I’ve given Deborah Tyler-Bennett‘s poem Kinda Keats a page of its own, where it is reproduced in full with her permission. Go enjoy – here’s the link again. It is not unknown for some of the more academic writing about Ray Davies’s lyrics to make reference to the Romantic poets.
The Kinks in Literature
I’ve been signed up to the Kinks Preservation Society, or the Kinks Mailing List Digest as it calls itself at the head of the digest, almost as long as I’ve been online, and I’ve been more or less regularly posting to it ever since. It’s an eminently civilised place most of the time, held together with a light touch by the saintly Neil Ottenstein, to whom much thanks must be given. What follows is pretty much a collation of the verbatim posts I and others have submitted under the broad heading of ‘The Kinks in literature’, logging mentions of the band in works of fiction. Nor will poetry be denied! What follows also contains a few near misses. I’m amazed at how much I’ve written here. Slight reek of damp anorak?
Posts are listed chronologically – the earliest first, the latest at the bottom of the page. My posts are in GREEN, subsequent thoughts are in italic; the posts of others appear in BROWN, and I hope they don’t mind if I haven’t asked their permission. Similarly the verbatim quotes from the books (left in black)!
I’d love to hear about more of the same.
I know this is a huge page, but here’s an alphabetical index by author of the books mentioned in despatches. You should be able to find them below easily enough if you use Ctrl+F – the Find function – in your browser and take it from there:
- Jessica ADAMS : Cool for cats
I’m a believer
- H.G.ALMADEN : Ten dog fog
- Kurt APPAZ : Klassentreffen
- Jake ARNOTT : The long firm
- William BOYD : Armadillo
- Paul CHARLES : The ballad of Sean and Wilko
First of the true believers
Fountain of sorrow
The hissing of the silent lonely room
- Mat COWARD: In and out
- Keith CULLEN : God save the village green
- Martin EDWARDS : Waterloo sunset
- Janet FITCH : Paint it black
- Bill FLANAGAN : Evening’s empire
- Alan FLETCHER : Quadrophenia
- Asmund FORFANG : Max (in Norwegian only)
- David GILMOUR : Lost between houses
- Alan GOLDSHER : Paul is indead
- Timothy HALLINAN : The man with no time
- John HARVEY : In a true light
- Tobias HILL : The love of stones
- Nick HORNBY (not an actual mention)
- Robert IRWIN : Satan wants you
- Peter JAMES : Dead man’s time
- Thom KEYES : All night stand
- Max KINNINGS : Hitman
- Patrick McCABE : The holy city
- Ian MARCHANT : Parallel lines
- Bobbie Ann MASON :In country
Shiloh and other stories
- Peter MAY : Runaway
- Silvia MORENO-GARCIA : Signal to noise
- Audrey NIFFENEGGER : The time traveler’s wife
- John O’FARRELL : An utterly exasperated history of modern Britain or 60 years of making the same stupid mistakes as always
- George ORWELL (not an actual mention)
- Christopher OWENS : Sleeping in a field
- Owen PARRY : Honor’s kingdom
- Tony PARSONS : Stories we could tell
- James PATTERSON : London bridges
- Peter PRINCE: Waterloo story
- Ian RANKIN : Black and blue
The naming of the dead
- Peter ROBINSON : All the colours of darkness
Friend of the devil
The hanging valley
In a dry season
The summer that never was
- Salman RUSHDIE : The ground beneath her feet
- Judith SAXTON : Waterloo sunset
- Lewis SHINER : Glimpses
- Zadie SMITH : NW
- Wesley STACE : Wonderkid
- Janyce STEFAN-COLE: Hollywood Boulevard
- Dave WHITE: When one man dies
- Will WILES : Care of wooden floors
I’ve put the first post – Bardolator – in even though it’s not ‘on topic’, because it’s mentioned in my first post here. And because I think it’s very funny.
31 Mar 1999 From: Erin Campbell Subject: RDD, Bardolator / In a couple of songs that I can think of, Ray pays homage to the Immortal Bard. There’s Mr. Flash with his version of Shylock’s, “if you prick me, do I not bleed?”; and on the Storyteller CD, you can detect Hamlet’s “more things in heaven and earth” showing up on the X-Ray. This got me thinking, and after considerable research, I discovered to my amazement that Ray has borrowed heavily from the Stratford Streak over the years. Here are just some of the lines he has lifted from Shakespeare, and the plays in which they first appeared:
- As You Like It: All the world’s a stage/ And everybody’s a star: so let’s hear it for the Baptiste:
- Twelfth Night: If music be the food of love, play on/ For you can’t stop the musique playing on
- Hamlet: Never a lender or borrower be/ But looke a little on the sunnye side
- Macbeth: Is this a dagger I see before me/ Or is that a piano?
- The Tempest: Oh brave new world, that has such creatures in it/ Jacque, Jaque the idiot dunce
- Richard III: Now is the winter of our discontent/ I’ve got agues, cats are freezin’,they’re annoyin’ too
- The Merry Wives of Windsor: The world’s mine oyster/ Followed by some clamme chowder and corned beefe on Wrye
- Richard II: This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, this other Eden, demi-paradise/ This Hollywoode Boulevarde
- Henry IV: He hath eaten me out of house and home/ So don’t thinke that I’m tyght if I don’t buye a round
- Romeo and Juliet: He jests at scars that never felt a wound/ They’re assize twenty eight but I take thirtee fore, by my troth
- King Lear: And now my poor fool is dead/So let’s all drinke to the death of a clowne
- Macbeth: It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing/ (Fugoff)
(there’s another one from Erin later which is signed off “Duncan” so maybe this is his too)
Salman Rushdie: The ground beneath her feet
3 Apr 1999 / In keeping with the raised literary tone introduced by that immensely enjoyable survey of Shakespeare’s influence on RDD, a brief note about Salman Rushdie‘s new novel “The ground beneath her feet” (UK: Cape, 1999), which looks to be a lot of fun.
Much reviewed here, there was a preview in today’s Guardian (Saturday April 3). Our hero, Ormus Cama, arrives in Swinging London, becomes a rock god in the ’70s. Being Rushdie, of course, this is only part of it, but it’s one of those parallel universes where :
“At a brilliant moment in British music, British radio is deadly dull. Restrictions on ‘needle time’ means that when you want the latest hit records – John Lennon singing Satisfaction, the Kinks’ Pretty Woman, or My Generation, by the new supergroup High Numbers, who changed their name from The Who and immediately made the big time – all you get is Joe Loss or Victor Sylvester, music for dead people.”
And the Simon in Simon & Garfunkel is Carly.
I look forward to it with little trepidation, all 500 plus pages of it. What was lost in all the fuss about Satanic Verses and the heaviness that followed was what a great writer the man is, and that that book was amongst other things a very funny look at multicultural Britain in the ’80s.
So, KPSers … how about fiction? And indeed Kinkspotting in literature (the way Springsteen figured in Bobbie Ann Mason’s ‘Up country’)? Is it possible to invent Mick Jagger?
I’ve still not managed to read it …
Bobbie Ann Mason: In country
Of course, what I’d forgotten then was that Bobbie Ann Mason‘s ‘In country‘ (UK: Chatto, 1986), a book I’d read and liked a lot – a moving road trip to the big Vietnam memorial wall – when it first came out, actually had Kinks references of its own. This was pointed out on the KPS Digest so I checked it out again. This is what I find in my reading diary dated 7 June 1999: “Skimmed for the Kinks references (more than the two I’ll use) but still its power comes through, this tale of Vietnam aftermath for those who fought and their compadres. Is there another novel so effectively full of pop cultural references – MASH episodes, Springsteen, the radio thread of a new Beatles song? Outstanding people stuff.
Probably the most obscure reference mentioned on this page starts Chapter 30 :
“The footsteps on the boardwalk grew louder … She intended to leave the path and creep through the jungle back to the car. But it seemed a cheat to have a car for escape. She should have had a foxhole, with broken branches over it, to hide in. But the V.C. would know the jungle, and they would see where she had been. They would see the picnic cooler. The V.C. rapist-terrorist was still at the boardwalk. A bird flew over but she didn’t dare glance at it. Its shadow fell on the bushes.
“Here she was in a swamp where an old outlaw had died, and someone was stalking her. In her head the Kinks were singing, “There’s a little green man in my head,” their song about paranoia. But this was real. A curious pleasure stole over her. This terror was what the soldiers had felt every minute.”
Earlier, towards the end of Chapter 22:
“Emmett switched on the TV and punched through the buttons. On MTV, Chrissie Hynde, with the Pretenders, was singing “Back on the chain gang.” She was standing with her legs apart, looking tough. Men were swinging pickaxes.
“”Do you know this song?” Sam asked her mother apprehensively.
“”No.” Irene glanced at the TV, then busied herself with the baby.
“Chrissie Hynde had a baby, and the father was in the Kinks, one of the old British groups Irene used to love. But Sam realised her mother would probably not be interested in this information.
“When the song finished, Emmett began playing Pac-Man … “
Thom Keyes: All night stand
From: “Kevin Walsh” / Subject: Other (obscure) literary references to The Kinks … / Date: 6 Apr 1999
.. would include at least the title of the pop pulp novel “All Night Stand” by Thom Keyes, published in the US by Ballantine in 1967, though “Copyright (C) 1966 Shel Talmey (sic) Productions Ltd.” As konoisseurs know, Ray’s song “All Night Stand” by The Thoughts was produced by Talmy for his Planet label in 1966. The protagonists are Dave Entwistle (lead guitar), Roy Oates (singer), Nick O’Sullivan (bass), Mick Ingle (drums), and Gerry Malloy (rhythm). Notice the names Dave, Roy, and Mick …
As it happens I actually own a tatty paperback of this. It’s a good sharply written social document of the time and was not without social and cultural significance, the money Keyes got for the movie rights going towards financing an acid hippy pad in London where, if my memory serves me well, a lot of the damage was done to Syd Barrett. The cover is a classic of its kind and time, with the Kirkus Review saying “It’s Henry Miller’s version of what ‘A hard day’s night’ should really be like.”
There is a Kinks recording of a song called ‘All night stand’ which for a long time was only available on bootlegs, though it has recently appeared on the latest batch (2011) of official reissues. Seems there was a film mooted and The Kinks were pencilled in, but the song was all that came to pass.
Paul Charles: Fountain of sorrow
& I love the sound of breaking glass
02/06/99 And there’s another Paul Charles novel featuring Christy Kennedy – Fountain of sorrow, 1998 – still firmly situated in Chalk Farm & Camden Town. As a piece of crime writing I think it’s his best yet, with a neat twist at the end. Kinks references still there in passing, but the Beatles are his main men, with lots of respect for Jackson Browne too.
Charles’ first novel came out before I went online and signed up to the KPS digest. ‘I love the sound of breaking glass: an Inspector Christy Kennedy mystery’ (The Do-Not press, 1997) also drew heavily on his music biz background and featured a murder in a locked recording studio. Kennedy is a tea-man, by the way. This from an interrogation of a musician (p110):
“”When you record your albums, sir, have you ever used a studio in Primrose Hill called” – Kennedy checked his notes – “Mayfair Mews Studios.”
“”No, I always use a studio called Konk. It’s owned by Ray Davies of the Kinks. It’s only two streets away and I always hope I’m going to be influenced by England’s finest living songwriter when I go there. But I’ve never even come close to ‘Waterloo sunset.’
“As Kennedy drove away from the Farrelly’s home, he found himself overcome by an overwhelming urge to listen to the Kinks’ classic Farrelly had mentioned.”
The opening couplet of WS heads the next chapter:
“The melody was engulfing Kennedy’s brain. The cheeky guitar line from Dave, the other Davies brother, hooked its way into his mind as effectively as the times-table had at school. Dave Davies proved to be a perfect foil for his older brother’s cynical but endearing outlook on English suburban life. His guitar solo on ‘Waterloo sunset’ was as sweet as ant strawberry milkshake.
“Kennedy had PC Gaul drop him off at the Salt and Pepper Café in Parkway. He was to meet ann rea there and she was already at their favourite corner table. Kennedy immediately ordered tea (naturally) and brought ann rea up to date with his interview with the Farrelly’s, ‘Waterloo sunset’ and all.
“ann rea interrupted his commentary on London’s most elegant folk song.
“”I worry, you know,” she began.
“”What?” A startled Kennedy departed the melody.”
Ian Rankin: Dead souls
05/07/99 Music has been a subplot in some of the more interesting British crime writing of the last decade or so. In response to Colin Dexter’s opera and more particularly Wagner loving Inspector Morse, alternative strands have emerged. John Harvey‘s sequence of tough police procedurals featuring Nottingham detective Charlie Resnick openly celebrated jazz; even his cats were named after jazzmen – Dizzy et al. One memorable short story has the criminal trapped because of his love of obscure Duke Ellingtonia, and the record collections of his women are blatantly used as signifiers.
I think I may have mentioned Ian Rankin‘s wonderful John Rebus novels before in passing- the current pick of the crop in my opinion. Edinburgh police procedurals with a strong sense of place and morality, of the possibilities of decent behaviour, the novels have increasingly looked at the personal and social roots of criminal behaviour, examining motives derived from childhood experiences and choices almost made for a person before they had a chance to know a decision was being taken. But it’s not all joyless, and the establishment certainly don’t get off lightly – money and corruption are indeed ruining the land.
Rankin’s latest novel is full of musical references. Whereas *Let it bleed* (1996) paid homage to the Stones, Rebus’ (and presumably Rankin’s) first love, in *Dead Souls* (1999) he seems determined to drop as many obscure music names and tracks as he can into the gloom. Is he playing some outrageous game with Harvey? Thus as early as page 8 (the UK Orion edition) we have Greenslade’s *Sunkissed you’re not* segueing into Jefferson Airplane’s *If you feel like china breaking*. Not long after we get Leaf Hound’s *Drowned my life in fear*. Later he puts *Goat’s head soup* on his hifi, followed by Peter Hammill’s *Two or three spectres*. We get Can’s *TangoWhiskyman*, Manfred Mann’s *Cubist town* and on p220 we find him “Thinking of an old Gravy Train song: *Won’t talk about it*. Two pages on the Pretty Things’ *Cries from the midnight circus*. I must have missed some others too. So, while I’ve heard of most of the artists, save GHS I know none of the tracks. I even suspect he’s made at least one of ’em up. This then is the company our lads keep. Can you guess which Kinks track he chooses to place in with this lot?
I’ll give you the whole paragraph or so, from p258:
“Boys and girls went into the wild areas behind the park and found secret places, flattened areas of fields which they could call their own. And that had been Janice and Johnny, too, once upon a time … “The Kinks: ‘Young and innocent days’.
“Now, the place had changed.”
Interesting, eh? Are the other pieces mentioned even half as good?
