This Week’s Theme: Kinks Kovers
The Kinks are a band that I did not know very well beyond a few of their albums and songs until I recently explored their music with Faux Junior. We listened to their complete discography and as we did so I kept hearing songs that I know as covers by other artists. I think it is a credit to the songwriting talent of Ray Davies that so many different types of artists have covered his songs for over fifty years. There are ten different artists included in this week’s show who have recorded at least one cover of a Kink’s song, as well as some songs by The Kinks and the normal assortment of birthday wishes, an incredible Artist of the Week, and other selections.
Welcome to Radio Faux Show Volume Two, Number Ten.
First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned while exploring the music of The Kinks is that the songwriting of Ray Davies (and occasionally his brother Dave) breaks down into some very specific periods. Most people are familiar with the early and second periods, as well as their ’80s classic “Come Dancing,” but probably don’t know much about the work of the band in the ’70s. I am no expert on the band, but I can at least describe the basics of the band’s output from the early ’60s through the ’80s.
The earliest music of The Kinks combined covers of artists such as Chuck Berry with a blues-based Brit-pop sound very reminiscent of 1964. Ray Davies has been called The Godfather of Brit-Pop, although he does not believe this is true, and the first Kinks albums and singles from 1964-65 bear this out. This is the period that produced “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All of the Night,” and “Tired of Waiting for You.” The three albums released during this period are more or less a continuous string of blues based Brit-pop. If this is your kind of music then you probably love those albums.
These records were followed by two transitional albums that propelled The Kinks into the late ’60 in a way that most of their contemporaries were unable to do. In 1966, Ray Davies wrote his first album of all original material and the resulting Face to Face was released as the first rock concept album. This was followed in 1967 with Something Else By The Kinks, an album that starts with “David Watts,” ends with “Waterloo Sunset,” and contains a diverse set of recordings that are far removed from the band’s earliest songs. They may not be as good as Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, but they are both better than the Rolling Stones’ horribly over-rated album Her Majesty’s Satanic Request. While the rest of the early British Invasion bands faded off into the Waterloo Sunset after 1967, The Kinks were only getting started.
The next three Kinks albums stand against any trio of albums ever recorded by any band. Village Green, Arthur, and Lola are all very different sounding albums, but they work together as an evolution in not only the band’s output but also in what a rock concept album can be. Other bands have since perfected the formula, but these three Kinks albums created it. This trilogy belongs in the list with the ’68-70 albums by The Beatles, The Stones, and The Who as laying the foundation of all rock music to come.
The Early ’70s, Rock Operas, and more
After such an incredible creative explosion, it would make sense that Ray Davies might not be able to keep up the pace. That sounds like the intro to me explaining that what comes next is even better, but unfortunately this is not a fairy tale. The next five years of the band’s output is viewed by some as a success and others as a failure, and no one would view it as being on par with their late ’60s work. From the under-rated album Muswell Hillbillies through the string of rock opera/concert concept albums that make up the bulk of the next five years of Kinks recordings, the songs of Ray Davies moved in a very theatrical direction. There are high points throughout, but only a die-hard Kinks fan is going to return to the music of this period with any regularity. Having now listened to all of these records, I have my favorites, but I am sure that if I had been a fan at the time I may have given up hope at this point.
