A side effect of getting older as a lover of pop music is, I think, coming to accept that The Kinks were one of the greatest bands of the ’60s. Oh, sure; everyone knows their hits — “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All of The Night,” even “Lola” — but the older I get, the more I just kind of step back and think, holy shit, they just kept putting out shockingly great music for fucking years, didn’t they?
I’m not entirely sure what it is about the band that prevents them from being up there with the Beatles and the Stones, the two iconic bands of the era; listen to songs like “Stop Your Sobbing,” and it’s got the arrangement (vocal and instrumental) of an early Beatles song, while “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” has all the sneering posture of the Stones at their anxious, nervous angry best. (Something like “Nothin’ In The World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl” has the blues riffs and rip-offs of the Stones’ early days, too, but paired with a vulnerability that Mick could never.)
There’s so much more the Kinks are capable of, though, at least for that first decade of their existence: songs like “Days” and “Shangri-La,” or the so-famous-you-forget-how-good-it-actually-is “Waterloo Sunset” have a wistfulness and longing and sadness all their own, while “The Village Green Preservation Society” and “All of My Friends Were There” are informed by the British Music Hall tradition in a way that other bands only claimed to be, outside of things like “Your Mother Should Know” or brief intros to more raucous songs. (Hi, bands like The Move and The Creation.)
Maybe that’s what I missed before, and am only coming around to now — a recognition and appreciation of how vast and varied the Kinks’ output was at their height, and how restless a band they were during that period. It’s not just that they could do it all, it’s that they did, for a time there… and that’s something that I find myself thinking about more and more often, as I age.
Maybe I’m just jealous, at the heart of it.