A Well-Respected Man: Artists Pick Their Favorite Kinks Songs

Robyn Hitchcock: “Waterloo Sunset” threads through my life. The single came out during my psychedelic bar mitzvah and still has that eerie “the world has stopped, let’s get out and look around” feel. Every place I’ve lived in Britain is on the main line to Waterloo Station. My children currently both live near Waterloo Bridge, where the sunset is witnessed by Terry and Julie as they have their moment in the crowd. I’ve rehearsed in a studio there since the Soft Boys’ time. My wife and I have had many romantic rendezvous there as the sun flared over the Thames. Then there’s the song itself: sad, dreamy, exultant. The singer is happy to look at life rather than participate. That’s a feeling to relate to. Originally, Ray was going to call it “Liverpool Sunset,” apparently. Thank you for changing it, Ray.
Rhett Miller, Old 97’s:
“Waterloo Sunset” is my all-time favorite song, not just from Ray Davies’ catalog but from the entire canon of Western music. My wife and I fell in love in London. On our first date, we watched the great Robyn Hitchcock sing this song—backed by his Soft Boys bandmate Kimberley Rew—at sunset next to Waterloo Bridge. It was my favorite song before that because of its rule-breaking chord changes and weird lyrics (love triangle? observant recluse?), but once it became “our song,” it cemented its place atop my personal list. Thank you, Ray, for not conquering America as a young man; I’m afraid it would’ve ruined you.

Black Francis:
The phrase “This Is Where I Belong” is taped to the side of one of my guitars. While the song can be described as a declaration of love, there’s something deeper for me. It’s a kind of spiritual, a song of acceptance about one’s place in the universe, within the space-time continuum. And for me, at times, it’s there behind my guitar, singing a song, sometimes singing this very song: “I won’t search for a house upon the hill/Why should I, when I would only miss you still?” That is such a heavy statement: about contentment, about truth, about having arrived in the palace of wisdom.

Robert Schneider, the Apples In Stereo:
I have seen Ray play twice, solo with an acoustic guitar, and his singing blew me away. He has the most soulful voice, overflowing with sympathy and charm. I learned to sing from listening to the Beatles and the Beach Boys, but I learned how to be a singer from listening to Ray Davies. “Tired Of Waiting For You” is the ultimate Kinks song. It has distorto power chords, and it has the dreamy, pastoral middle section: a perfect balance of what the Kinks do best.

4. “LOLA” (1970)
Will Sheff, Okkervil River:
Anybody who argues that this isn’t one of the best rock songs of all time is just being contrary. Like Lola herself, you don’t have to know what’s hiding underneath the surface of this song to enjoy it. You can just focus on that great riff and typically transcendent Ray Davies vocal melody. “Lola” is rich and complex, though, heroically humanizing a character who could’ve been an adolescent joke (one year after the Velvet Underground’s “Candy Says,” admittedly) before crowning her and seating her at the center of a song that testifies to the primacy of love over all things. “Lola” sparkles with detail and pulses with yearning emotion, and the characters show every dimension of themselves; by the end of the song, we fully agree with the couple dancing “under electric candlelight.” All light is the same, warming and illuminating our way, whether it comes from fire or from a bulb on a club wall.

5. “GET BACK IN LINE” (1970)
Scott McCaughey, the Minus 5:
The protagonist of “Get Back In Line” seems like a simple guy: downtrodden, proud, both discouraged and hopeful, and really not asking for much—just the chance to work and make a meager living. The recording is miraculous, a chaotic interweaving of guitars and organ, tempo chan-ges and Ray’s plaintive vocal lifted by Dave’s lovely harmony. It feels almost accidental, yet somehow so perfectly formed, like a performance that could never be repeated. Perhaps it hasn’t been.

Steve Wynn:
“Till The End Of The Day” blows my mind. Just try playing it on guitar. It uses just about every chord in the book. It’s hard to imagine how someone would write a song like this. It’s as complicated as any ’70s prog-rock song, but sounds impossibly catchy and simple. That’s genius in my book.

7. “DAYS” (1968)
Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal:
“Days” is the only broken love song I can think of where the writer doesn’t display any animosity whatsoever toward the one who broke his heart. Instead of cursing the girl for moving on, he thanks her for all the sacred times they had together. It makes me realize there doesn’t have to be a villain when a relationship dissolves. If you were close with someone and then splintered apart, you can still feel good about the experience, holding the sweet memories inside as you continue on with your life. You don’t have to become bitter or resentful.

8. “SHANGRI-LA” (1969)
Sam Jayne, Love As Laughter:
I have a strange memory of “Shangri-La” that I revisit every time I hear the song. The memory is somewhere on an old videotape, probably stuck in the camcorder it was recorded on. I was playing with the camcorder out the window of a van while returning to Los Angeles after Coachella in 2000. We were listening to the Kinks, and out the window in the hills I saw two people riding horses. There was nothing around, just hills and shrubs and these two people. I zoomed in with the camcorder, and “Shangri-La” was on and at the part where it’s everybody singing “Shangri-La” with the horns and stuff. I was just watching this couple’s hair blow on their horses in the hills through the screen. Every time I hear “Shangri-La,” that’s what I think of: horseback riders in the hills outside of Palm Springs.

