Listen to COME ON NOW by The Kinks.
Until today we have never posted any Kinks songs. The problem is that even though The Kinks are the least famous of the "Big 4" British bands of the Sixties, they're still pretty damn well known, and the purpose of this blog, generally speaking, is to shine a
spotlightflashlight on more obscure corners of the music world.
But Corbett and I were talking and came up with an angle with which to approach The Kinks' music. The next two weeks (excepting Fridays) we will be presenting The Kinks: A Musical Appreciation of Rasa Davies.
Who in the world is Rasa Davies? Rasa was Ray's first wife, a woman that sang on many of The Kinks's singles up through 1968. A quick biography (with much thanks to, among others, Doug Himan's "All Day And All Of The Night"). Ray and Dave Davies were from North London (Arsenal fans, by the way). They first hit big in mid 1964 with You Really Got Me. The band was touring that single in July 1964, where they had a gig in Sheffield. In attendance that night was Rasa Didzpetris, a student from Lithuania via Bradford. Rasa met Ray and they exchanged addresses.
A week or two later, the pair met up in London, and pretty soon they were inseparable. Rasa became pregnant with their first daughter. They were married on December 12, 1964. On December 22-23, The Kinks were in the studio and recorded today's song, Come On Now, as well as Everybody's Gonna Be Happy. Rasa was there too. Come On Now is the first Kinks song that Rasa definitely sang on (it's unclear to me whether she sang on the studio versions of Tired Of Waiting For You or Set Me Free, which had been recorded back in August & September).
Before we get to the music, though, let's complete the biographical sketch. Ray had to leave his new wife and daughter for a tour of the U.S. in 1965. Ray's unhappiness about this (the Lithuanian-born Rasa had visa problems) has been at least partially blamed for Ray's bad behavior on the tour; after one encounter with a commie-baiting stage manager (keep in mind that back then marrying someone from behind the Iron Curtain was quite a political statement with some people, whether it was meant to be or not), The Kinks were actually banned from the U.S. for four years, which would dramatically inhibit The Kinks' popularity (and still a big reason why the band are relatively less well known than their contemporaries).
Much has been made of Ray's subsequent domesticity once they all got back to Swinging London. Ray lived the quiet life in Muswell Hill while Dave (and the rest of the pop world) lived it up in Soho. Kinks songs became quieter and more anachronistic. Also, for a couple of years, Rasa sang on nearly every important Kinks song. At the time, The Kinks' visibility and popularity plummeted, never really to recover. But in the intervening years, this period has come to be considered Ray's and The Kinks's finest: from the "Face To Face" LP to "The Village Green Preservation Society" LP, with all the singles in between.
After that, Rasa disappeared from Kinks records. Sadly, also, the Davies marriage fell apart. Rasa left Ray in 1973, which precipitated a personal crisis for Ray, a suicide attempt, and a brief retirement from music. Fortunately, as best as I can tell Ray and Rasa both got on with things in the long run. Ray just had a bunch of singles on the latest Wes Anderson movie, and Rasa makes appearances with Kast Off Kinks, a kind of tribute band of former Kinks members and associates.
So how about that music? Why are we appreciating Rasa Davies? Well, have a listen to Waterloo Sunset.
Most people think of Waterloo Sunset as the absolute high point of The Kinks, and one of the finest examples of British pop full stop. What qualities does Waterloo Sunset have? Its urban romanticism, its sense of isolation or detachment, its beauty, its obliqueness, its subtlety. A lot of ink has been spilled on describing this song, much better than I could ever do. But now listen to the song again, this time just focusing on those falsetto backing vocals. That's Rasa. I submit that every quality of Waterloo Sunset is available in microcosm in her backing vocals. They have a wistful, aching quality that works perfectly with the song. (Of course that's also a tribute to Ray's arrangement and recording, but the whole idea of "An Appreciation Of Rasa Davies" is also an oblique compliment to the band as a whole anyway).
Finally, that brings us to today's song, Come On Now. As mentioned before, this is just about the earliest Kinks song on which Rasa appears. We've posted this track, not because it's bad--its pretty catchy, and Dave's vocal (Dave wrote the song, by the way) is nice and lusty. But as enthusiastic as it is, Rasa's backing is pretty generic. They hadn't yet written music to take full advantage of her particular qualities.
Corbett and I will be presenting some songs that DO take full advantage of Rasa's vocals, and many of these songs are (not coincidentally) some of our very favorite Kinks songs.
Photo: The balloon ride.