Robert Irwin: Satan wants you
03/08/99 Another good stab at recreating ’60s London (Indica Bookshop, Middle Earth, LSE sit-ins et al) is Robert Irwin‘s curious mix of sociology, swinging London and satanism *Satan wants you* (UK: Dedalus, 1999). It’s a novel, though Talcott Parsons gets a mention … now there’s real sociological nostalgia for you – or me at least. This quote could well preface one of those examination questions such as : “Why do you think the author got it wrong?” One of the answers could be that it’s from a fake diary in the context of the story, but even KPSers have been known to confuse Waterloo Station with Waterloo Bridge – a very different kettle of engineering and poetry. Anyway, from p228 :
“I was not really paying much attention to Sally’s fantasy. I was getting cold feet about Waterloo Station. It’s the subject of a song by the Kinks, is it not? ‘Waterloo Station, you’re bringing me down.’ If the Lodge operated like the police do when they’re hunting a murderer, then its minions would be watching all mainline stations. Waterloo is definitely ill-omened. It is described in Aleister Crowley’s novel, Moonchild’ as ‘the funereal antechamber to Woking’ …
I leave that last bit in as a gratuitous mention of Paul Weller’s origins.
Elsewhere in the novel our MA Sociology aspirant and magickal heirophant buys a copy of Jeff Beck’s single “Hi ho silver lining” because his girl friend Sally wears a hippy hat.
Ian Rankin: Black and blue
Which links it with the second entry here, Ian Rankin‘s superb *Black and blue* (UK: Orion, 1997) – the title of course, another Stones reference. From p271 of the paperback :
” ‘How can the truth be bad? But Rebus knew Ancram was right. He didn’t want to agree with Ancram about anything – that would be to fall into the interrogator’s trap: empathy – but he couldn’t make himself disagree on this one point. This was bad. His life was turning into a Kinks song: ‘Dead End Street’.
” ‘You’re up to your oxters, pal,’ Ancram said. “
A good example not only of the way Rankin slips in popular or obscure song references (mentioned in a previous posting), but also uses Scottish dialect to confuse us all for the fun of it. Fifty pages or so earlier Rebus – one of the great creations of British crime writing – goes into a club in Aberdeen :
“The music was a mixture of kitsch disco and regressive rock : Chic, Donna Summer, Mud, Showaddywaddy, Rubettes, interspersed with Rod Stewart, the Stones, Status Quo, a blast of Hawkwind and bloody ‘Hi-Ho Silver Lining’.
“Jeff Beck : up against the wall now!”
And so say all of us (a bit unkind on Chic, though).
Judith Saxton: Waterloo sunset
21/05/00 Those of you who have entered “Waterloo sunset” into search engines, may have, like me, lingered over the book by one Judith Saxton. Anyone hoping for a pleasant game of spot-the-other-Kinks-references-hidden-in-the-text will be disappointed. Such is the fascinating life I lead that I have shoveled mightily on your behalf to establish this. The book first came out in the early ’80s with the title ‘Follow the drum’, when the pseudonymous author traded under the name of Judy Turner. In the UK it came out with the Mills & Boon imprint – genre romance. It was recycled as ‘Waterloo sunset’ under the writer’s real name in 1998 by Severn House, something this ‘library fiction’ specialist publisher does a lot of. It was there that someone with what I suppose could be said to be a postmodern sense of humour gave this romance of the Napoloenic wars a Kinks spin. The main action involves events proceeding and the conduct of the actual battle of Waterloo, from which the London station got its name; there isn’t much of a sunset – just “sunshine falling, dappled, through the branches overhead”. (Lovely word, that, by the way – dappled). The book has subsequently appeared in a large print edition.
I immediately warmed to the author for her acknowledgements at the start of the book, thanking “the staff of the Wrexham Branch Library, who obtained for me such an abundance of memoirs and journals written by the soldiers who fought at Waterloo”. As a librarian I have to say that one appreciates this sort of thing, and the use she makes of these sources was enough to make me think a read of a couple of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels might brighten an idle winter day. The scene describing the bringing of the horses ashore after the passage across the Channel had a certain something, although some of the vernacular was a little baffling. Our heroine, Barbara (the unlikely ‘Babs’ in the early narrative, but I checked out the Mormon genealogical indexes and Barbara was indeed a name in circulation at this time) suffers a romantic and domestic misunderstanding and runs away to join the army as a boy. So – a saga of military crossdressing. This did happen, apparently, but hardly I’m sure in the fashion occurring here – from ballroom to minding the horses in a flash and vice versa; as the late great Ian Dury might have put it – a load of old bollo. One is pleased for her, though, when she gets her man.
Paul Charles: The ballad of Sean and Wilko
30/07/00 First in a long time and it’s only the new Paul Charles novel featuring Inspector Christy Kennedy. I say only because the first three all mentioned the lads too, and this time it’s not joy on hearing ‘Waterloo sunset’ on the car radio but Ray’s appearance in a list sandwiched between Bob Dylan and Van Morrison with Paul Simon. Respect! Anyway, the book is called The ballad of Sean and Wilko‘, published by The Do Not Press. Not without some rock’n’roll business suss and a coupla nice one liners, it’s great on the magic of Primrose Hill (Loudon Wainwright did a song, too) and the pleasures of Camden Town and more particularly Chalk Farm. There’s drinking in a couple of pubs I used to frequent when I lived in London too. The plot creaks … and it is just about the worst edited book I can recall reading. Sloppy doesn’t enter into it – spelling, grammar, punctuation, missing words practically every chapter. Given that we encounter Otis Reading at one stage I guess we should feel lucky they got Davies right. Clearly in some departments The Do Not Press does not care. / Dave Q (whose aol spell checker just offered him moron for Van Morrison).
7 Sep 2000 ‘Driving’ was one of the songs that made me realise just how special the Kinks were. Glorious music, of course, but this wasn’t just rock and roll, this was also literature. It was a song that got you inside the Ford Popular, told you how it felt to be there. I was deep into my George Orwell period at the time and I still identify the song with my favourite of his social novels – ‘Coming up for air’, in which the protagonist goes in pursuit, in the looming shadow of the forthcoming World War, of his own young and innocent days, of village greens and in his particular case a pond of fond fishing memory. His car journey is a solo one, not the Davies family jaunts that ‘Driving’ draws on, but the magic of driving through the countryside at a time when popular motoring was in its infancy is just as much there. “The idea came to me the day I got my new false teeth,” is how the novel opens. Familiar territory, no?
I was also reading a lot of F.Scott Fitzgerald at the time; I saw Ray Davies as being the missing link between Go and FSF – with hindsight a silly notion, but one I remember not without affection. I do wonder how much Ray has read of Orwell. Everyone his age will have been introduced to, if not force fed, ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’ at school, and in all probability been told they were anti-socialist texts (something that would have pained Orwell – they were anti-Communist). Certainly “Big Brother” made a big impact on Ray’s social thinking, and that Orwell along with Aldous Huxley (‘Brave New World’) are the main social theorists at work in Preservation Act. Those sometimes puzzled by the idea of England can do worse than explore Orwell’s essays – on seaside postcards, on the perfect pub, on the correct way of making tea, on music hall, his delineating of a civilised patriotism – to discover some of where Ray has been coming from.
So take a drive with me.
William Boyd: Armadillo
4 Jan 2001 From: “Erin Campbell” Subject: ANOTHER LITERARY REFERENCE: I’ve just discovered yet another reference to the Kinks in the context of a novel. This time it’s “Armadillo” by the British writer William Boyd, published in ’98 by Viking/Penguin. Early on in the book we meet a minor character called David Watts, who it turns out, is a famous rock star. Later, on page 196, we encounter the following (slightly edited)exchange:
-Know why he calls himself David Watt?
-It’s that song by the Kinks.
-Never heard of them.
-Jesus Christ, you must have, one of the legendary bands of the 1960s.
-Rings a bell, I said, now you mention it.
Torquil stood up as if he was performing and sang in a throaty tenor and cod-cockney accent: Fah, fuh, fuh,fah, fah,fah,fahFah …..He sang the whole song, word-perfect…It was a song about someone who could do no wrong, someone who was revered and worshipped by his peers….
So add the name of William Boyd, along with Ian Rankin, Bobbie Ann Mason, Salman Rushdie and David Gilmour, to the list of recent authors who have made references to the Kinks in their novels.
Happy new year, tout le monde! Duncan
Tobias Hill: The love of stones
08/07/01: Kinks in and out of literature & the fifth Beatle
1. Jake Arnott’s ‘The long firm‘, originally published UK 1999, has a throwaway “dedicated follower of fashion” used to describe a character and add a bit of zeitgeist. Excellent novel which grips from the outset and is of no little interest to Kinks fans, firmly located as it is in ’60’s London, its criminal underworld (the Krays’ House of Lords connection included), mod clubs, Joe Meek and all (or was Joe Meek in the sequel? – sorry). Great narrative drive, taken on by 5 different players in turn, with a late ’70s coda coming right out of left field. I’m being lazy here, but did Ray actually invent the ‘dedicated follower’ phrase? Does he get the credit in modern dictionaries of quotations?
2. Arsenal fan Nick Hornby, who should be no stranger to this list, author of the very fine ‘Fever pitch’ (the function of the football supporter – indeed all sports fans by extension – is to suffer) and ‘High fidelity’ (Chicago painlessly becoming North London in the movie, certainly to my surprise) has a new book out. In ‘How to be good‘ he adopts a female persona but that’s beside the point. It’s a very funny and painful comedy of contemporary manners set, for a change, in North London. Half-way through it there is a list, a very funny list a page long, which it would be unfair to quote in full. However:
“Here is a list of the people that Andrew and David have hitherto regarded as talentless, overrated, or simply wankers: Oasis, the Stones, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Robbie Williams, Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis …” the list is relentless, taking in Virginia Woolf, Ben and Jerry and Pete Samprass among many many others along the way … “Maurice Greene (‘How can a sprinter who’s faster than anyone else be overrated?’ I asked once, despairingly … ) … It is easier, in fact, to write down the people in world history that they both like: Bob Dylan (although not recently), Graham Greene, Quentin Tarantino and Tony Hancock.”
This latter is of course he of ‘Hancock’s half hour’ as quoted in Dave’s ‘Fortis Green.’
But the point of the mention here is that neither Ray alone or the Kinks collectively appear in either category in the list. I have to admit to both relief and angst but ultimately disappointment that our heroes are absent. I find it something of a mystery given the Arsenal, North London and music connections that the lads appear nowhere in his oeuvre.
3. And so on to Tobias Hill’s ‘The love of stones’, a literary novel published by Faber earlier this year. This is not about another London r&b band but follows the lives of various people connected over the years with a richly encrusted brooch (Elizabeth I wore it). The Kinks reference was pointed out to me by my boss who also said I probably wouldn’t enjoy the book as a whole and she’s usually a good judge (it works the other way too). So it doesn’t look like I’ll read it in full and can make no comment overall, but the passage is interesting and worth quoting extensively from, starting page 113, and don’t take anything for granted:
“We don’t talk on the way from the airport. The radio is turned up loud, fading between local stations. Turkish pop, US Airforce FM. The driver sings along in a small absent voice. We don’t talk … I have had enough of taxi drivers.
“The music shifts from Turkish to English, East to West. The driver offers me a cigarette and I take it. The smoke wakes me up. I lean against the window and look out at Asia while the Kinks play in the trapped air.
‘I was born, lucky me, in a land that I love. Though I’m poor I am free,’
“I am looking for the woman who loves pearls … The sound of the dawn muezzin begins. Beyond it, through it, comes the thunder of a Turkish fighter plane. I crane back to see.
‘When I’m grown I shall fight. For this land I shall die, where the sun never sets.’
“We come to a junction crowded with trucks and ranked taxis … over them all loom the buttressed walls …
‘From the East to the West, from the rich to the poor, Victoria fucked them all.’
“The driver clicks off his radio and pulls up …”
05/08/01 Kinks not in literature (a near miss) It starts promisingly: “I’m doing sixty down Highgate Hill and the Laughy Woman is doing my head in.” Highgate Hill is an actual London street name – mentioned in ‘London Song’ – as well as the hill and sixty is not easy; the Laughy Woman is co-presenter on a breakfast radio show whose daily quiz competition provides a neat sub-plot throughout – she laughs too much.
The book is called ‘Hitman‘ but it is assassination we’re talking here rather than Waterloo Sunset. The author is one Max Kinnings (well I said it was close). Published by Flame in the UK last year, and an anglophile’s delight I would hazard to imagine (being English myself). The fine detail wherein lies one big strand of the humour (there really is a car called a Vauxhall Viva, say) may not be entirely lost on KPS members not of these islands.
It’s a contemporary North London comic crime caper with an added touch of the Carlos Castenedas, although the black dog featured here is a Jack Russell terrier. Striving for Kinks content we note the best buddy of our ‘hero’ lives in Muswell Hill, and that he’s the A&R man who discovered the bestselling Manchester rock band Gobshite (any suggestions?). Great narrative pace and seriously funny. At one stage I thought I was going to injure myself laughing at the hero’s account of the death of his mother – without giving too much away it involves an ex-World War Two fighter pilot disastrously misreading a scene of crime reconstruction.
John Harvey: In a true light
21/10/2001 While John Harvey’s accomplished sequence of Nottingham based crime novels featuring detective Charlie Resnick never quite hit the UK bestseller lists with the impact of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels (previously mentioned in dispatches) it deservedly picked up critical awards. Harvey regularly uses music as a reference point – Resnick even had cats named after bebop musicians – and his website ( a modest model for authors’ self run websites at http://www.mellotone.co.uk ) has a section devoted to the (mostly) jazz music he called on as background and inspiration. There’s a fascinating Resnick short story that hinges on a con man using the names of obscure Duke Ellington sidemen as aliases being caught at a gig featuring survivors from the Ellington band at Ronnie Scott’s.
Harvey’s first post-Resnick novel, “In a true light“, has just been published in the UK. It’s not a cop novel but it does feature lawmen and women in London’s Kentish Town and New York against a plot background of the ’50s NY art scene – Abstract Impressionist and all that – and features among others a jazz singer. Truth to tell, I didn’t like it as much as the Resnick stuff, though the lead character Sloane – an art forger from the ninth Resnick book – is interesting enough, and it has been well received by reviewers. But it does practically kick off with our boys and it does say something about the North-South London divide that crops up in Kinks tales occasionally and may have puzzled some non-Brits on the list. From page the first:
“They let Sloane out of prison three days short of his sixtieth birthday [ … ]
“Now he stood at the centre of Waterloo Bridge, the river running broad and free beneath him. To his left, St Paul’s and the City; to his right, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben [ … ]
“That morning he had walked along the Embankment from London Bridge, Blackfriars to Waterloo Station, words and music to an old song by the Kinks accompanying him. Walked slowly talking it all in [ … ]
“Sloane breathed deeply, stretched both arms wide and, the beginnings of a smile bright in his eyes, set off for the north side of the Thames.”
“Crossing the river: Sloane had friends way back in his early thirties who, when he’d told them he was selling up, moving south, had looked at him askance. South. South of the river. Camberwell. Peckham. Shooters Hill. You can’t be serious [ … ] And yet, when he looked back, it was true that few of those so-called friends had found their way south to pay their respects to Sloane in Deptford [ … ] True, too, that when he himself made the journey in reverse, back to then familiar watering holes in Camden or Wood Green, all eyes would widen with amazement, as if some long-departed spirit had just walked through the door. Christ, Sloane, what you doin’ here? Thought you’d gone for good.”