The Late ’70s
By the time the band had worked their way through the decade of the ’70s, pop music had evolved and left the concept albums of the Kinks behind. It would make sense if the story ends here, and the band would still be just as important. Amazingly though, The Kinks found a fourth life in the late ’70s with a combination of arena rock, post-punk, and the timeless songwriting of Ray Davies. Listening to these albums, from Sleepwalker (1977) through State of Confusion (1983), it is amazing to see how well Davies took the punk rock of bands who he influenced (see The Jam) and mixed it into his own songwriting. No one will argue that this period is as important or of as high a quality as the late ’60s Kinks, but I found it to be my favorite of all of the other periods. The mix of ballads, big rockers, and those classic Davies guitar riffs work well and place these albums firmly in a list of the best rock and roll made during this period.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that The Kinks scored a massive MTV hit with their 1983 video for “Come Dancing,” a song that is now a classic of the era. Their work throughout the ’70s laid some of the groundwork for the theatrical presentation that bands would employ on MTV in the ’80s. After “Come Dancing,” the band took their newfound younger audience and ran with it. The 1984 album Word of Mouth showed, yet again, that Davies is able to adapt to whatever style is popular at the time and create great music. The songs “Do It Again” and “Living on a Thin Line” are great examples of ’80s new wave pop. The band took the music of bands that they influenced and stole their sound to create new music of their own. By the ’80s, very few ’60s artists were still making music, much less making music that sounded new. Listening to their last few albums now, they sound like an ’80s band in their prime, not a ’60s band nearing their end. I have no idea what Davies thinks about his last few records, but a great songwriter is a great songwriter and these records hold up as well as anything made during that time by the artists of his era.
There are a lot of Kinks covers out there, including a few that are so well-known they are normally associated with the cover artist more than with the Kinks. I would bet good money that we have all heard the Van Halen version of “You Really Got Me” more than the Kinks’ version. I didn’t even know until recently that one of my favorite Pretenders songs, “Stop Your Sobbing,” was a cover of a Kinks song. The covers I selected for this week’s show present a variety of musical styles in an attempt to show how the songwriting of Ray Davies transcends the rock and roll that he focused his career on making.
“All Day and All of the Night” (The Kinks): Although “You Really Got Me” may be the more famous tune, my favorite of the ’64 singles is this one. The riff is a classic and the song still holds your attention sixty years later. The Kinks even covered their own version of the song with their song “Destroyer,” from their 1981 album Give The People What They Want, which steals that classic riff and converts it into one of their best late-period songs.
“Beautiful Delilah” (The Kinks): There are plenty of covers on their early albums, but this Chuck Berry song is the first track on their first album and may be the best. Dave’s vocals were prevalent on these early recordings and this is a great example of the band’s ability to cover the rock and roll that they loved. Unlike The Beatles, who focused a lot of attention on Carl Perkins and Girl Group songs, The Kinks turned to the blues and the early rock and roll of black musical pioneers to create a sound that was just as important in developing Brit-pop.
“Big Sky” (Yo La Tengo): This song is from Yo La Tengo’s 1986 debut Ride The Tiger. It is a wonderful cover of arguably the best song on the 1968 Village Green album. The interpretation is surprisingly true to the original for such a young, new indie-rock band.
“Complicated Life” (Preservation Hall Jazz Band): This song was originally on the 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies. Coming off of three amazing albums, there was sure to be a let-down, but I have always felt that this record is extremely under-rated. It is a slight change in direction for the band, but contains some of their best songs, including this one. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band started in the early ’60s as a group of older, forgotten New Orleans jazz artists brought together to revive the traditional sound of New Orleans jazz from the ’30s. Based out of the Preservation Hall jazz venue, the group has survived for sixty years, including a resurgence in popularity over the last twenty years. They recorded this song for a Hurricane Katrina benefit album in 2007. It is a perfect selection for inclusion on the album, both musically and lyrically. Starting with Muswell Hillbillies, Davies’ songwriting began to incorporate the sound of the music of the ’30s and ’40s, and this cover pulls all of these influences together perfectly.
“David Watts” (The Jam): No cover better represents the influence of The Kinks on the music of the punk era than this one. Originally the opener to the 1967 album Something Else, this song has all of the thematic content found in almost every song by The Jam. The Clash are more famous, but The Jam were the more popular band in England at the time, and songs like this are the reason why.
“Lola” aka “Yoda” (“Weird Al” Yankovic): This is probably the most famous song by The Kinks, and the most famous cover is this parody. It is a classic in every sense of the word. “If you run into trouble let the force be your guide.”
