THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD
529) The Kinks — “Drivin'”
Ray Davies’ magnificent ode to escaping one’s troubles through a drive in the country was the first single off ’69’s legendary concept album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) — and it failed to chart! As Lande Bakare notes, “[d]espite the critical praise, the album and its singles did not perform particularly well for the band, with lead singles Drivin’ and Shangri-La [see #450] failing to chart – the first failure for the band since their breakthrough in 1964.” (https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/oct/06/the-kinks-album-arthur-to-be-turned-into-bbc-radio-drama)
Wikipedia says that “[a[ccording to critic Johnny Rogan and author Thomas Kitts, “Drivin'” is based on real experiences from Ray Davies’ childhood when his family drove from London to the country.”
As to Arthur, Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes that:
[It is] the story of a London man’s decision to move to Australia during the aftermath of World War II. It’s a detailed and loving song cycle, capturing the minutiae of suburban life, the numbing effect of bureaucracy, and the horrors of war. On paper, Arthur sounds like a pretentious mess, but Ray Davies’ lyrics and insights have rarely been so graceful or deftly executed, and the music is remarkable. An edgier and harder-rocking affair than Village Green [Preservation Society], Arthur is as multi-layered musically as it is lyrically. . . . The music makes the words cut deeper, and the songs never stray too far from the album’s subject, making Arthur one of the most effective concept albums in rock history, as well as one of the best and most influential British pop records of its era.https://www.allmusic.com/album/arthur-or-the-decline-and-fall-of-the-british-empire-mw0000713876
Bryan Wawzenek tells the story:
In early 1969, Ray Davies was contacted by British TV producers in regards to creating a television movie. Ray would co-write the teleplay, as well as a soundtrack album that the Kinks would release in conjunction with [its] airing . . . . Davies wanted to . . . examine what it meant to be British in the 20th Century [by] charting the radical changes of the era through the perspective of one man: Arthur . . . . Morgan . . . an old carpet layer who had fought in one world war and survived another to build a family and a life in a London suburb, all the while witnessing the shrinking of the British empire and the dwindling of opportunities in his homeland. Arthur was based on the real-life Arthur Anning, Davies’ brother-in-law who had moved his family to Australia in 1964 to try to build a better life. . . . The initial plan was that the soundtrack . . . would come out in July, to be followed by the broadcast of the stage production in September. Complications regarding the financial backing of the play delayed everything . . . . [Then, i]magine Davies . . . horror when [he] found out a producer had mismanaged the money side of things and subsequently caused the cancellation of the entire project. All that remained was the Kinks album. And so, quite unintentionally, the Kinks’ soundtrack album turned into a stand-alone concept record . . . when released on Oct. 10, 1969.https://ultimateclassicrock.com/the-kinks-arthur/
“It seems like all the world is fighting. They’re even talking of a war. Let all the Russians and the Chinese and the Spanish do their fighting. The sun is shining. We’re going drivin’, drivin’. Drop all your work. Leave it behind. Forget all your problems and get in my car and take a drive with me. The sandwiches are packed, the tea is in the flask. We’ve plenty of beer and gooseberry tarts. So take a drive with me. We’ll take your mother if you want to. We’ll have a picnic on the grass. Forget your nephews and your cousins and your brothers and your sisters. They’ll never miss us. ‘Cause we’ll be drivin’, drivin’, drivin’, drivin’. Thousands of trees, hundreds of fields, millions of birds. So why don’t you come and take a drive with me? We’ll talk to the cows and laugh at the sheep. We’ll lie in a field and we’ll have a sleep. So take a drive with me. And all the troubled world around us seems an eternity away. And all the debt collectors, rent collectors, all will be behind us. But they’ll never find us. ‘Cause we’ll be drivin’, drivin’, drivin’, drivin’. [chorus: “Drive with Me. Drive with me.”] Passed Barnet Church, up to Potters Bar. We won’t be home late, it’s not very far. So take a drive with me, take a drive with me’. Drivin’, drivin’, drivin’, drivin’.”
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