Paul Charles: The hissing of the silent lonely room
11 Feb 2002 Another year, another Inspector Christy Kennedy novel from Paul Charles – ‘The hissing of the silent lonely room‘, The DoNot Press, 2001. Set in Camden Town & Chalk Farm in North London again with a music industry background. Esther Bluewood, the missing link between Joni Mitchell and Suzanne Vega (it says here), whose first album was an epic of ‘Astral weeks’ proportions artistically, is found dead – suicide, or is it? There’s some interesting stuff about songwriting, suicide and fans, and a recipe for psychedielic omelet (colourful vegetables and sugar). As ever the working through sometimes lumbers but it has its moments. Kinks content comes from an entry in Esther’s notebook (p112):
“I’ve just put down my guitar. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Today I’ve been trying to make it work. I’ve put on someone else’s music, my favourite song in fact: Emile Ford singing ‘What do you want to make those eyes at me for.’ Should there be a question mark there? It is a question … Emile sang it sweetly. My mum used to play this record all the time. That’s where I first heard it. It’s such a simple song, but it gets me close to sobbing every time. I don’t know why but it does. so there.
“I’ve just checked the label and there is no question mark, just ‘What do you want to make those eyes at me for’ by Emile Ford and the Checkmates, Pye Records. I recognise the label because it’s the same one all the classic Kinks hits were on …”
Quite how that gels with her, an American, rather than the older Kinks loving ‘tec is one of the problems of Charles’ writing – he needs an editor – but for what it’s worth, I dare say that it’s a song that featured in the after-the-pubs were closed singalongs in the front room in Fortis Green all those years ago.
Paul Charles: First of the true believers
30 Jul 2002: The Kinks in literature if that’s what you can call it . Another book from Paul Charles but not a Christie Kennedy mystery. No, a change of location and period – Liverpool, late ’50s and ’60s. ‘First of the true believers : the autobiography of Theodore Hennessy‘. London:The Do-Not Press, 2002. Further from the title page : ‘a novel concerning The Beatles’. It’s a strange construction, working best as a look at the Liverpool musical milieu, although The Searchers are strangely absent. But it’s also a fairly hackneyed love story which progresses somewhat laboriously as well as a meditation (and reportage along with trainspotting lists of weeks at no. 1 et al) on The Fabs’ history. These last two elements of the book never really mix. The group’s tale is not a metaphor for the relationship or anything else for that matter, so you end up wondering what the point was. There’s a strong defence of Brian Epstein and an anti-Yoko tirade at the end (so it’s not all bad – no, I didn’t really say that); he has little time for the Stones. He’s not bad on what made the Beatles magic – as a group – the sharing of microphones, the enthusiasm, the harmonies, the songs. It didn’t, though – always the test of music books – so much make me reach for the albums as Ian MacDonald’s masterful Beatles book ‘Revolution in the head’. Anoraks will note he has McCartney doing the vocals on ‘Do you want to know a secret’ and there’s a namecheck for a bunch of regulars on the tour circuit called ‘Sounds Incorporate’; it should be Incorporated – a possible instance of the spellchecker as (non)-functioning editor.
This from the last chapter gives a flavour of what he was maybe trying to do:
“For the first time in my life, I was happy that I had not nearly met up with George Harrison in the Les Stewart Quartet. you know what we were talking about, that when they were replacing Pete Best he may have suggested me to John and Paul? I was happy because, if things had turned out that way, i would never have met and loved, and lost, and met and lost again, and met and married one …. [blah blah blah]”
“Equally importantly, should I have (via the Les Stewart Quartet) met George Harrison and consequently met and joined The Beatles, then perhaps they would never have enjoyed the success they eventually did … “
Enough. The Kinks get mentioned in a couple of lists of other groups, but more specifically we have, this respectful nod from the chapter concerning the release of Sergeant Pepper (p.240):
“Just as I was starting to become a wee bit proud of my songwriting, The Beatles were starting to work on a project that would make me and every other songwriter in England, with the possible exception of Ray Davies, want to pack up writing songs forever.”
And a bit later on (p249) listing the top ten singles the week Pepper was released:
“Equally interesting to note is that the number two single was written by Ray Davies who, with his consistently insightful songs, was proving to be the best English songwriter who didn’t come from Liverpool and wasn’t a member of The Beatles.”
I’m afraid that’s about as witty as it gets. Other annoyances … always, but always, calling sex or even making love “doing the wild thing”. No. I’ll stop there. I should be writing novels of my own.
Peter Robinson: The summer that never was
03 Feb 2003
“When Arthur took Ida out for a drink, as he did on Fridays, They went to the Duck and Drake or the Duke of Wellington, where Ida Banks caught up on the local gossip and they took part in trivia quizzes and laughed at people making feels of themselves in the karaoke sessions.
“But there was none of that at The Coach and Horses, and the piped sixties’ pop music was turned down low enough so that old men could hear each other talk. At the moment the Kinks were singing ‘Waterloo sunset’, one of Banks’s favourites. After Banks and his father had settled themselves at the table, pints in front of them and introductions made, Arthur Banks first lamented Jock McFall’s absence due to hospitalization for a prostate operation … ” (p107)
– from Peter Robinson : The summer that never was. UK: Macmillan, 2003.
Another music loving British cop in the quality tradition of Ian Rankin’s John Rebus and John Harvey’s Charlie Resnick, who had cats named after jazzers and even though he’s never mentioned the Kinks has a beautiful short story concerning a crook snared because of his Duke Ellington obsession.
Robinson, who has been writing Inspector Banks mysteries for a decade or more is at the top of his game right now, with great plotting and some really interesting characters – Banks’s son plays in an Indie band, an ex-lover policewoman was a child in a St Ives artist hippy commune, and his own working class father has never accepted his career choice, sees him as bit of a class traitor.
Banks is stationed in the Yorkshire Dales (though this is no ‘Heartbeat’ thank goodness) but one of the crimes in ‘The summer that never was’ harks back to 1965 Peterborough (Cambridgeshire), where a teenage friend disappeared in mysterious circumstances. So among an awful lot of other things we have a contemplation of boyhood in the ’60s with a significant offstage appearance from the Kray brothers and in the present a tragic Tim & Jeff Buckley situation and much else.
Highly recommended. I would have been disappointed indeed not to have been able to introduce it here.
Lewis Shiner: Glimpses
22 Apr 2003 Lewis Shiner : Glimpses (US: St Martin’s Press, 1993. Griffin edition, 2001). Particularly interesting given the debates we’ve had over the years concerning the another gentleman (for it is indeed he):
” ‘We don’t have to do this,’ I said. ‘We could go back to the studio and you could do some work.’
‘It’s too cloudy to work. Maybe tonight.’
‘It’s all so fragile,’ I said. ‘The littlest thing can just … ‘
‘Relax,’ Brian said. ‘Smile.’
The DJ said, ‘Here’s something from last year by the Kinks.’ I recognised the opening chords of ‘Something better beginning.’
Brian turned the radio up. ‘Just listen,’ he said.
Ray Davies sang about dancing the last dance with some girl he’d just met, wondering what lay ahead. Heartbreak, or the start of something big. The song was about more than just a boy and a girl. Sitting there in the mist and drizzle, the dusty, comforting smell of the heater filling the back seat, it seemed to tell me everything I could ever need to know.
Brian said, ‘It’s the whole world, see? It’s like we’re just waking up. New music, new ideas. It’s only the start of something, something incredible.’ He looked over at me. ‘But you’ve seen it, right? You know where it’s all headed.’
‘It’s going to be big,’ I said. ‘The next three or four years are going to be so intense some people will never get over them. They’ll be talking about them for the rest of their lives.’ Like me, I thought.
Brian wrote ‘HELP ME’ in backward letters in the mist on his window. “
The narrator knows where it’s all headed because he’s from 1989 and on a mission to try and change things enough to enable Brian Wilson to finish ‘Smile’. His time traveling ability develops from thinking an un-Spectored ‘Long and winding road’ as George Martin might have recorded it at Abbey Road straight onto tape. He physically manifests in LA to pull Jim Morrison back from the ravages of alcohol long enough to complete a proper third Doors album (‘Celebration of the lizard’) and then makes the ‘Smile’ album his mission. It’s an incredible piece of writing which has made me fascinated with that project like never before. The poignancy of Brian’s situation and the politics of the band (Mike Love demanding to know of Van Dyke Parks what some of his lyrics actually mean) are beautifully presented. The time traveler succeeds – the album gets finished – but it turns out it doesn’t actually make that much difference as Brian tells the narrator later on when they meet in ‘heaven’; the band split (musical differences) and it hardly sells at all, The world is not saved.
Next up, to London to rescue Jimi Hendrix and allow him at least enough time to produce ‘First rays of the new rising sun’, the prospective merging of the musical traditions and the consequent healing. He tries this more than once, but Jimi still dies. It all gets too much for the time traveler who nearly dies (hence the ‘heaven’ sequence – Jimi jamming with allsorts) and has a major breakdown back in 1989.
It’s a wonderful piece of brilliantly sustained writing and invention. Apart from the music – the time traveler was in a band late ’60s (they let him go), his 1989 record industry buddy, a wheelchair bound Vietnam vet who’s built up a successful enough record label around Nuggets type compilations – we’re in roughly Dave Eggers territory here without the self consciousness though always the right side of psychobabble. There’s the small matter of the narrator’s relationship with a recently dead father, who probably committed suicide on an undersea dive (he replicates the dive), a disintegrating marriage between decent people, drink problems and the whole legacy of coming of age in the ’60s and … just, what happened? And a whole lot more; as far as the personal narrative goes I’ve not mentioned the other love story at the book’s heart. And it does have a very big heart.
Mat Coward: In and out
2 Jun 2003
” The voice was quite soft though firm enough; the accent typically, and to Don’s ear delightfully, north London. All south Londoners sounded like thugs, he reckoned, even if they were vicars. But north Londoners – well, a lot of them sounded like south Londoners these days, as did half the nation, from Cornwell to Edinburgh. Those who still sounded like north Londoners, though, they had an accent Don had taken to immediately, back when he’d first moved to the capital. Unpretentious, but always holding something back; a plain working man’s voice, carrying a hint that mischief was available at a moment’s notice, should it be required, but only at the management’s discretion. Erudition, unashamed yet not paraded, filtered through home rolled cigarettes and pints of light-and-bitter. It was the accent in which The Kinks had written and sung their songs. “
Yay! Actually I have to take some of the credit for this, I think. Mat Coward is an old mate from Kentish Town Library days – just a mile or less down the road from The Boston, venue of last year’s OKFC bash with the Kast Off Kinks. Even now he’s the only person I know who has a good word to say for punk band Jimmy Pursey and Sham 69 (sorry Mat, the best thing about them was their name). The quote is from his second Don Packham & Frank Mitchell mystery novel called ‘In and out’ (US: Five Star, 2001), set in the world of a Hampstead pub darts team, a milieu with which the author was familiar; the first was set in some north London allotments. I sent Mat a tape of something a few years back (might have been Jackie Leven) and put some Kinks stuff on the B side for him. About which comment was there none, at the time.
As I say, it’s his second crime novel in what Americans call the cozy sub-genre. Not exactly essential, but he also maintains a nice suspenseful sub-plot around the theme of the five best albums of all time (regrettably ‘Muswell Hillbillies’ is not included) – never let it be said that Don Packham’s interrogation techniques are orthodox. Shall I give them away? Can’t resist. Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer’ (I’m shocked!), ‘The Clash’ by The Clash, ‘Never mind the bollocks’, Sinatra’s ‘Songs for swinging lovers’ and …
“Also, ‘Slade alive’ by The Slade. Bit of a controversial choice that last one, I realise. But I think if you give it a fair listen –
” ‘Are you here to discuss music, Inspector?’
“Don beamed. ‘I very much hope we’re here to arrest you for murder, matey.”
Though he lives back in the West Country these days neither of Mat’s novels have been published in the UK – you lucky Americans. His forte is the short story and he’s appeared in a wide variety of anthologies. A collection of his work has just been published in the States with the title ‘Do the World a Favour and other stories’ and boasts an intro from Ian Rankin, who has also been previously mentioned in these despatches. Literate, colloquial, quirky, inventive and fun, with a good old fashioned socialism bubbling away never far from the surface, if you see the name give it a try. Worth particular mention is a story called ‘You can jump‘ in an anthology called ‘Death dance‘ edited by Trevanian. (US: Cumberland House, 2002), a fantastic look back, with feeling, at punky London c1977.
Please excuse the extended plug, but I think the quote at the top of this post deserves something … Cheers, Dave Q (born south of the river but not to be blamed for that; moved before the accent took hold)
Timothy Hallinan: The man with no time
Owen Parry: Honor’s kingdom
6 Sep 2003 From: Julie Bell /Subject: Message in a Book
Hi, Kinky ones, I’ve caught up to August in the Digest now, and people were telling what they were reading back then. I mostly like murder mysteries (without talking or mystery-solving animals, recipes, or anything built around hobbies), and we all know there are several mystery-writing Kinks fans out there, Ian Rankin having been mentioned. Timothy Hallinan hasn’t been mentioned that I know of, but, boy, was he good, although he’s quit writing fiction and he’s out of print. He once had a character punish a young punk who broke into his house by tying the kid up and forcing him to listen to the Kinks. He opened another novel with his character in an exotic-dance club, remarking that he thought it was a little bit post-ironic for the dancer to be using “A Little Bit of Emotion” for her music, since her whole job was mechanically faking sexual ecstasy.
Anyway, I was reading along in a new (in paperback) book by Owen Parry, called “Honor’s Kingdom,” in which his main character, who works as an intelligence officer for the Union Army during the American Civil War, is posted to London in 1862, to check out some possible Confederate sympathizers. All of a sudden, I came up on this:
“The police rig took us back over Waterloo Bridge, where a handsome young man…turn(ed)about to cry to a girl, “Julie, will you meet us at sunset, then? Just where you’re standing now?” And the girl nodded and called, “At sunset, Terry, but not before, for I’ve got to see Davies off.” …But here is…why the trivial incident struck me so… The bright boldness of this Terry and his Julie seemed to capture the spirit of our age, the turbulent sixties, with their progress, hope, immodesty and danger.”
The rest of the quote is also appropriate, but just too long, especially his description of Julie, who is Julie Christie to a T. There’s no relevance to the plot at all; he’s just saying Hi! to fellow Kinks fans, I’ll bet. Hi, Owen! / Truly Julie Bell
From: “Julie Bell” To: “Dave Quayle” Subject: Re: Message in a book Date: 12 September 2003
Dave Quayle wrote: > Hi Julie > What a brilliant post! I love the idea of Owen Parry saying ‘hi’ like that. Can you remember the titles of the Timothy Hallinan books? I’ve been meaning to put all my ‘Kinks in literature’ posts onto my web site for a while now. Would like to give chapter and verse to your findings too. Can I just quote you verbatim when I get around to doing it? > Cheers, Dave Quayle
Hi, Dave. That’s quite a compliment, from you! I tried to find Owen Parry on the Web, in case I could e-mail him, but all I could find was people selling his books, except for a couple of people chatting about his real name being Ralph Peters, and his having written some books under that name. And that he’s a retired Army officer. In the postscript from “Honor’s Kingdom” he says he first visited London as a “young, aspiring and very bad musician” in 1970; so bad, in fact, that he had to quit and join the Army. I’ll bet he was there Kinks-chasing; if I could have done anything I wanted to in 1970, that’s exactly where I’d have been!!!