“No Return” (Chrissie Hynde): Although they didn’t marry, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and Ray Davies had a relationship in the early ’80s which produced a child. In addition to the Pretenders’ cover of “Stop Your Sobbing” in 1979, Hynde recorded this gorgeous version of “No Return” for her 2019 album Valve Bone Woe. The song was originally recorded for the 1967 album Something Else. It’s bossa nova inspired sound was a major turning point in the evolution of the band.
“Oklahoma, U.S.A.” (Yo La Tengo): Recorded for their album Fakebook in 1990, this is another Kinks cover by this great indie band. The album was a departure for the group and included a focus on the acoustic musicianship of the band. I loved the band at the time, I loved this album, and I always thought that this song was a highlight. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered it was a cover of a song from the 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies.
“She’s Got Everything” (The Romantics): This 1980 cover is from the band’s debut and is a perfect song to showcase exactly what The Romantics were all about – old fashioned rock and roll. This isn’t their most famous song (that would be “What I Like About You” or “Talking In Your Sleep”) but it is as true to the original as a cover can get. The riff is fantastic and the delivery is spot on. The original was recorded in 1966 during the Face to Face sessions, but wasn’t included on the album. This makes sense, as the record was a concept album that moved the band in a direction away from this early sound. However, the song was too good to ignore and was released as the B-side to the 1968 single “Days.”
“Smokestack Lightnin'” (Howlin’ Wolf) and “Last of the Steam-Powered Trains” (The Kinks): This song from Village Green Preservation Society is a reworking of the Howlin’ Wolf classic. It is especially interesting as an example of how quickly the band’s style changed between 1965 and 1968. The original blues-based rock of the earliest records is nowhere to be found on this great cover of a straight-ahead blues song.
“Stop Your Sobbing” (Pretenders): I did not know this was a Kinks cover until I heard it recently. The original is from the Kinks’ debut album and the cover is from the Pretenders’ debut album. The cover is far superior and it shows the talent of Chrissie Hynde that her cover sounds more like a Pretenders song than the original sounds like a Kinks song. In an alternate reality, you could tell me that the Kinks covered the Pretenders on this one and I would believe you.
“Strangers” (Black Pumas): This cover by fantastic new neo-soul band Black Pumas is one of my favorite discoveries from researching this week’s show. The original is from the 1970 album Lola and has always been my favorite song from the album, which is not a normal viewpoint for a song written and sung by Dave Davies on a record filled with amazing songs. This cover version is amazing and raises the song to the soul heights that it now feels like it has always deserved.
“Tired of Waiting For You” (Green Day): This is a simple cover from 1994 that was originally released as part of the band’s “Basket Case” single. There is nothing special here, but it is telling that a post-punk band like Green Day would turn to this 1965 song from the Kink’s second album. I prefer the classic original, but this version is nice for what it is.
“Victoria” (The Fall): If you are familiar with the Faux Show then you know that I believe The Fall to be one of the greatest punk bands of the original punk era. So, here is another punk band performing a Kinks song. This is a perfect song for The Fall, a band who selected their covers carefully, to record. The simple riff fits perfectly with their style, and the lyrics sound like they could have been written by Mark E. Smith. The cover is from the band’s 1988 album The Frenz Experiment and the original is from the 1969 masterpiece Arthur.
“Where Have All The Good Times Gone” (Van Halen): This isn’t the most famous Kinks cover by Van Halen, but it is a good one. Recorded for their 1982 album Diver Down, it is one of several covers on the album, but out of all of those covers this one sounds the most like a Van Halen original.
“You Really Got Me” (Van Halen)/”Push It” (Salt-n-Pepa): The original version of this song was the first use of distortion in a recording studio. There weren’t guitar pedals back then, so the band created this effect on their recordings by punching holes in their tube amps. It is poetic that the band who invented distortion would write the song that gave Van Halen their start. The Van Halen cover is the most famous of all of the Kinks covers. It is usually played on the radio along with its intro, “Eruption,” and stands as the song that introduced the world to Eddie Van Halen. Van Halen fans love it, everyone else is tired of it. More interesting is that one of the greatest rap songs ever recorded shares a songwriting credit with Ray Davies. “Push It” includes the group’s use of the lyrics “Boy you really got me goin’, you got me so I don’t know what I’m doin’,” which led to a Davies credit. I am not sure that is anything more than an interesting trivia contest answer, but it definitely shows the depth of influence of The Kinks on more than just rock and roll.
