throughout, filed by their forename. In the words of the comic genius P.G.Wodehouse (pronounced Woodhouse), they are not gentlemen; just as well really, otherwise he would have been stuck for a plot or two. If you haven’t read any Wodehouse you really should. Don’t be put off by the upper class country house settings – as I was for far too many years – it’s all in the wonderful vernacular tone of the writing. And he was never a war time traitor; you can trust George Orwell on this one.
AUSTIN, Steve (Father Christmas single 1977, bonus track on Misfits reissue): “Don’t give my brother a Steve Austin outfit” is the singer’s plea – just gimme the money – to Santa Claus on this unsuccessful (saleswise) Xmas single. Steve Austin was the lead character in the highly successful ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, a ’70s American TV series about a cyborg, played by one Lee Majors, who was married (divorced 1982) to Farah Fawcett, one of the original ‘Charlie’s Angels’, so between them they ruled the ’70s silver screen both sides of the Atlantic. Steve Austin was a NASA astronaut who had a terrible accident. Opening of each episode went like this:
Narrator: “Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive.” Oscar Goldman: “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.” Oscar was to be Austin’s secret services boss. Obviously this cost … no, go on, take a rough guess. It was all pretty ludicrous; there’s more than you’ll ever need to know on Wikipedia. I don’t know about outfits as such, but certainly there were Action Man style dolls of all the main characters, including the inevitable Bionic Woman, for which there is still a market on the internet – check out the bewildering Bug eyed monster website for the full crew, including a bionic Bigfoot from space (the estimable ‘Jump the Shark’ gives the introduction of this character as where the rot set in, well ahead of the Bionic Dog). Not to be confused with Stone Cold Steve Austin, a pro ‘wrestler’, which is probably even more hideous, whose career started early ’90s. Take a look at his worst side at a delightfully malevolent website here. By one of those neat coincidences, before getting his major leg-up in show business, Lee Majors was the limo driver for one Jim Barnett, the man who created and produced the TV show ‘World Championship Wrestling’, precursor presumably to the pile of ordure that is WWF, RAW et al.
AVORY, Mick as in Mrs Avory’s son (The road on RL) : that would be drummer Mick. Or, as he was credited in Jazz News when billed but not appearing for a fledgling Rollin’ Stones in 1962, Mike. Is it possible to imagine the Rolling Stones without Charlie Watts? It’s a rhetorical question. Born south of the river, Feb 15 1944. These days Mick is something at Konk Studios and has occasional outings with the Kast Off Kinks – they make him sing ‘Dedicated follower of fashion’ – not least at the annual Official Kinks Fan Club North London bash – an invariably splendid affair.