Timothy Hallinan‘s book in which he ties up the punk and makes him listen to the Kinks is “The Man With No Time.” Unfortunately, I took that one back to the used-paperback store, and when I went back for it later, it was gone.
“Skin Deep” says: “It took me a few bars to recognize the song, even though the Kinks had been my favorite band for years. I was too preoccupied. Then Ray Davies began to sing, and I placed it.
Look at that lady dancing round with no clothes / She’ll show you all her body, that’s if you got the dough. / She’ll let you see most anything, but there’s one thing that she’llnever show. /And that’s a little bit of real emotion… / (a little bit of unrelated dialogue, and then) … “A little bit of real emotion,” Ray Davies sang. “In case a bit of real emotion should give her away.”
“Nana’s first song,” Toby said. “She always uses it. She thinks no one gets it.”
“Maybe nobody does,” I said.
Hey, Dave, quote me verbatim all you want; I’m not copyrighted. I’m sure the authors don’t mind; it’s just more promotion for those who are in print. After all, if they like the Kinks, we’d /have/ to like their books, wouldn’t we?
Jessica Adams: Cool for cats
9 Nov 2003 Jessica Adams’s ‘Cool for cats’ (Black Swan, 2003) has been mentioned in despatches in this parish newsletter before. For which thanks, because it’s a very good read, and the more I think about it the better I like it. Cover citations of Nick Hornby and Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones) give a flavour but it’s got a better soundtrack (has anyone got beyond the contents page of ’31 songs’ or however many it was?) and there’s more social substance than in most chick-lit. It gives a decent and funny if sanitised (for which we should probably be thankful) picture of 1979 – the emergence of the Pretenders among others – and rock journalism in the UK in the immediate post-punk era and it is often very funny on what is described in terms of a Venn diagram – the shared (common denominators, not necessarily the lowest) musical and other tastes by which a relationship can survive.
For instance, anyone recognise these?
“So you’re absolutely right about music, and I’m absolutely wrong … Linda, you’re a blood music Nazi.” Or, “It’s so depressing, David. I can’t believe you think Billy Joel’s music has changed your life.” This writer cares. And I have her to thank for introducing me to The Damned’s wonderful ‘Smash it up (parts 1 & 2)’ and finally getting me to admit to the brilliance of Plastic Bertrand’s ‘Ca plane pour moi’ – he’s actually Belgian, you know.
Anyway, you may recall from the original post that ‘Waterloo Sunset’ features in a list of ‘The ten records that changed my life’ that is the CV requested in an ad that lands our heroine her dream job as a music journalist. Mention was also made of Rolf Harris’s ‘Two little boys.’ The thing is, it’s a lot more than a list with notes. It’s 20 pages of sustained high calibre writing which also effectively tells her life story up to that point. So Rolf has a context, and rubs shoulders with Ian Dury’s glorious ‘What a waste’ (a song, as it happens, also covered by Barb Jungr on her great ‘Bare’ album, the one with the best cover of WS this side of … her new album actually called WS that I haven’t heard yet).
But I digress. What follows is the full text of the WS entry that starts on page 26 of the UK edition. It’s long but I hope you’ll agree that it’s worth it and that rather than violating copyright it’s a great advert. There are at least two other Kinks mentions and WS also figures in an interesting plot development near the end. Go out and buy it. It’s not Shakespeare but I doubt you’ll regret it one rainy afternoon. Enjoy:
” Depression had to get me sooner or later, according to the psychiatrist. My mother had died of cancer, slowly, and I hadn’t really reacted. And there were other things: knowing I was clever and not being able to do anything about it; hating the world for not giving someone like me a job to be brilliant in. All of that.
” When the psychiatrist interviewed me, he asked me if I had trouble sleeping or eating.
” And did I take pleasure in things that used to give me pleasure? Tennis, for example, or my friends, or the TV? I’ve never played tennis in my life. Something clicked when he ran through his boring list though – picnics, nature walks, holidays, theatre – and finally got to music. Music. Yes. Something was definitely ringing a bell there.
” ‘I can’t be bothered listening to the Kinks any more,’ I told him.
” ‘And you used to like listening to them?’
” I barely had the energy to nod.
” Which was an insult to Ray Davies, because if I hadn’t been so, well, depressed, I would have clambered up on top of the psychiatrist’s desk to deliver some kind of ode to the Kinks. Did I used to like listening to them? There were times when I was so happy listening to their records, I would not only forget where I was, I would also forget what species I was supposed to be.
” In the end it was the Kinks who brought me back to the real world – or at least they were playing my song on the day I realised I was better. And it was ‘Waterloo Sunset,’ which was fitting again, because I’d deliberately avoided it when it first came out. ‘Waterloo Sunset’ had appeared in the shops when Mum was dying, and it had all those guitar chords that make you cry, no matter what the song is actually about. And the minute I heard it, on the radio driving back from the hospital, I knew two things, both about the song, and about myself. Firstly I knew I would fall passionately in love with it. Secondly, I knew bloody well it would make me sob for a week. So I banned it. Never listened to it.
” After my first session with him, the psychiatrist medicated me. I slept a lot. I stared out of the window a lot. I ironed a lot. And then eventually I started eating a bit more – I think one of Mr Kipling’s cakes broke the drought – and then one day I caught myself singing along to ‘Waterloo Sunset’ on a radio in a boutique in Soho, hearing it properly for the first time. I was still singing it to myself when I got home to Withingdean, which was such a shock it made my father put down his toast and forget to pick it up again. The depression had caught me unawares, like someone grabbing my foot. When I was released from it, it happened in much the same way – quickly, easily, when ‘Waterloo Sunset’ came onto someone’s transistor radio in a smelly little Soho boutique. And before I knew what had happened, I was even enjoying tennis again. Ha. “
Audrey Niffenegger: The time traveler’s wife
22 Aug 2004 It’s been a long time since the last sighting but this one was worth waiting for. It’s only a mention in passing but that is still an artistic decision and I’d put its appearance here up there with the musical saucepan in The Simpsons – that good – because this novel is a class act. Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘The time travellers’s wife’ was published New Year’s Day this year in the UK and last year, I believe, in the US. There is some discussion of the usual paradoxes but this is no Science Fiction, rather time travel as unstable medical condition.
When librarian Henry, son of classical musicians, marries sculptor Clare in ‘real’ time in 1993 he is 30 and she is 22, but the first time he sees her she is 6 and he is 42. Don’t worry, you slip into it easily enough. It’s a compelling and moving – and beautifully written – turn of the century love story set in Chicago. Love, desire, loss, absence, destiny, chance, fate – all human life is grandly here; but it isn’t just a question of Literature with a capital L. There’s the nitty gritty of urban survival (when he timeshifts there’s no control and he arrives without clothes) but there’s also the little things of a life together and their chums and family with their own little soap and psycho-dramas. It’s a bit of a heartbreaker but it can be a lot of fun..
So you also get almost in passing Henry explaining the history of punk music to a young neo-punk. And Clare getting used to his sudden absences, using them as a chance to play Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles (no comment!) for herself in peace without his commentary spoken or unspoken. Lots of little cultural references like that. So I’m kinda disappointed our lads haven’t made it – this is one of the best books I’ve read in a while and it’s in the territory – but there it is, suddenly slipped in after the main action has gone, in a quiet little coda.
“Saturday, July 26, 2008 (Clare is 37)
“CLARE: Alba’s reward for being patient at the galleries while Charisse and I look at art is to go to Ed Debevic’s, a faux diner that does a brisk tourist trade. As soon as we walk in the door it’s sensory overload circa 1964. The Kinks are playing at top volume and there’s signage everywhere:”
… the details of which you don’t need to know. But a page on, Charisse does say, “I hate Bob Seger. Do you think it took him more than thirty seconds to write that song?” That song is ‘I love that old time rock and roll’ and it deserves the putdown. (‘Fire down below’ can only count for so much).
Hey Dave, Hey Ray. You made ‘The time traveler’s wife’. This is good.
Christopher R. Coolidge put me right on ‘Fire down below’ – it is actually written by the Frankie Miller, the esteemed Scottish blue eyed soul singer cum rocker. And it seems the author was wrong about ‘Old time rock and roll’ too:
26 Aug 2004 From: “Steve Swain” Subject: Bob Seger / i promised myself i wouldn’t make a comment on the Seger song because everyone is entitled to dislike whatever song they want and i don’t care if he spent thirty minutes or thirty days writing the song, but my copy gives a different story on the author of the song. seger rewrote the lyrics and didn’t take a writing credit. the title is “old time rock and roll” by George Jackson and Thomas Earl Jones III, according to the liner notes. Seger’s notes say it was sent to him as a demo and he modestly says he was sorry he didn’t take a writing credit because “next to patsy cline’s ‘crazy’ it’s the most popular juke box single of all time.” well, i always preferred “i fall to pieces” anyway.
Ian Marchant: Parallel lines
30 August 2004 I ended up liking Ian Marchant‘s book ‘Parallel lines‘ (UK: Bloomsbury, 2003; pbk 2004) a lot. Let me give you the full title: ‘Parallel lines, or, Journeys on the railway of dreams, or, Every girl’s big book of trains’, which gives a flavour and for me immediately raises doubts somewhat – clever sod – but he gets away with it. The Kinks reference is perfunctory but absolutely to the point, while the subject matter of the book as a whole is germaine to much of the Ray Davies ouevre and the Village Green project in particular, not least the meaning of nostalgia.
So, without further ado, early on in the second chapter:
“I moved to Newhaven when I was ten (cue sound-track : ‘Last of the steam-powered trains’, by the Kinks, from ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’, 1968) and moved away when I was eighteen, but it will always be my home town, if only because my parents still live there.”
And there we have it. Early on Marchant establishes that though this is very much a book about trains – the parallel lines being the romantic notion a lot of us Brits have about railways as opposed to the often sordid day to day reality of them – he is no great steam buff, but that ‘1968’, a discoographical nicetude not over-displayed elsewhere in the book, is an unelaborated acknowledgment, I suspect, of a fact which gives a certain added critical resonance to ‘Last of the steam-powered trains’ – still for me, with the wind in the right direction and certain planetary aspects in place, one of the absolute acmes of the Kinks work. For what it’s worth, the last steam locomotives to work in normal revenue earning service on British Railways as it then was – the proper national railway – did so in 1968. A Stanier ‘Black 5’ out of Carnforth, which was also, Marchant tells us, as it happens, the railway station featured in ‘Brief encounter’ 20 years earlier.
Anyway, lovely book. Anglophiles will like it a lot – and you need to be an anglophile or much of it will be meaningless, but hey, we’re all Kinks fans. Part mild-gonzo travelogue (“I really shouldn’t drink in the day. It just makes me maudlin”), part biography, part historical erudition and advocacy on railways and more, past and present, with a lot of humour – gentle, savage and slapstick – I enjoyed it. Additional Kinks synchronicity : according to his website, the author is currently co-centre director for The Arvon Foundation – who Ray does his songwriting courses with – in North Devon.
Zadie Smith: White teeth
17 Sep 2004 From: JerzykB@aol.com Subject: Kinks in Literature
My daughter is reading a book called “White Teeth“, by Zadie Smith. A novel published in 2000, the story takes place in part in 1970s London. It has 2 references to The Kinks, both in chapter 2:
“Ryan [one of the main characters] fancied himself as a bit of a mod. He wore ill-fitting gray suits with black turtlenecks. While the rest of the world discovered the joys of the electronic synthesizer, Ryan swore allegiance to the little men with big guitars: to the Kinks, the Small Faces, the Who. Ryan Topps rode a green Vespa GS scooter…….”
Later, another character, Clara, who has the hots for Ryan, imagines Ryan being injured on his scooter:
“She imagined herself holding the bleeding Ryan in her arms, hearing him finally declare his undying love; she saw herself as a Mod Widow, wearing black turtlenecks for a year and demanding “Waterloo Sunset” be played at his funeral.”
BTW, we all know how crucial that first day of school is, and how important it is to look just right. So what did my daughter wear on her first day of school this year? A Ray Davies t-shirt — from many many years ago. Warms my heart! / Jerry
I can’t believe I missed this one. I read it and loved it – great fun and deeply serious. I even, I suspect, posted something to the KPS about the TV adaption. This is England at the millennium – multi-racial, multi-cultural, messed up, mixed up and hopeful. Thanks Jerry.
And we both missed this one, posted by Paul Boisvenue in February 2008, who says, “In the last reference to our guys (p.509) the author becomes somewhat philosophical”:
“There were always the difficult questions of whether one should dilute one’s appreciation of the Kinks with a little Small Faces…”
To which the only answer can be, “Of course.”
Though maybe I should give Jill Brand a mention too – besides, Jill is always worth a mention – given Paul’s post above elicited this soon after:
I remember writing this to the list when I first read the book (it was still in hardcover – it’s got to be 6 or 7 years ago). I was so very excited. It’s a fabulous book, really. The TV adaptation didn’t do it one bit of justice; however, it was one of James McAvoy’s first appearances (he plays Robbie in Atonement; I have a cradle-robbing crush on him).
You should check him out in Jeremy Wooding & Neil Spencer’s splendid but seemingly forgotten ‘Bollywood Queen’ (2002).
Jessica Adams: I’m a believer
19 January 2005 Jessica Adams has already been mentioned in despatches for the wonderful enconium to the healing powers of ‘Waterloo sunset’ in her rather good novel of 2003, ‘Cool for cats‘. She’s also at it in her earlier novel from the the previous year, ‘I’m a believer‘ (Black Swan, 2002). Yup, another music reference in the title; she’s also written the wonderfully named ‘Tom, Dick and Debbie Harry’. Anyway, ‘I’m a believer‘, at heart a love story, is good on twenty first century London and very funny in the school staff room inhabited by arch-sceptic science teacher Mark. His partner dies suddenly in a car accident and things start happening, like the dear departed Catherine making the microwave display say ‘hello’ and the INXS song ‘Never tear us apart’ burst out of speakers all over the place against seemingly reasonable odds. There’s some good stuff on grief and an entertaining running set of episodes involving a group of evangelical Christians, another on the peripheries of the gay scene. The belief of the title is the conversion of rationalist cynic Mark to accepting the possibility of miracles, life after death, the spirit world. If I wasn’t convinced, I didn’t mind the ride. And even if I wasn’t convinced either about the male narration – not enough detail (if there’s a famous old time footballer appears in a dream to magically impart total knowledge of the offside law to a footballing ingenu, then I want to know who!) – Jessica has a nice touch. Of course; she’s a Kinks fan. This from p300:
“I hire a car straight after school on Friday and drive up. Gloucestershire isn’t exactly on my list of best-known bits of England but at least I manage to get through the worst of rush-hour traffic on the way, even enjoying the long-forgotten sensation of driving along with the radio blaring. There’s a Kinks special on the radio, with songs I haven’t heard for years, and I even find myself singing along to ‘Autumn almanac’ as I join the traffic jam past Heathrow.”