Artist of the Week: Betty Davis
Betty Davis has been a Faux Show favorite since the first show and the mini-theme 3 Chunks of Funk was envisioned. She was included in the third Faux Show and in the show focused on female artists, and I have several of her recordings always sitting at the ready in my list of songs to use later. She died on February 9, 2022 so there is no better time to name her Artist of the Week.
Here is the entry about Betty Davis from Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 32
Betty Davis’ story is like a movie script, and is almost unbelievable. She started her career as Betty Mabry in New York as part of the late ’60s Greenwich Village scene while still in her teens. She worked as a model for magazines such as Ebony, Seventeen, and Glamour. She hung out with Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. She wrote songs for artists such as The Chambers Brothers. She dated Hugh Masakela and started to record her own music with Masakela as arranger. She married and divorced Miles Davis! And all of this was before she released her first Betty Davis album. Later in the ’70s she also dated Eric Clapton and Robert Palmer. Her first three albums were modestly successful, but did not produce any hits. However, her suggestive lyrics and overtly sexual stage show were infamous and led to boycotts of both her live shows and radio airplay. She refused to change who she was and how she presented herself, and by the ’80s she retired from music, but her music is still heard in tv shows and a documentary has been made about her amazing career.
Trailer for the documentary They Say I’m Different
The best way to appreciate Betty Davis is to just listen
A lot of articles about Betty Davis were published after her death
You can also watch Season 2, Episode 8 of Mike Judge’s show Tales From The Tour Bus
A final word about Betty Davis
Subjectively speaking, I think that the music of Betty Davis is what funk music is supposed to sound like. More importantly, the lyrics of Betty Davis never wavered in her presentation of female empowerment and pure fuck you energy. People say that she was ahead of her time, but we still haven’t gotten to a time at which a woman is allowed to present herself like Betty Davis did. For some reason, people believe that current female artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat are icons of female empowerment. The truth is that they are presenting themselves as the male-created objectification of women. There is very little empowerment to be found in this new breed of female artists. Fifty years ago, Betty Davis presented a truly empowering female icon whose strength scared the shit out of the men of the time, and still does. Women are still not allowed to show the strength and individuality that Betty Davis presented without being shut down by society. The story of Betty Davis is inspiring, but also tragic and sad. Now that she has died, the most important thing we all can do is to celebrate her music as an incredible piece of American history that was improbably allowed to exist.
Betty Davis: See Artist of the Week
George Crumb: See Difficult Listening
Jimmy Johnson died on January 31, 2022, and his younger brother Syl Johnson died on February 6, 2022. Both of them were blues musicians who learned the Chicago blues after their family moved to Chicago in 1950 and became next door neighbors to Magic Sam. Older brother Jimmy was a more traditional blues artist and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He played in the style of Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, and although he dabbled in soul music in the ’60s he is best known for his decades of work as a blues artist. Younger brother Syl was also a great blues musician, but is best known for his work as a blues/soul crossover artist on the Hi Records label in the ’60s and ’70s, including his highly regarded civil rights album Is It Because I’m Black. Syl’s song “Different Strokes” is a break-beat classic.
Happy Birthday (March 6)
Lou Costello was one half of the famed comedy duo Abbott and Costello. He was famous.
David Gilmour is the co-founder and lead guitarist of Pink Floyd. He is famous.
Hugh Grundy was the drummer for The Zombies.
D.L. Hughley is a stand-up comic and actor. He is very funny.
Shaquille O’Neal is a hall of fame NBA center. He also rapped a lot in the early ’90s and starred in some movies. He is very tall.
Casimir Pulaski was the Father of the American Cavalry.
Charles Tolliver is a jazz trumpeter and band leader who released several amazing albums in the ’60s and ’70s but has never received the recognition he deserves.
