Tuesday, March 14, 2006

It's a shame about Ray...

Oh dear. It seems that quintessential English hero Ray Davies is now getting the snake-eyes for agreeing a £6million deal for many of his finest Kinks songs to be used as advertising jingles in the US.
How thoroughly depressing, and entirely at odds with the admirable sentiments expressed in the title track of the exquisite 1968 album, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society: "We are the village green preservation society,/God bless Mrs Mop, vaudeville and variety ... We are the skyscraper condemnation affiliate,/God bless Tudor houses, antique tables and billiards..." - as indeed has been pointed out in Monday's Guardian by John Harris, author of the exemplary The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock...

Well - up to a point, Lord Copper.
Okay, so everyone knows the edict that selling out to the advertising masses is tantamount to lopping off your last remaining pound of flesh of artistic integrity and flogging it to the highest bidder, or at least so the famously-fierce (and, here's a shocking admission, to my mind overrated and me-cold-leaving) Bill Hicks ranted: "Here's the deal, folks. You do a commercial - you're off the artistic roll call, forever. End of story. Okay? You're another whore at the captialist gang bang and if you do a commercial, there's a price on your head. Everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink."

I dunno. Seemingly the rates of pay for fairly minimal amounts of effort are rather ridiculously extravagant, and it can dent your appreciation of an artist to see him/her whoring their talent for excessively-appalling "work" - Paul Merton's adverts for Phones 4 U/Imperial Leather, anyone? Dudley Moore for Tesco? John Cleese for Sainsbury's? Shudder-inducing, every time...

But it will be interesting to see just how the Kinks kome, sorry, come out of this particular arrangement, public-image-wise (to slip into C C Baxter-style speak...) After all, Picture Book (again, from the Village Green album) has recently been used extensively for a certain camera firm (although the same album's closer, People Take Pictures Of Each Other was rather more caustic about the superficiality of folks taking incessant photos, and clearly wouldn't have been such a suitable soundtrack...)

While to me the Raymond Douglas Davies of the 1960s and 1970s is one of the most worship-worthy figures of modern popular culture, a few of the scales have since slipped from my eyes as to his older-age fallibility.
Perhaps the tipping-point was seeing The Kinks play a quarter-filled Wembley Arena in the early 1990s. Ray was radiant throughout his initial, solo acoustic spot run-through of favourites such as Days, Sunny Afternoon and Autumn Almanac. But a rather odd taste was left in the mouth when the full band arrived, he dropped his guitar and spent much of the gig hurtling his way across and back, and up and down, the stage, in a garish Union flag suit, barking out lyrics in what seemed a misguided attempt to be Freddie Mercury rather than the downbeat, pinpoint lyrical observer we came to know and love in opposition to the more outlandish Darkness-esque stadium hoofers...
Add to that some woefully embarrassing 1990s compositions such as the tuneless My Diary, The Shirt and London Song (sample lyrics: "There's a room in a house in a street in a manor in a borough/That's part of a city that is generally referred to as Lahn-don,/It's a dark place, a mysterious place/And it is said that if you're born within the sound of Bow-Bells/You have the necessary qualifications to be christened a Londoner ... But when you think back to all the great Londoners: William Blake, Charles Dickens, Dick Whittington,/Pearly kings, barrow boys, Arthur Daley, Max Wall/And don't forget the Kraaaay twins...")
And yet, and yet... Waterloo Sunset and Moments are two of the most beautiful songs ever recorded, Holiday Romance and Alcohol two of the wittiest, and the Clissold Arms in East Finchley - site of some of the Davies brothers' earliest performances, both with guitar in hand and foaming pints in the other - is one of my favourite locals... Even X-Ray, that odd half-autobiography, half-ambitious-1984-pastiche is well worth a read...
So here's hoping his new deal does him less artistic damage than the kind of sales-(and-streetcred)-spurt other bands can strangely receive from being linked with Levi's...
After all, the US may owe the Kinks a little favour, having apparently made their early US tours a little trickier than they should have been, thanks to confusion over the A Well Respected Man lyric "and he likes his fags the best...", and the commercial sector even more beholden, the early-70s, brand-name-fearful BBC having forced the re-recording of Lola as a single, replacing "you drink Champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola" with ".. tastes just like cherry cola".
I just hope the advertising execs who now get their grubby mitts on the Davies meisterworks show a little more sensitivity and tact than those who, thanks to Wacky Jacko, got to plunder some of the Beatles' holy grails in the 1980s...
Here's Jim Bredouw, one of the men involved when Capitol allowed Nike the master mixes of Revolution to advertise trainers in 1987: "There were a couple of terrible drum mistakes that sounded like Ringo dropped a drumstick..."
You can start to understand George Harrison's frustration: "If it's allowed to happen, every Beatles song ever recorded is going to be advertising women's underwear and sausages."
Too true, George.
Though, then again, it seems advertising women's underwear wasn't beneath Bob Dylan, nor did selling sausages do too much to taint the image of George Best, compared to some of his other escapades...
So you go for it, Ray...
Just please, please, please don't let the godawful Gap get hold of Dedicated Follower Of Fashion...

1 comment:

Toxic said...

Don't like Bill Hicks, thought you might have put up some Neil Young lyrics on the subject.