He contemplates his dilemma and the state he’s in, what he’s going to do when he gets there:
“By the time I finally reach Dunstan , as the village is called, I have eaten the whole packet of barley sugar and feel fairly car-sick. It’s one of those hire cars in which exhaust fumes leak into the front seat, which hasn’t helped. And after the Kinks special, they moved on to random programming of endless funk music, which made the nausea worse.”
David Gilmour: Lost between houses
1 November 2005 This from Duncan Smith, long standing resident of much repute in the KPS front room. For the moment this sets up a nice symmetry here seeing as his is the very first entry at the top of this page, no less:
Here’s another reference to add to your impressive list. “Lost Between Houses” by David Gilmour, Toronto: Vintage Canada (Random House), 1999. On page 117, the young protagonist walks into a bar across the street from the Mynah Bird, in mid-sixties Yorkville (the trendy Toronto district that first exposed the talents of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell among others), and encounters a local band playing “Tired of waiting”:
“….pretty cool-looking, with their long straight hair cut like the Kinks and those Edwardian jackets.
It’s your life, they sang. And you can do what you want.
The drummer doing a slow roll around his drums, ending up on the floor tom and giving the high hat a whack wityh his stick. Then they all came in.
It’s your life. And you can do what you want. But please don’t kepp me waiting. Please don’t keep me waiting.
Very cool. An unimaginably cool life.”
Gilmour, a journalist as well as novelist, has based this incident on his own life, as he mentions to Ray in an interview. It was his first trip to a bar, at the tender age of fifteen, and it was a Kinks song that welcomed him in, a fine accompaniment to that particular rite of passage.
All the best, Duncan Smith( aka “Erin”–I used my wife’s email for those earlier posts) – justified!
James Patterson: London bridges
20 March 2006 James Patterson’s ‘London Bridges’ (Headline, 2004) is probably the biggest seller of all the books mentioned in ‘The Kinks in literature’. Attention span, what attention span? This is a shocking book (as in just plain bad), as absurd, as silly, as any Bond movie made after ‘From Russia with love’. 124 chapters in 307 globe hopping pages. It’s the tenth of his Alex Cross sequence. There’s a fair number of music refeferences, some of which mean nothing to me, though I do recognise Erika Badhu, who, along with literary references to DBC St Pierre and James Joyce would lead you to expect a better piece of writing. You can throw in some sentimental corn about his grandmother et al and a bid for the Bad Sex Award too, as well as all the ludicrous mayhem and action. However, we do get (on p244), “We did some more exploring, and checked out the sculpture garden and ‘the Fremont troll’, a large sculpture that reminded me of the singer Joe Cocker, clutching a Volkswagen Bug in one hand.” And when the henchman of the Russian mobster terrorist blows up the 59th St Bridge in New York he’s humming Paul Simon’s ’59th St Bridge song (Feelin’ groovy)’ to himself. But no, Kinksfans, it is not Waterloo Bridge that goes up in London. We are spared that. What we do get (p254) is one of the more stylish pieces of writing in the whole book. It’s a joint FBI/CIA briefing, after they’ve been hanging around doing not a lot for a while:
” ‘That’s about it. Except that we know Hancock is connected to the Wolf, and that he’s been paid a lot of money for his services. So at 1200 hours, we’re going in to take a look for ourselves inside the house. So tired,’ Agent Koch said in a sing-song. ‘Tired of waiting.’
” There were smiles around the room, even from those who didn’t get the reference to the Kinks song.”
Thanks to FranK aka KrankieKat for bringing ‘London Bridges’ (Headline, 2004) to my notice.
H.G.Almaden: Ten dog fog
20 April 2006 This from Joel Swift:, for which thanks. Here’s another (newer, 2005) reference to the Kinks in Literature. The work is titled Ten Dog Fog, by HG Almaden, and includes lyrics from Lola in the novel. The author obtained approval from Ray Davies for use of the lyrics, which are used in the context of a dog named Lola, the heroine of the work.
21 April 2006 I know it’s not literature but it’s too good not to be here. This is from Series 2, Episode 2 of ‘Green wing’, am often surreal hospital based UK television, um, sitcom. Two young doctors are discussing, “What would you say are the 5 most important qualities in a woman?”:
Guy: Number One – bendy.
Guy: Number Two – shaved.
Mac: Must appreciate the genius of the Kinks.
Guy: Number Three – slightly anorexic.
Mac: Thoughtful eyes.
Guy: Number Four – about sort of 5% lesbian.
Mac: Should be in touch with her masculine side.
Guy: And finally – mustn’t be too smelly in the cellar.
Guy: So what you’ve come up with is an unpredictable yet compassionate, slightly masculine, Kinks fan with eyes.
Mac: I know, it’s an impossible dream.
Soon after a woman doctor walks down the corridor singing ‘You really got me’. In the previous episode, Mac, in a coma, has a brief fantasy in which he is the curly headed one in Sparks, but we won’t hold that against him.
Ian Rankin: The naming of the dead
27 November 2006 It’s been a while since the last mention I found of the Kinks in the annals of crime fiction or indeed in any other literary offering. But this one, though only a brief appearance in a list, has a certain poignancy and is from a quality act. It’s not the first time Ian Rankin has been mentioned here for his acclaimed sequence of novels featuring maverick (what else?) Scottish detective John Rebus. The latest, ‘The naming of the dead‘ (Orion, 2006) is well up to his standard – bestselling and simply the best. Eight days in Edinburgh last year, taking in the Gleneagles summit of world leaders, the major anti-poverty protests and the July 7 London bombings, with Rebus also investigating a puzzle maker of a serial killer and the suicide of a politician. It’s a broad ranging compassionate tale very well told, by turns cynical (take a bow Bono and Sir Bob) and idealistic. Recommended.
The book opens with the playing of the Who’s ‘Love reign o’er me’ (from ‘Quadrophenia’) at the funeral of Rebus’s brother, Frank. As you’d expect now from Rankin – he did a series of radio programmes about music in crime fiction, three of his book titles are taken from Rolling Stones albums – there are various other musical references, with the group Elbow (and their to me fairly ordinary ‘Leaders of the free world’ album) getting more than a nod. Then in the last chapter, or rather, the ‘Epilogue’, we get:
” On Sunday, Kenny, Mickey’s son, had arrived at the flat in his BMW, telling Rebus there was something for him on the back seat. Rebus had gone to look – albums, tapes and CDs, 45s … Mickey’s entire collection.
” ‘They were in the will,’ Kenny had explained. ‘Dad wanted you to have them.’
” After they’d hauled the whole lot up two flights of stairs, and Kenny had rested long enough for a glass of water, Rebus had waved him goodbye and stared at the gift. Then he’d eased himself down on to the floor beside the boxes and started going through them: a mono ‘Sergeant Pepper’, ‘Let It Bleed’ with the Ned Kelly poster, a lot of Kinks and Taste and Free … some Van Der Graaf and Steve Hillage. There were even a couple of eight-track cartridges – ‘Killer’ by Alice Cooper; a Beach Boys album. A treasure trove of memories. Rebus placed the sleeves beneath his nose – the very smell of them took him back in time. Warped Hollies singles, left too long on the turntable after a party … a copy of ‘Silver Machine’ with Mickey’s writing on it -‘This Belongs to Michael Rebus – Paws Off!
” And ‘Quadrophenia’, of course, its corners creased, the vinyl scarred but still playable. “
That’s quite a time capsule, n’est-ce pas? A lovely touch or three. Glad for our lads to be in there.
Barrie Keeffe: No excuses
Rene Delleman, from Holland, has told me (30 Nov 2006) about a book by Barrie Keeffe, who Ray Davies collaborated with on his first musical. The book is ‘No excuses‘ (Methuen, 1983) which he says boasts at least a quote from Ray Davies’ song ‘You can’t stop the music’ as its intro. It’s a tale of the rock business, based on a tv drama series, which I shall try to find a copy of.
Asmund Forgang: Max
And Dag Balsvik wrote from Norway: Hello, saw your note about the new book by Ian Rankin in the Kinks digest, and i have an addition for your collection of Kinks in litterature. In 1981 there were issued a novel by Åsmund Forfang called Max on the publisher Gyldendal. I suppose this is his only book. Its about growing up in the countryside of western Norway. The main person is a big Kinks fan, and he is starting a band , playing a lot of Kinks songs. Of course, the book is mainly about the boy growing up, so that the Kinks is only a sideline in the story, but anyway, quite a lot of mention. Since this autor probably wrote just this book, and it didn’t sell much (bought mine from the bargain bin), you have to read norwegian to read it. And, as some english journalist once wrote concerning a norwegian entry in the eurovision song contest :” when I hear norwegian spoken, its as someone say dustbin-dustbin”, not many europeans speak norwegian, and have read it. hope this is of some interest to you.
To which I replied: “As far as Eurovision goes, more power to you. “Nil points” sounds good to me, unless of course it was that UK entry that really deserved many minus points. Which, come to think of it, is the vast majority of ’em since Katrina & the Waves, who weren’t actually Brits.”
Peter Robinson: Friend of the devil
9 October 2007 Or rather a Kink in literature. First heartening mention of a solo Ray comes very early on in Peter Robinson’s compelling ‘Friend of the devil’ (Hodder & Stoughton, 2007). In the opening chapter we find:
“Once snug in the car, he started the engine and set off through Gratly, down the hill to Helmthorpe and onto the Eastvale Road. He plugged his iPod into the adaptor, on shuffle, and Ray Davies’s ‘All she wrote’ came on, a song he particularly liked, especially the line about the big Australian barmaid. That would do for a Sunday morning drive to a crime scene, he thought. It would do just fine.”
Chief Inspector Alan Banks has had a pretty harrowing time of it over the years and this one gets pretty dark, but there’s a neat twist at the end.
Over the years it has seemed like there was some sort of unofficial competition between the top three UK crime writers as to who could drop the most music references into their novels, though Ian Rankin (a Stones man, though his cop John Rebus is still commendably plugging Jackie Leven in his latest, ‘Exit music’) and John Harvey (his main ‘tec Charlie Resnick was more of a jazz man) seem to have retreated on this front of late. Robinson is still really going for it, though one wonders just how many of his readers will have a clue as to who, say, Josh Ritter is.
The later Alan Banks novels have had titles drawn from rock – ‘Playing with fire’, ‘Strange affair’ (complete with Richard Thompson quote) and ‘Piece of my heart’, which if memory serves correctly, is the one that concerns events at an outdoor rock festival in the seventies and a Syd Barrett type figure. The devil in the title of ‘Friend of the devil’ is the partner of a serial killer from one of Robinson’s previous books. On p123 we hear from a colleague and ex-lover of Banks:
” ‘It always struck me that you had a complicated relationship with her,’ said Annie. ‘That’s partly why I’ve come to you.’
” ‘Complicated? With the “Friend of the devil”? Ruined a perfectly good Grateful Dead song for me, that’s all. Now whenever I hear it I see her face and those bodies in the cellar.’ “
22 January 2008 This one, rather wittily, had ‘The Kinks in literature (No Kinks content)’ as its email subject:
Mark Billingham: Death message
Close, but no cigar … From Mark Billingham’s ‘Death message’, Little Brown, 2007. On page 11 we find:
” ‘ I’m always amazed at the way men can barely spare five minutes to talk about a relationship, but can happily spend all day putting a CD collection into alphabetical order …’
” Thorne certainly knew that Krauss came before Kristofferson. But he also knew that he felt good about everything, as happy, as he had since his father had died two and a half years before.
” As Waylon Jennings – filed between The Jayhawks and George Jones – began to sing ‘The taker’, Thorne returned to the computer and sat down to play a few more hands. He could feel Elvis mooching around beneath the table, nosing into his shins in the hope of a late snack, or a ridiculously early breakfast.”
But he’s a country fan – Johnny Cash features elsewhere – and Thorne lives in Kentish Town (north London), so we must be in with a chance. Elvis, in case you haven’t guessed, is a cat. Detective Tom Thorne’s best mate is a gay pathologist with piercingsand he’s a generation on from Ian Rankin’s Rebus and his peers, but he stands firmly in the music loving maverick cop tradition – well worthy of investigation, nicely paced plots and some witty observations about living in the capital.
I forwarded this to the author and he replied:
Thanks for that. Much appreciated. Thorne may prefer country stuff, but I am a big Kinks fan. I was at the Novello awards a year ago and was privileged to watch Ray Davies make an inspiring speech.
Peter Robinson: All the colours of darkness
29 September, 2008 The Kinks in literature, even if it is only an unattributed cover version. Julie and Duncan, my main partners in crime in the ‘Kinks in Literature’ project, have just given another nod to the English crime novelist Peter Robinson. He does indeed have previous form and he’s at it again, albeit at one remove, in his latest novel, ‘All the colours of darkness‘ (Hodder, 2008).
As the title suggests, it’s a dark one, if not exactly noir, taking in, among many things some decent plot driven lit crit on Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, the nefarious practises of the British secret services and the consumption – always a good sign this – of the estimable Timothy Taylor’s Landlord bitter. It’s a good read for sure. The plot in this one shifts between London and the North Yorkshire Moors and again involves Robinson harking back to the ’60s with the founder of fashion empire Viva (hah!) as the mother of one of the dead men.
“For a while Banks had felt a bit old and out of it, like a boring old sixties fart, even though he listened to a lot of new music himself. Still, as far as he was concerned, for great rock you couldn’t beat Hendrix, Dylan, Floyd, Led Zep, the Stones and The Who.”
– for shame! The ever interesting DCI Alan Banks, who became a copper a long time ago now as a result of hippie student experiences in Notting Hill (sorry, don’t ask me which book that was, I’ve forgotten), is driving north with a Nick Lowe CD followed by David Bowie’s ‘Pin ups’ on the car stereo. He’s having woman trouble:
“But she had already ended the call. Banks cursed. No matter what she had said, she did blame him. A terrible feeling of familiarity swept over him, all the rows with his ex-wife Sandra before she gave up on him. He knew he had warned Sophia that things like this might happen, that his job might disrupt other plans, but how seriously do people take warnings like that when everything is going blissfully well? Perhaps it was for the best that Sophia found out about the demands of the job sooner rather than later.
“He turned Bowie up again. He was singing ‘Where have all the good times gone?’ Banks hoped it wasn’t prophetic.”
The book is full of musical references; even Dimitri Shostakovich gets the nod one dark night of the soul. Indeed, it’s probably getting beyond a joke. There are so many musical references in ‘All the colours of darkness’ I’m beginning to think he’s making them up, cos I’ve never heard of many of them (not that I make any claims, mind). Time to espouse the less is more philosophy methinks. Having said that, there’s a nice joke about Richard Hawley (worth a listen and read of the liner notes, by the way):
“It was half past eleven when the phone rang, and Keren Ann had long since given way to Richard Hawley’s ‘Cole’s Corner’, another late night favourite. …
“Sophia didn’t like Richard Hawley, called him a yob from Sheffield with pretensions to easy listening”.
Keren Ann? Anyone else know Sarabeth Tucek? I know, I could google ’em, but, you know … We even get mention of what isn’t playing:
“He felt his breath catch in his chest even as he thought about it now, sitting next to her, rather than opposite, in a place where they could barely hear one another speak, and whatever the music that was playing, it certainly wasn’t Madeleine Peyroux singing ‘You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go’.”