3 Chunks of Funk
Betty Davis “Anti Love Song” and “Nasty Gal”: The first song is from her self-titled debut and the second song is the title track from her third and final album. These two songs are perfect examples of everything Davis was about as a funk artist.
Graham Central Station “Mirror”: This is the title track to the band’s fourth album.
Record Store Day
Because any day you go to the record store is record store day.
Graham Central Station Mirror: Among a recent purchase at my local record store was the 1976 album Mirror by Graham Central Station. Released in 1976, it is a great album of ’70s funk by one of the masters. Larry Graham was the original bassist for the essential Sly and the Family Stone albums of the late ’60s and early ’70s. He is credited with the invention of electric slap bass, and the variety of sounds he created with his electric bass are astounding. In 1972, Neal Schon left Santana to become lead guitarist for a new band called Azteca. This band featured former Family Stone members Larry Graham (bass) and Gregg Errico (drums), plus Pete Sears (keyboards) from Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship. After Schon left to form Journey, Azteca changed into Graham Central Station. The album Mirror is not the band’s best, but it is still a solid funk album. The cover included a piece of reflective paper glued over a blank spot on the paper sleeve. I was lucky enough to find a copy that still has the original mirror glued on, so now I can check out my look any time I want to funk it out to some great mid-70s Larry Graham bass virtuosity.
To pull all three of these songs together, here is the amazing connection. The musicians on the first Betty Davis album include the members of Azteca (Neal Schon, Larry Graham, Gregg Errico, and Pete Sears).
The Kinks “All Day and All of the Night” (#7 1/16/65)
Shaquille O’Neal with Fu-Schnickens “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock) (#39 8/14/93)
Salt-n-Pepa “Push It” (#19 12/26/87)
Van Halen “You Really Got Me” (#36 3/11/78)
Two for “Two”day
Betty Davis “Anti Love Song” and “Nasty Gal”
Chrissie Hynde “No Return” and Pretenders “Stop Your Sobbing”
All of the songs by The Kinks
Van Halen “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” and “You Really Got Me”
Yo La Tengo “Big Sky” and “Oklahoma City, U.S.A.”
Black Pumas “Strangers”
Protomartyr “Here is the Thing”
The Get Down
Shaquille O’Neal with Fu-Schnickens “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)”: This song is from Shaq’s 1993 debut, Shaq Diesel. It features the members of rap group Fu-Schnickens. The album sold over a million copies and hit #25 on the Billboard Albums chart.
Possibly the greatest rap lyrics ever written? Certainly the best use of Dick Butkus in a rhyme?
I’m the hooper, the hyper, protected by Viper
When I rock the hoop yo, you’d better decipher
In other words you’d better make a funky decision
‘Cause I’m a be a Shaq knife, and cut you with precision
Forget Tony Danza, I’m the boss, When it comes to money, I’m like Dick Butkus
Now who’s the first pick? Me, word is born and
Not a Christian Laettner, not Alonzo Mourning
That’s okay, not being bragadocious
Supercalifragelistic, Shaq is alidocious
Peace, I gotta go, I ain’t no joke
Now I slam it, jam it, and make sure it’s broke
Salt-n-Pepa “Push It”: This song is from the group’s 1986 debut album Hot, Cool, & Vicious. It was originally released as B-side to the single for “Tramp,” but was re-issued a year later as an A-side. By 1988 it had grown in popularity to the point at which it is now considered one of the greatest rap songs ever recorded. It is listed in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs and VH1’s Top 10 Rap Songs. This means that Ray Davies has a songwriting credit on one of the greatest rap songs, although I doubt he takes much credit for that personally.
Down at the Crossroads
Howlin’ Wolf “Smokestack Lightnin'”: This is one of Chicago blues master Howlin’ Wolf’s most famous songs, and a blues standard. He started performing the song in the ’30s, and finally recorded it in 1956. It is one of the riffs that led to the birth of rock and roll.