Martin Edwards: Waterloo sunset
13 October, 2008 Kinks in literature: another novel called ‘Waterloo sunset’. This is not the first novel to bear the title ‘Waterloo sunset‘. The other one was about a significant battle (Napoleon met his …) in Belgium in 1815, from which the Waterloo in London took its name. As indeed did the Waterloo in Martin Edwards‘ novel ‘Waterloo sunset’ (Allison & Busby, 2008). Waterloo Beach on Merseyside is a bit out of the city, near the suburb of Crosby, on Liverpool Bay; it has recently achieved a certain fame, or indeed notoriety, as the resting place of sculptor Antony Gormley’s ‘Iron men’ installation (aka ‘Another place’). This stunning art work features hauntingly in the narrative, initially as where the body of a young woman, the second murder victim in the novel, is found. Do yourself a favour and look for Gormley, he of ‘The angel of the north’ no less, in Wikipedia and take it from there.
The main protagonist in Edwards’ fine crime novel is Harry Devlin, a middle aged Liverpool lawyer with a touch of the Marlowes. Other books in the sequence have all been named after song titles, including ‘All the lonely people’, ‘Suspicious minds’, ‘Yesterday’s papers’ and ‘Eve of destruction’. I may well investigate further; there are people in here you could care about.
There’a a nice bit of scene setting on p136. The venue is an invention unfortunately, but still, this is where we come in:
“The Waterloo Alhambra was a mock-Moorish palace shoehorned between a car repair workshop and a doctor’s surgery in a narrow street that ran down to the waterfront. Harry contemplated the ornate carved red brickwork and the elegant columns, mentally transporting himself to the sun-splashed hills and terraces of Granada. The illusion was shattered by a slap of wind from the Irish Sea and the smells from a kebab house half a dozen doors away.
“Built in the days of Cecil B. de Mille by an architect with a similar fondness for the epic, the Alhambra had shut its doors when movie-going fell out of fashion in the seventies and suffered an inglorious reincarnation as a bingo hall and bar. When the owners called time on bingo, a group of enthusiasts had set up a charity to lease the premises and restore the Alhambra to former glories. Five years later, to everyone’s amazement, including their own, the venture flourished. Sidney Rankin, the chairman of trustees, and universally known as El Sid, was a friend of Harry’s from days when they’d played together in the same student football team […]
“In the foyer, Sid’s favourite song was playing. He’d picked it as a signature tune for the Alhambra after reading somewhere the – no doubt apocryphal – story that Ray Davies had been inspired to write the lyrics by the Mersey, not the Thames, as everyone thought.”
Close but, as we know, Ray Davies tells the tale in ‘X-Ray: the unauthorised autobiography’ (1994): “I started writing a song about Liverpool that implied that the era of Merseybeat was coming to an end, but I changed it to ‘Waterloo sunset’ not only because that gave me a bigger canvas to work on but because it was about London, the place where I had actually grown up.”
Two pages on, Harry converses about the notion of work:
“I remember a poem from when I was at school. Talked about work as a toad, squatting on the poet’s life. Who wants to sell their soul to a toad.”
So, Edwards is, as befits the current official European City of Culture, a class act, citing Philip Larkin here, dropping in the movie ‘Blow up’ later on as a descriptive aid. You can take for granted an accomplished sense of place, with a nice running mention of attendees at a John Lennon convention in town.
Without giving too much away – I mean hero Harry is hardly gonna die, is he? – after all the grief and pain we find ourselves sharing:
“A blustery evening on the beach at Waterloo. The iron men stared out to sea, but kept their thoughts to themselves […] As the sun slid towards the horizon, Gina’s hand touched his. The words and rhythms of that old favourite song jangled in his brain. He’d last heard it at the Alhambra, whose turrets he could see poking above the houses, pointing to the heavens […] He clasped Gina’s fingers, and whispered the words.
“ ‘As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise.”
The very last words of the novel, no less. It’s a good read.
Janet Fitch: Paint it black
22 Feb 2009 From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: a new find for a kinks in literature reference:
Andrea was reading a novel titled” Paint it Black ” by Janet Fitch published in 2006 by Little, Brown & Company..on the very top of pg 172 there is a reference made to Ray… here’s the paragraph as it starts at the top of the page of 172, but is really continued from the previous pg 171…
“She and Laura got smahed on Spanish champagne, and talked about the mod era, Laura knew a lot about it. She knew about Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol’s Factory – all that Mylar and tinfoil, false eyelashes and vitamin shots with speed. The Velvet Underground played there, Lou Reed and Nico. It was the center of everything cool. Laura showed her a Nehru jacket that once belonged to Ray Davies, a yellow low brocade “
FranK / Always finding KinKdom at every turn of a page!
I got hold of Janet Fitch’s ‘Paint it black‘, published by Virago in the UK, because of the above, but I wasn’t prepared for something quite so intense, driven and accomplished. This is fine writing, generous and often poetic but never overblown. The narrative hook is the suicide of gifted artist and Harvard law dropout Michael, girlfriend of Josie (white trash, liberated by the early ’80s LA punk scene) and son of Meredith (rich classical pianist of pre-war high cultured jewish emigre stock, living out in the Hollywood hills). The depiction of these scenes – the sights, the sounds, the smells – is skillfully done. The struggle for Michael between the two women, before and after his death, and their shifting relationship is played out in layers of the onion fashion. Josie discovers more and more about the man she thought she knew, and loved and grieves for, and what is revealed as his own struggle to, um, live with the common people, and goes on a journey of self discovery of her own. It’s a broad canvas; there is compassion here for people trapped in a life and a great feeling of exhilaration, hope and despair at the possibilities of escape for good or ill. Josie’s retracing of Michael’s last journey way out into Joshua tree territory is a powerful piece of writing indeed. Really good book.
And this from no less a dude than the founder member (indeed, the only member) of the Kunks, an affectionate tribute come pastiche project that is well worth a listen. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you John Dunbar, the only man to have, with ‘Excursions in Trevorland’, made an album of tuneful indie pop out of the short stories of celebrated miserabilist Irish writer William Trevor, who I intend to read one of these days. Check out his website.
Patrick McCabe: The holy city
17 Mar 2009 From: John Dunbar Subject: Literature And Teeth
In the new novel by Patrick McCabe (of ‘Butcher Boy’ fame) titled The Holy City (Faber, 2009), the narrator reflects upon his glory days in the sixties. Like most McCabe novels, it centers around a rather disturbing character. But most of us will feel a kinship with Chris McCool. Read this excerpt from page 42 and you’ll see why.
“With the iconic poster of Sergeant Pepper on my wall, I’d peruse the sleeves of my LPs over and over. I had the Turtles and the Yardbirds and the Troggs but, best of all, The Kinks. [ …] I filled the Nook with artefacts and curios. A black-and-white Raquel Welch poster with You only live twice beside it, whorled in red just above the door, with 007 looking menacing but impossibly glamorous. Then there were all the clothes. I had begun to think of myself as a kind of Ray Davies. Ray, of course, used to play with The Kinks and I was fond of his dry English irony and did my best to imitate him. Even down to buying myself a candy-striped blazer.
And the ladies […] I have to say, seemed to approve.”
Disturbing is right, John. This is black humour, but it is humour for all that, with the author (born 1955) spraying all sorts of cartoon ’60s references around. Like Vesta beef curry – remember those horrible dried concoctions? – and Green Shield Stamps. And this being very small town Ireland we get Clodagh Rogers as well.
“It was only going to be a matter of time before I bought myself a car. [ …] A ‘fab’ Ford cortina which I’d been looking at in the showrooms for some time. But i mean, let’s face it – it was hardly ever going to be an E-type Jag! [ …] Two hundred quid I picked it up for. I might have been Lord Snowdon as I cruised the country roads in my frilled Ray Davies shirt.”
It’s an intriguing outing, sinister and funny, with an awful lot going on in its 205 pages. The narrative voice is C.J.McCool – Finn McCool is a giant from Irish legend – looking back from his highly ambiguous membership of the Happy Club at age 67 to his 20s in the 1960s, with nods to a more recent Irish legend, one James Joyce. He is, also, literally, the Eggman – he sells eggs. He’s a fan of Herman’s Hermits’ ‘No milk today’; that’s the sort of detail McCabe delights in. Here’s the last Kinks reference:
“Most of the time it was delightful, to be honest. to employ the period parlance, we were having an absolute ball. Dolly and i had never got along better, and we were the talk of the place as we zoomed around in my E-type substitute. As we went vroom! in the town of Cullymore. Cue Bullitt, by Lalo Schiffrin. You got it pops, it’s outasite. No, I jest. i might not really have been a sixties superstar like Ray Davies, or John Lennon, or Sean Connery, for that matter, but as far as anyone from Cullymore was concerned, Chris McCool, he sure was turning out to be a pretty ‘cool mover’. A regular up-to-the-minute outatown hep cat and no mistake.”
Of course it all ends badly, with his own personal Altamont. Good writer, one of the oddest – in a good way – books featured here.
Kurt Appaz: Klassentreffen
22nd July, 2009 from Dave Emlen’s KindaKinks site: There’s a new German novel called Klassentreffen (“Class Reunion”) by Kurt Appaz that takes place in Germany in the late sixties and early seventies, and is full of Kinks references. Published by Ullstein Verlag, Berlin. ISBN 978-3-548-26962-7.
Having scraped a Grade 6 pass at O Level in 1964 I couldn’t possibly comment!
Keith Cullen: God save the village green
And here’s another one I have yet to see ... God save the village green, by Keith Cullen (Setanta, 2009), a review from the (Irish) Independent website, by Nick Kelly, dated Saturday August 1, 2009:
A well-respected man in the music industry since the early 1990s, Keith Cullen signed many a fine Irish band to his London-based independent label Setanta Records over the years [ …]
Now the 40-year-old Dubliner has self-published his first novel. It’s a powerful, at times, shocking kitchen sink drama set in Barking, a working class enclave of East London, telling the tale of the unravelling of a rocky marriage and its dire consequences.
The story begins in 1964 when a young Irish teenage emigrant, Phyllis Noonan, newly off the boat after fleeing the boredom of life on the family farm in Connemara, hooks up with Bill Knighton, a Cockney wide boy who loves The Kinks, going to see West Ham United FC at Upton Park and getting drunk with his mates in the local boozer The Spotted Dog.
The blossoming of their romance, soundtracked by the music of The Kinks (whose seminal 1960s album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society inspired the book’s title) is brilliantly rendered by Cullen in crisp but unsentimental prose …
Like the missing link between Angela’s Ashes, EastEnders and Trainspotting, God Save The Village Green is a highly compelling account of how a dream of romance and a better life can turn depressingly sour. All families are dysfunctional, Cullen seems to be saying, but some are more dysfunctional than others.
Sounds pretty good.
Peter Robinson: The hanging valley
28 December, 2009. Frank had mentioned ‘Friend of the devil’ in a recent post
Keep ’em coming, Frank, and anyone else who spots anything. Peter Robinson‘s “Friend of the Devil” was already logged on this ‘Kinks in literature’ right here, right now.
It’s the only fictional reference so far to the solo RD … the imaginary man in a work of imagination.
As it happens, I’m working my way through Robinson’s North Yorkshire based Inspector Banks sequence of crime novels (I only started reading him fairly late in the game, with 2001’s ‘Aftermath’) and have just come across his first Kinks reference, in the fourth novel in that sequence, ‘The hanging valley‘ (1989). It’s fascinating working through a novelist’s output chronologically, and it has to be said, with HV he hasn’t really hit his stride, though given that at his best he’s often breathing the same air as Ian Rankin and John Harvey it’s still a decent read. ‘The hanging valley’ concerns a series of deaths and disappearances in the Yorkshire Dales and Oxford; as in much British crime, social class plays a big part in the working through of the plot, and Alan Banks, an escapee from the Metropolitan Police Force in London, is ever on the side of the little guy (and gal). From the start of the second section of the third chapter:
“As he drove along the dale, Banks marvelled at how familiar some of the landmarks had become […].
“The Kinks sang ‘Lola’, and Banks tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in time with the music as he drove. Though he swore to Sandra that he still loved opera, much to her delight he hadn’t played much lately. She had approved of his recent flirtation with the blues, and now he seemed to be going through a nostalgic phase for the music he had listened to during his his last days at school and first year at London Polytechnic: that idyllic halcyon period when he hadn’t known what to do with his life and hadn’t much cared.
“It was also the year he had met Sandra, and the music brought it all back: winter evenings drinking cheap wine and making love in the draughty Notting Hill bedsit listening to John Martyn or Nick Drake […] “
Clearly a man of taste, he mentions Traffic’s ‘No Face, No Name, No Number‘ elsewhere. I write more about this journey through the Alan Banks novels in my blog posts, though after the first novel in the sequence they aren’t flagged because he’d become enormous in that cloud tag thing.
John O’Farrell: An utterly exasperated history of modern Britain
14th January, 2010
Stretching the envelope a bit, I know, but John O’Farrell’s ‘An utterly exasperated history of modern Britain or 60 years of making the same stupid mistakes as always’ (Doubleday, 2009) is not exactly – as might be guessed – a straight historical text. No, I think we can safely say this is satire – albeit of a scatter gun slapstick variety in some places – in the grand literary tradition of these islands. Its relevance to the Kinks ouevre is obvious. I include the first part of the quote (which is immediately followed by the Kinks paragraph in the book on pages 188/9) because it is a classic not-a-lot-of-people-know-this fact about BBC radio’s post-pirate radio relaunch which I would nevertheless not necessarily advise anyone to be a smartarse about in a pub quiz.
“Radio 1 began transmitting in September 1967. It is commonly believed that the first song played on radio 1 was ‘Flowers in the rain’ by The Move. In fact, anyone listening to that frequency at 5.30 a.m. on launch day would have heard simultaneous broadcast of Radio 2, and so, rather wonderfully, the first song ever heard by listeners tuning in to ‘the exciting new sound of Radio 1’ was ‘The sound of music’ by Julie Andrews.
“The breakthrough of The Beatles also opened up America and the rest of the world to other British groups. The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks all toured America, although The Kinks were blacklisted from performing in the USA for four vital years after a punch-up with a Los Angeles Musicians Union official who had called Ray Davies a ‘commie wimp’ and ‘talentless fuck’, which he clearly wasn’t (talentless, that is). Cliff Richard never quite made the breakthrough, and so some degree of British post-war dignity was maintained.”
O’Farrell is a very funny man with his heart in the right place – liberal democratic socialist. And while I would recommend his earlier ‘An Utterly Impartial History of Britain: (or 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge)’, as an entertaining bluffer’s guide to British history, I’d warn its post-war successor needs the reader to come armed with a fair amount of knowledge to fully appreciate the industrial strength irony employed at times here. He’s also written some laugh-a-loud novels, and one of his collections of journalism goes under the priceless title of ‘I blame the scapegoat’.
DaveQ, sick of the cold and the snow, MK, UK, OK?
Tony Parsons: Stories we could tell
22 April, 2010
I got hold of ‘Stories we could tell‘ by Tony Parsons (HarperCollins, 2005) because Nick Kent mentioned he was a model for one of the characters in it in his frankly disappointing recently published memoir of the ’70s ‘Apathy for the devil’ (written about by me at http://wp.me/pBz1o-am ). The title is from the John Sebastian song that became the title track of the last but one album of the Everly Brothers before they split – brothers, eh? – so it’s off to a good start at least. And the first Kinks quote is a beauty, as you’ll soon see, but ultimately the novel is somewhat unsatisfying, though it’s not without its moments and has to be of interest to pop pickers of certain ages, so don’t let me stop you reading it.
Very early on, scene setting, the character Terry is returning to the UK from an assignment and being interrogated by a Customs Office, who asks him what the purpose of his visit had been:
‘A journalist?’ said the man, a note of suspicion in his voice, as if a real journalist should be wearing a suit and tie, or carrying a briefcase, or old or something. ‘what you write about then?’
Terry smiled at him.
It was the end of a summer day in 1977 and there was something in the air. Everything was suddenly good again, the way it had been good ten years ago, back in the Sixties, when Terry was a child, and his parents still thought that the Beatles seemed like nice boys.
What did he write about? He wrote about the way everything was changing. From haircuts to trousers, and all stops in between.
What did he write about?
Oh, that was a good one.
Terry thought of something that Ray Davies had said recently, about how he felt like sobbing his heart out whenever he looked at anyone’s record collection, because it was just so moving to see that personal soundtrack laid out before you, naked and open and fading with the years, because if you cared about this sort of thing then it was all there among the scratched vinyl and cracked gatefold sleeves, as plain as could be, all the hopes and yearnings of someone’s private universe, and everything that a young heart could possibly want or need or yearn for.
‘I write about music, Terry said. “
The novel details events in the lives of three writers from ‘The Paper’, a thinly veiled NME – where Parsons was famously one of the ‘hip young gunslingers’ recruited in the early wake of punk – in the 48 hours surrounding the death of Elvis Presley. Between them they crammed an awful lot in is all I can say, including beatings, unlikely beddings and all sorts of other old bollo, like an interview with John Lennon and the conversion of the uncompromising political one to the delights of disco. (Lest we forget, in the middle and late ’70s the New Musical Express had some of the best and most entertaining writing about popular culture to be found anywhere in the UK media.)
Post-NME Tony Parsons did some decent think pieces in Arena (not least one on the decline in the quality of English swearing) in the ’80s and became, for some reason lost on me, a bestselling novelist in the ’90s, but for yours truly he has always been an annoying writer. Most of the time he’s just not a good enough scribbler to transcend his romantic posturings, however honourable – working class dignity, anti-racism, family values – they may be, and modesty isn’t exactly one of his prime virtues. You can always see the tear forming in his eye, hear the violins swelling. He’s obviously aware of all the contradictions in rock music and music journalism – his career in music journalism (minus his partner in crime and erstwhile wife Julie Burchill) and the disillusionment with punk – is here telescoped into the 48 hours, but in the end, for all its occasional vibrancy, this is sentimental second division rites of passage stuff. He and La Burchill’s celebration of and disillusionment with UK punk was documented in their real period piece of a book, ‘The boy looked at Johnny’, which said the future lied with the Tom Robinson Band (which, briefly, to be fair, it did – TR didn’t deserve Ray’s ‘Prince of the punks’ – though Sting did). Later on (p60), a definite nod:
“There was so much Ray wanted to say to John Lennon that he was sure he would not be able to say a word. Even if he could find him among the ten million souls in that Waterloo sunset”
Ray is the journo with the most traditional tastes of the three, and here he talks to Skip, the Nick Kent-ish character, about the new bands:
” ‘I like them,’ Skip said. ‘Some of them. But what they’re doing, what they’re devoting their careers to, Eddie Cochran did in less than two minutes. Check it out, man. “Summertime blues” – one minute fifty nine. They want basics? Eddie Cochran did it first. And you can’t slag off the old guard when you’re stealing their riffs, I mean, where did the Clash lift the riff for “1977”?’
‘The Kinks,’ Ray said. “You really got me”. “
There then follows discussion of folk music and the blues, and some good advice about investigating them. And near the end, a Kinks greatest hits album is listed among lots of other good stuff Terry is giving to his younger brother:
“But nobody’s record collection could be cool all the time. And you never never knew what you were going to grow out of, you never guessed that ‘The hangman’s beautiful daughter’ by the Incredible String band would one day wear right off while ‘Tupelo honey’ by Van Morrison would sound great forever.”
Bobbie Ann Mason: Shiloh and other stories
June 2010: Duncan Smith emailed me with this gem:
Here’s another reference–quite old, actually. It’s from American writer Bobbie Ann Mason, already listed here with her novel “In Country“. But I just discovered today that in her earlier short story ‘Shiloh” – from “Shiloh and other stories” (1982) – she refers to a Kinks song:
“Norma Jean bought “The Sixties Songbook” and learned every tune in it. [ later.…..] She began playing ‘Who’ll be the Next in Line?’ “
I replied: Thanks, Dunc. It will be added to the roll call with a credit. You know, I think I once actually owned that book – I rated ‘In country’ highly and her short Elvis biography is a lovely piece of work – but that was before all this started. I was at an event featuring a couple of crime writers last night and I told one of them I collected Kinks references and his jaw dropped a couple of centimetres in momentary disbelief before he caught himself. I haven’t read him, but the other writer, Ruth Downie, I heartily recommend – her Ruso sequence of crime novels set in Roman occupied Britain is intelligent, witty and greatly entertaining, though because of the setting unfortunately not likely to yield any Kinks references.
Peter Robinson: In a dry season
And I came across another mention in another Peter Robinson Banks crime novel – ‘In a dry season‘ (2000) – but it’s only a dodgy one in a list, so I won’t go to town about it, just show it as a symptom of completist-itis, though the general sentiment expressed sums up the postmodernist dilemma of us grumpy old men; I jest, of course, if only in part. Banks has gone to see his son’s band, ‘The dancing pigs’:
Matching the fashions with the music used to be easy: parkas and motor scooters with the Who and The Kinks; Brylcreem, leather and motorbikes with Eddie Cochran and Elvis; mop-tops and black polo-necks with the Beatles. And later, tie-dye and long hair with Pink Floyd and The Nice; skinheads, braces and bovver-boots with The Specials; torn clothes and spiky hair with The Sex Pistols and The Clash. These days, though, all the fashions seemed to co-exist. banks had seen kids with tie-dye and skinhead haircuts, leather jackets and long hair […] Maybe he was just getting old.
Not one of Robinson’s finer musicological excursions. Parkas? – surely only Quaife on his scooter. And hardly fair to the multi-racial Specials.
Bill Flanagan: Evening’s empire
July 13, 2010
Again, only a passing reference in a list, but it is in that rarest of beasts – a decent music industry novel from the land where truth is invariably stranger than fiction. Which is usually the problem; how could you invent Mick Jagger?
Anyway, Bill Flanagan has neatly sidestepped the usual traps of the genre by making his narrator the manager, albeit one with a shred of decency as a human being, even though he namechecks Allen Klein as one his informants (and Elvis
Costello, Alan Toussaint and no less than – I know he has friends here – Robyn Hitchcock). Flanagan has personal history to bring to the table too – Rolling Stone magazine and a job with MTV also figuring in his CV.
‘Evening’s empire‘ (Simon & Schuster, 2010) tells the tale of English beat group The Ravons, of their inception, success, break up, solo careers, reunion tour and all stations in between over 5 decades of technological and industry
change. It fleshes out several familar tales – getting it together in the country, moving to LA, the good luck of a TV ad using a throwaway afterthought of a song, punk, the negotiations to get on a big charity gig, the financial necessity of the reunion tour, the import of the coming of video, the autobiography, the whole business side of things – and deep cynicism is on display. There is a wonderful passage where Emerson, the main man, goes on a disastrous and damaging musical safari to Africa in search of authenticity and the source of the music, only to find photos of Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant pinned on the walls of the houses of the musicians he seeks. The egotism, the unreality, the absurdity, the self-delusion and disllusion of it all are chronicled with wit and charm, but never far away, as the book progresses – it’s
a big one, over 600 pages and not much wastage – is the sense of the tragedy of four blokes who vaguely want something and who, in achieving it, get a whole load more besides. And you get to see how a manager really earns his
Anyway, the Kinks mentions. Early on on their way to success, they appear on David Frost’s tv show. Emerson is wearing a Mao Tse Tung badge, about which they have already had a philosophical discussion amongst themselves (“If David Asks me, I’ll say that I dig Mao’s intentions but I’m not sure his methods need to be so heavy”) (p143):
“I was seriously considering tearing the pin from Emerson’s lapel when Charlie stepped forward with a Magic Marker and drew mouse ears on Mao […] There were only two minutes left in the program when the Ravons finished playing, but Frost went over to them, asked who was who and – sure enough – spotted Emerson’s Mao button. He told the camera to come in close and asked Emerson the significance of the large round ears attached to the chairman’s head.
Charlie piped up and saved the day. He said, “We’re Mickey Maoists.”
Frost laughed, the studio audience joined in, and the Ravons were established as fresh, witty social commentators. For the next month everywhere we went people repeated Charlie’s joke to us. Many years later, in the ‘British invasion’ chapter of ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated history of rock and roll’, Charlie’s line would constitute the entire reference to the Ravons, lumped as they were between the Small Faces and the Kinks. By then the quip had been credited to Emerson.”
That passage – the minor details – is in fact a good indicator of just how sharp an observer Flanagan is. He’s a fine wordsmith with an eye to a phrase; I like his notion of ‘unearned panic’ appropos of … I’ve forgotten, but it has nice ring to it. And there’s another more mystifying reference. He’s talking about a journalist hanger on who they dropped:
” ‘ He’s asking for seventy five grand, which he claims is the fifty thousand advance he lost for his book, plus half that again in personal damages. It’s bullshit Emerson, don’t think about it. A total fishing expedition from some shyster Fred met at the Kinks convention or something.”
You talkin’ about us?
ALAN GOLDSHER: Paul is undead
16 Aug 2010 From: “Bud Stafford”
Subject: The Undead in Rock and Roll
I’m in the midst of reading an entertaining novel called “Paul is Undead” by Alan Goldsher. The novel follows the career of the Beatles – except that John, Paul and George are brain-eating zombies. And Ringo is a Seventh Level Ninja Lord. The book is told in an “oral history” format, so much is told in the first person from the perspective of many, including the boys themselves.
In one recollection, George discusses his early days when he would get brain-hungry he would seek out young teenagers with guitars, do the “traditional zombie chomp”, do the “brain fluid switch”, then jam the fretboard of his Gretsch in the wound. The newly undead teenager then would miraculously be able to “play the hell out of their axe”. George then goes on to say:
“I purposely never found out any of their names, so it’s possible that some of them became stars. If I were to venture a guess about who I turned into an undead fretman, I’d go with Dave Davies. I mean just look at the bloke. Those’re some zombie eyes if I’ve ever seen ’em.”
So now we know.
PETER PRINCE: Waterloo story
I crossed Tower Bridge and took the north bank route home. There were hold-ups near Westminster – placards along the way informed me that the head of a country I’d never heard of was paying a state visit and delays were expected, etc. I dropped a 1960s compilation into the deck and waited it out with Ray and Dave:
“As long as I gaze onWaterloo sunsetI am in paradise.Sha-la-lah …”
Ah, yes, and nothing new under the sun.
JANCYE STEFAN-COLE: Hollywood Boulevard
Music—from the obvious to the sublime—can play like a narrative to what’s going on in my life. Songs just volunteer to play in my mind. I was in Hollywood and quite naturally the song “Celluloid Heroes” got into my brain. Ray Davies introduced the song in a Kinks concert with, “I lived in Hollywood two weeks; this is “Celluloid Heroes“.” I mention the song in the book. I had to paraphrase though because I didn’t get the rights to the lyrics. The song is genius. My character walked Hollywood Boulevard a lot. She’s an actress, Ardennes Thrush, who quit at the top of her game. When she was working she never walked the Walk of Fame, but she’s back in Hollywood and more than a little lost. As the Kinks song says, “…everybody’s a dreamer, everybody’s a star; you can see them all as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard.” Like the song also suggests there is an unreality to the actor’s work, a built in instability. So my book is Ardennes’s journey to herself and maybe back to her broken dream.
Added November 6, 2012:
ZADIE SMITH: NW
It’s been a while now since we added anything to the annals of The Kinks in Literature, but thanks to HollyH on the OKFC Forum we have one of the best. Zadie Smith‘s new novel ‘NW‘ (UK: Hamish Hamilton, 2012) is set in contemporary London. NW (north west) references London postal districts (NW2 & NW10 are different parts of Willesden, for instance) and most of the time we’re not talking Kinks territory here – too far west – unless you count ‘Willesden Green’ on the underestimated ‘Percy’ soundtrack, though a climactic trail near the end takes us over the top of Hampstead Heath through Highgate to what locals call the ‘Suicide Bridge’ over Archway Road.
It’s a fine novel, linking the stories of a 5 children born and raised in a council estate, the children of immigrants who all attended the same school at pretty much the same time in the ’80s (Culture Club, ET). The novel stylishly charts the very different routes (up, down, turnaround) they have taken to be where they are – socially, economically, geographically, psychologically – when the dramatic (and traumatic) events that the action revolves around take place. The constant threat of senseless urban violence is not shirked. I’d have to warn that I didn’t find it an easy novel to get into, but the shapelessness of its opening is very much to the point and things develop soon enough; the rewards of perseverance are rich indeed. The four main protagonists could each easily fill a novel of their own. It will stick with you. And it’s not without humour.
The main voices, distintinctly rendered, are two women, best friends at school, who make it to university. One is successful in the law, the other, Leah, of Irish origin, is a bit stuck. Their perceptions of where they think each other are at makes for just one of the many fascinating aspects of life in the city that ‘NW’ explores. Early on in the Leah’s tale (page 23) Leah luxuriates in a morning in her and her partner’s flat by herself:
We are the village green preservation society. God save little shops, china cups and virginity! Saturday morning. ALL KINKS ALL DAY. Girl. You really got me going. You got me so I don’t know what I’m doing. On Saturday mornings Michel helps the ladies and gentlemen of NW look right for their Saturday nights, look fresh and correct, and there, in the salon, he is free to blast his treacly R&B, his oh baby oh shorty till six in the mawnin till the break a’ dawn. On Saturday mornings she is free! God save Tudor houses, antique tables and billiards! Preserving the old ways from being abused. Protecting the new ways for me and for you. What more can we do? Stomping around in pajama bottoms, singing tunelessly. Ned is in the garden. Ned approves of loud music of white origin. He sings along. Well I tried to settle down in Fulham Broadway. And I tried to make my home in Golders Green. In this weekend abandon there is always something manic and melancholy: the internal countdown to the working week already begun. In the mirror she is her own dance partner, nose to nose with the reflection. The physical person is smiling and singing. Oh how I miss the folks back home in Willesden Green! Meanwhile something inside reels at the mirror’s news: the grey streak coming out of the crown, the puffy creases round the eyes, the soft belly. She dances like a girl. She is not a girl anymore. YOU REALLY GOT ME. YOU REALLY GOT ME. YOU REALLY GOT ME. Where did the time go? She only realizes the doorbell has gone when Olive begins barking madly.