Jimmy Johnson “I Need Some Easy Money”: This is a track from Johnson’s 1979 album Johnson’s Whacks.
Difficult Listening: George Crumb
In a broader sense, the rhythms of nature, large and small – the sounds of wind and water, the sounds of birds and insects – must inevitably find their analogues in music. – George Crumb
George Crumb died on February 6, 2022 at the age of 92. He was a composer of modern classical and avant-garde compositions from the late 1940s until his death. His most renowned works fall in the avant-garde category of composition, including Ancient Voices of Children (1970), Black Angels (1971), and Makrokosmos III (1974). His compositions often called for unusual timbres, the playing of instruments in unusual ways, electronic amplification, and other odd compositional techniques. He believed that music is a system of proportions in the service of spiritual impulse. His worldview of music, as described in a 1980 essay, was that the musical culture of the world is coming together due to the availability to composers of all of the different music from around the world. Crumb was still espousing this world view in interviews up until the end of his life. As stated by William Dougherty in a 2017 interview, wherever one stands on the ethics of appropriation, it’s undeniable that Crumb, by incorporating in his work sounds from other cultures, succeeded in finding a timbrally rich sound world unlike any of his contemporaries.
Laughter Is The Best Medicine
Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First”: This is one of the most famous comedy bits ever performed. The duo performed it for decades as part of their radio, television, and live shows. This version appears to be from later in their career, and I would assume the audience was already familiar with it. This allowed the duo to play with their delivery a bit more than in earlier versions I have heard. If you’ve never heard it, then it is time you do so. I still laugh at it, and I’ve heard it more times than I can count.
D.L. Hughley “President Obama”: Hughley was one of the four original comedians featured on the 2000 concert film The Original Kings of Comedy. He has starred in films and tv shows, including his successful show The Hughleys. This bit is from a 2012 performance release called Reset.
A Little Jazz
Preservation Hall Jazz Band “Complicated Life”: This is a great cover of a song from the 1971 Kinks album Muswell Hillbillies.
Charles Tolliver “The Ringer”: This is the title track from Tolliver’s 1969 album. One of my favorite jazz LPs is Tolliver’s 1972 album Impact, featuring Music Inc. led by Tolliver. Unfortunately, most of Tolliver’s recordings as a leader, including that album, have not found their way onto streaming yet. Luckily, his 1969 album The Ringer has, and it is fantastic. This is the first of his string of recordings with his quartet Music Inc.
Thanks for listening (and reading)!
|1||The Kinks||All Day And All Of The Night|
|3||The Romantics||She’s Got Everything|
|4||The Jam||David Watts|
|6||Betty Davis||Nasty Gal|
|7||Betty Davis||Anti Love Song|
|8||Graham Central Station||Mirror|
|10||Shaquille O’Neal||What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)|
|11||D.L. Hughley||President Obama|
|12||Jimmy Johnson||I Need Some Easy Money|
|13||Howlin’ Wolf||Smokestack Lightnin’|
|14||The Kinks||Last of the Steam-Powered Trains|
|16||Protomartyr||Here Is The Thing|
|17||George Crumb||Ancient Voices of Children pt. 2|
|18||Chrissie Hynde||No Return|
|19||Pretenders||Stop Your Sobbing|
|20||Yo La Tengo||Big Sky|
|21||Yo La Tengo||Oklahoma, U.S.A.|
|22||Sufjan Stevens||Casimir Pulaski Day|
|23||David Gilmour||There’s No Way Out Of Here|
|24||Preservation Hall Jazz Band||Complicated Life|
|25||Charles Tolliver||The Ringer|
|26||Syl Johnson||Is It Because I’m Black|
|27||Abbott and Costello||Who’s On First|
|28||“Weird Al” Yankovic||Yoda|
|29||The Zombies||Care of Cell 44|
|30||Green Day||Tired of Waiting for You|
|31||The Kinks||Beautiful Delilah|
|32||Van Halen||Where Have All The Good Times Gone|
|33||Van Halen||You Really Got Me|
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