Many of us will have been there, have we not? It’s Zadie Smith’s second Kinks reference; there’s something in her brilliant first novel ‘White teeth’ too. We are honoured, ma’am.
Added Nov 23, 2012:
Alan Fletcher: Quadrophenia
21 Nov 2012: Ayrton Mugnaini Jr told me about Quadrophenia, all the way from Brazil:
… allow me to give a humble kontribution which I havent noticed: Quadrophenia, the novelisation of the Who’s rock opera by Alan Fletcher, published by Corgi Books in 1979. On page 28 we read:
Music filtered through the door of the club, out into the streets. “Tired of Waiting” by the Kinks. A Muswell Hill group, art college, another world. They wouldn’t survive. They didn’t have their pulse on the times in the same way as the Who, the yardbirds or the Small Faces.The mod bands.
An irony – how mod could mod continue to be? – acknowledged, if less specifically musically, by Pete Townsend’s original work, and the film itself of course.
Added April 18, 2013:
Will Wiles: Care of woodern floors
‘Care of wooden floors‘ is a darkly comic novel from Will Wiles that was published last year (2012) in the UK. The narrator, a stuck writer whose main corpus of work consists of local government information leaflets, accepts the invitation from an old university housemate – a successful minimalist composer of works such as ‘Variations on tram timetables,’ who is also working on a “symphony based on the Dewey decimal system” – to mind his immaculate modernist apartment and cats in an unspecified city in an unspecified East European country, the language of which he speaks not one word. A stranger in a strange land, then, for whom the pristine condition of his temporary home is somewhat anathema to his normal way of being. He has just arrived:
The flat was quiet and the cats – both a mixture of black and white – were grooming themselves on the sofa. I needed noise and stimulation before sitting down to read Oskar’s instructions, so I returned to the study, propped the door open and tried to pick a CD.
The cats, by the way, are called Stravinsky and Shostakovich – Strassie and Shossie – and one of them meets an unfortunate (and very funny) end.
There was no danger of being denied choice: the CDs must have numbered in four figures. As might be expected, the vast majority were yellow-and-red-spined-classical. Not being very familiar with classical music – its codes and sigils, the K341s and scherzos were a strange and threatening language to me – I hunted for the familiar, the recent. After a few moments I found, in a discreet and embarrassed corner of a shelf, Oscar’s half-dozen popular discs: David Bowie, Simon and Garfunkel, Queen, the Kinks, and a ‘Best of’ the Velvet Underground ….
Not much choice I’d say (indeed I shuddered at at least two of them) so who does our intrepid flat-minder choose?:
… and a ‘Best of’ the Velvet Underground, which I plucked and slotted into the hi-fi. ‘Sunday morning’ in Lou Reed’s wistful tones filled the strange flat in the distant city. I calmed.
My second choice, but I’m left wondering how calmed by the music he stays, because the only VU compilation I can find which starts with ‘Sunday morning’ follows it with ‘I’m waiting for the man’, but this we do not hear as the narrative of domestic disaster and paranoia steadily progresses. Though we are treated later to ‘Variations on tram timetables’ and it makes sense.
As I say, ‘Care of wooden floors‘ is a darkly comic novel and it ends with a twist I’m not giving away. It contains one of the great drunken episodes in literature with an equally horrific (and funny) extended hangover to follow, and is a highly entertaining read. He gives Edgar Allan Poe a mention at one stage but Poe never had much of a sense of humour, was never a bestower of the belly laugh on his readers.
Added December 5, 2014:
Wesley Stace: Wonderkid
Wonderkid (Overlook Press, 2014) is one of the best rock novels on the block, simple as that. I review it more fully here. Written by professional singer-songwriter Wesley Stace (professionally know as John Wesley Harding), the book is narrated by Sweet, who starts off, age 14, doing the band that is to become the Wonderkids’ merchandise table and becomes an integral part of the operation. It follows the fortunes – the rise, fall and rediscovery – of said Wonderkids and their main man Blake Lear (not his real name). Blake and his guitarist brother are English but their success comes in America, where they are marketed as this new phenomenon: Kiddie Rock. The book is both a satire of the music industry and a vivid account of what it’s like to be creative and performing in a band, and more specifically being successful and on the road in the States. As such it has recieved plaudits from musicians like Peter Buck, Roseanne Cash and Colin Meloy of The Decemberists. I think it’s fair to say The Kinks would have fared better first time around in the US if they’d had the services of a road manager like Mitchell in the novel, but then most of the action of the novel takes place in the very early 1990s, by which time a lot of lessons had been learned.
There are a number of Kinks references. On page 102 they almost meet Ray:
… the rehearsal studio was to become their second home, more comfortable than the Sahara Motor Lodge. During breaks, they glimpsed passing stars who nodded with musicianly recognition. One day, Ray Davies turned up. Blake observed in awe, determined not to be a bother. Later that day, he went to the unattended front desk, where Ray had left a handwritten instruction for the receptionist – something about a delivery of tapes, in pencil, with a little frame around the note and some underlinings in red Sharpie. Without thinking, Blake (a thoughtful thief) took the note, photocopied it, put the copy back on the desk and pocketed the original.
On page 139 we consider the legendary brothers in bands, and lads’ feuding is specifically touched. The Wonderkids maintain a healthier sibling relationship:
Brothers. Blood is thicker than water. […]
With Blake and Jack there wasn’t any Kinks action: Ray and Dave Davies scrapping onstage, low-flying cymbals, etc. Nor, at the other extreme, was there any Everly Brothers “nothing sounds sweeter than brothers in harmony.” (Mind you, all fraternal harmony got the Everlys was a Gibson smashed live onstage, a public row and ten years of silence.) Blake and Jack were the Wonderkids, everyone knew that. They were quick to argue, quick to make up. The absolute worst you ever heard from Jack was “Fuck you!” That was it. Done.
On page 156 we get the consequences of being in a Kiddie Rock band (their thing is to make music young kids will like – their ‘first’ rock experience – that their parents will like too) and a slight inaccuracy concerning RDD and “a nice bit of old”. Surely that came from a song, rather than X-Ray?
We all know about MILFs now. Back then, MILFs hadn’t earned their acronym, and cougars were something you saw on The Wonderful World of Disney. MILFs were just older women, or, as Ray Davies calls them in his autobiography, “a nice bit of old”; in our world, “the mums.” And they weren’t that old. And they looked good. Jack was always scribbling his hotel number down on a CD cover, just in case anyone fancied a drink.
On page 180 the band, already a phenomenon via a chance tv appearance, are considering producers for the album that will make them stars, and we get a hint – not really specific enough, period-wise – of what they sound like. Daniel Lanois is too gloomy, George Martin (despite Nellie the Elephant) is, says Blake, too tall:
Next was Denny, who had a Grammy under his belt, corkscrew curls, dark glasses, and drawled as though he’d had a minor stroke or his teeth were in funny. He was perfectly nice, very boring. It was all work to him, but he and Jack bonded and he uttered a few magic words as though primed by Andy: “It doesn’t really sound like kids’ music to me; it’s all just music, isn’t it?” I never saw him without the glasses on. “It reminds me of the Kinks. And that’s what it should sound like.” When he name-dropped George Martin, I wondered whether the fix was in.
“That’s the thing, see?” said Blake. “There’s no pigeon hole for me now. You go through that and there’s no way back; you go to prison, and when you get out that’s when you’re abandoned, just when you need the help most.”
“Blake, are you actually okay?”
He didn’t answer. He was staring at the kettle flex, which looked like the curly lead taut between the young Dave Davies’s Epiphone and his amp. Not to Blake it didn’t. He was looking right through it.
It’s a good book, highly recommended as satire and the story of what happens to a gifted eccentric talent and those who travel with him. A touching tale that will oft make you laugh aloud.
I’m pretty sure I need to thank Duncan (already mentioned in despatches here) for bringing Wonderkid to my notice.
Peter James : Dead man’s time
Dead man’s time (Macmillan, 2013) is the ninth in Peter James‘ sequence of contemporary crime novels featuring a detective called Roy Grace, set in the town of Brighton, in the UK. It’s the story of an antiques heist that goes badly wrong and leads to a series of dramatic events that have their origins in the Irish mafia gang wars of early twentieth century New York. The 40-year old Grace has just become a dad:
The baby was a joint commitment and he had to play his part. But, shit, he felt tired; and grungy; it was a sticky August day, and, although all the windows were open, the air was listless, warm and humid.
The television was on, playing the recording of the Olympics closing ceremony from less than a couple of weeks ago. He and Cleo had both fallen asleep watching it live on the night. He could not remember ever feeling so tired in his life, and it was affecting his concentration at work. He was definitely suffering from baby brain.
Ray Davies, from one of his favourite bands, the Kinks, was singing ‘Waterloo sunset’, and he turned up the sound slightly to listen. But Cleo did not look up from her book.
For what it’s worth, the book is 50 shades of grey. Here’s the link to an unflattering blog review of Dead man’s time elsewhere on Lillabullero.
Thanks to Lynn White for the heads-up on Dead man’s time.
And thanks to Frank Lima for the next one, When one man dies, which I haven’t seen:
Dave White: When one man dies
“The critically acclaimed and multi award-nominated first book in the Jackson Donne series, a riveting, gritty thriller from one of the brightest new crime writers working today,” is what it says on the Amazon entry for the Kindle edition (2014). First published in 2007 in the US by the Three Rivers Press. Jackson Donne is a New Jersey cop turned private investigator. Here’s the Kinks quote:
The click of my CD player – a sound I’ve heard a few times changing CDs answered my question. ‘The Kinks’, a CD I’d picked up years ago in a bargain bin, started up. The song was ‘Sunny afternoon’. I had forgotten I owned it. Hanover strolled back my way, taking his time, examining an ashtray on the coffee table. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry. That was good, I thought. Probably gave me more time to live.
“Nice collection,” he said, the hint of a Mexican accent in his voice. He nodded toward my CD player. “Not many people have the Kinks. At least not many people I talk to.”
Christopher Owens: Sleeping in afield
This description, taken from its Amazon description. Published by iUniverse (2001) and Writers Club Press (2002). I seem to recall reading about this but somehow left it unmentioned previously here. The book’s title is taken from the Kinks song Misfits, the title song of the 1978 album of the same name, and, if memory serves correctly, describes a cross-country journey to a Kinks concert:
At age 24, Dave Criders life is at a crossroads, and he is consumed by a deep and seemingly irresolvable angst. Nearly paralyzed by his existential fears, he seeks solace from cut and dried academia, a nagging boss, and a failing romantic relationship via excessive drinking, fantasies of exotic women, and his immersion into the rock and roll subculture. At the end of a very long and self-destructive semester, Dave embarks on a road trip in an attempt to regain some sense of balance in his off-kilter life. Little can he imagine the spiritual and emotional roller coaster ride that awaits him on this soul-searching journey. Set amidst a swirling backdrop of late 1970s hedonistic excess, Sleeping in a Field captures the confusion and youthful anxiety of the times in a poetic, fast-paced first person narrative.
Added December 2015:
Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Signal to noise
And thanks to Neil Ottenstein, esteemed gatekeeper of the annals of the Kinks Presrvation Society, for info about this on writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s debut novel Signal to noise (Solaris, 2015). This nice little quote is from page 21 of the print edition (or any reasonable number you like from the Kindle edition, depending on the siz of the text you’ve chosen to use:
The best concept album was an easy pick. Meche preferred the Kinks’ Arthur (or the decline and fall of the British Empire). Her parents had met thanks to that album.
Looks to be another interesting take on rock culture, albeit coming from a fantasy angle – magic (the spelling kind) and music, with a teen romance sub-plot. One of the Amazon reviewers mention Adrian Mole. This from its Amazon description:
Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape.
Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends – Sebastian and Daniela – and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. The three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…
Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, reviving memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? Is there any magic left?
Peter May : Runaway
Peter May is a crime writer with three linked series of novels under his belt, but Runaway (Quercus, 2015) is a standalone novel inspired by an episode from his own youth, though I doubt he and his mates’ sojourn in the Big Black Smoke involved any murders. I’ve reviewed the book at some length here, and it has its moments, particularly regarding friendship under strain, failed ambition and growing old, though, as I say, for all its ultimate sourness on the scene, it does rather favour the playing of a game of Swinging London bingo:
In 1965 … I was just exploring my talents, and like my contemporaries being swept along by the sea of change that was washing over the whole country. And music was what drove it, like the moon and the tides. The Stones, the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks. Exciting, violent, romantic ground-breaking music that fired the imagination and made everything seem possible. (p39)
Runaway has two timelines. The aforementioned 1965, when five Glasgow teenagers, in a band called The Shuffle, make it to London to try their luck on the music scene (they don’t last long; there are deaths), and 50 years later, in 2015, when one of them, dying in a Glasgow hospital, engineers, with the help of the other two still in Glasgow, a return to the capital to see justice done, and set the record straight among themselves. Both journeys are eventful. Anyway, in 1965 they bump into a certain Dr Robert (yeah,yeah) who gets them a sort of working roost in Victoria Hall, a controversial anti-psychiatry project, a thinly-veiled portrait of life in R.D.Laing’s Kingsley House community, where:
The coloured candles in their pools of melted wax burned all around the common room, sending the shadows of the diners dancing across the walls. A pile of albums played on a Dansette record player on the sideboard, and the sounds of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, the Kinks and the King thickened the smoke-filled air. (p276)
There was no one around in the hall itself. Except for Alice. Thankfully, for once, she was covering her nakedness with a flimsy white gown and dancing around a long strip-painting that hung on the far wall. The paint, still wet where it had been freshly daubed on the paper, glistened in the sunlight that fell through arched windows on the south side. Music boomed out from the Dansette in the common room. The Kinks version of the Martha and the Vandellas hit Dancing in the street. (p360)
Whether a Dansette record player was ever powerful enough to boom out in a big hall is perhaps debatable. However, things are falling apart for The Shuffle (JP is the R.D.Laing character):
Luke put a tea bag in a fourth mug, and Maurie said, ‘What are you doing here?’
I sat down at the end of the table, in JP’s seat, and stared at my hands in front of me. The Kinks had progressed to the final track on Side One and were so tired of waiting. Alice was still dancing and painting out in the hall.
I looked up and said, ‘I’m leaving.’
[…] For the longest time nobody spoke. The Kinks were no longer tired of waiting, but the arm had failed to lift at the end of the album and the needle went click, click at every endless revolution of the record. (p363)
And here we are, close to denouement time in 2015. It’s one of the more nuanced Kinks references, working with the narrative, chronicled here on Lillabullero:
Dust settled around them, along with their silence, and they waited in the flickering darkness with the ghosts of the past, and Jack could almost imagine that Alice was still dancing out there in the hall, slashing the air with her brush, painting their ordinary lives with extraordinary colours. And for just a moment he believed he could actually hear the distant echo of the Kinks playing on that scratchy old Dansette. They had been so tired of waiting back then.
Jack too, was tired of waiting. (p402)
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