9. “TWO SISTERS” (1967)
Neko Case:
I’ve always loved “Two Sisters” the most. Ray Davies has this amazing quality that Roger Miller and Carolyn Mark have, where the song is sad and moving along and killing you. Then they say something that sounds like it should be almost comic—like “she ran around the house with her curlers on”—and it sends you over the edge and breaks your heart. It feels so good and so humbling.

10. “COME DANCING” (1983)
John Roderick, the Long Winters:
It might not be the “coolest” Kinks tune, but “Come Dancing” managed to make me, at age 14 back in 1983, nostalgic for trying to cop a feel at a big-band concert in Brighton Beach, England, in 1959. That is an amazing feat of songwriting.

11. “SUNNY AFTERNOON” (1966)
12. “SEE MY FRIENDS” (1965)
13. “YOU REALLY GOT ME” (1964)
14. “VICTORIA” (1969)
15. “ANIMAL FRAM” (1968)
18. “PICTURE BOOK” (1968)
20. “BETTER THINGS” (1981)

As chosen by: Lou Barlow, Kevin Barnes, Charles Bissell (Wrens), Sonic Boom, Britt Daniel (Spoon), Black Francis, Robyn Hitchcock, Sam Jayne, Tommy Keene, Mac McCaughan (Portastatic), Scott McCaughey, Rhett Miller, John Roderick, Robert Schneider, Will Sheff, Steve Wynn and Jon Langford, Steve Goulding & Lu Edmunds (Mekons)

Documentary Celebrates The Entire History Of Popular Music

When journalist/filmmaker Tony Palmer was working for the BBC in the mid-’60s, his friend John Lennon offered a suggestion. “His continuous complaint to me was that there were great musicians who simply couldn’t get on television,” says Palmer. “And that I had a responsibility to get them on television.”

In 1968, Palmer delivered All My Loving, a groundbreaking documentary about rock icons such as the Who, Cream and Jimi Hendrix. But Lennon wasn’t done with his suggestions. Why not a doc on the entire history of popular music?

“I thought it was impossible,” says Palmer of the project. “[Lennon] said, ‘You know what you should call it, right? All You Need Is Love, because that’s what it’s about.’ So now I have a title like no other and have Mr. Lennon, who no doubt would find me and complain if I didn’t get on with it.”

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The Last Shadow Puppets: Fact Sheet

Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner has never been one for vague disclosures. His lyrics often feature long, twisting details of urban tomfoolery and daft-punk diatribes about teenage life in seedy Sheffield. It’s both predictable and surprising, then, that his first piece of non-Monkey business would be an aggrandizing long-player (co-written with Miles Kane of upstart U.K. band the Rascals) supported by the 22-piece London Metropolitan Orchestra and titled, naturally, The Age Of The Understatement (Domino). The video for the opening title track provides most everything you need to know about the Last Shadow Puppets: Turner and Kane, looking dour in shaggy Beatles bowl cuts and leftover wardrobes from the 1964 Help! shoot, recline on a Russian battle tank like a couple of comrades while battalions of troops sing backup vocals in the snow. Much like the half-galloping, half-prancing album, it’s equal parts goofily outsized and gloriously over-the-top. Turner debunked MAGNET’s myths over the breakfast din of a Manhattan diner.

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Thurston Moore On Sonic Youth Being Dissed By Juno MacGuff

How do you feel about Sonic Youth’s 1994 cover of the Carpenters’ “Superstar” being called “just noise” in the film Juno?

Every once in a while, you’ll be asked whether your music can be used in a movie. Invariably, we always ask, “What’s the movie about?” Because you don’t want it to be some kind of grotesque film. I didn’t even remember that they’d used the song until I was watching it with my daughter, then I was like, “Oh my god!” [Laughs] When Mark (Jason Bateman) tells Juno (Ellen Page), “Here’s a Sonic Youth song, I think you’ll really like this,” and then he plays the song that’s the least indicative of our music—us covering a Carpenters tune—it’s such an odd choice. It’s also funny that she would be into totally hardcore punk—Iggy, Patti Smith, the Runaways—and then quantify Sonic Youth as “just a bunch of noise.” But I think she was just angry at the guy and trying to get back at him.

Slint Members Form Metal Band Dead Child

When Slint re-formed in 2005 for a string of live performances, fans of the seminal Louisville, Ky., post-rock band might’ve anticipated a possible new album. Guitarist David Pajo reveals that plans were indeed made for recording, except those plans had very little to do with Slint.

“Michael McMahan (guitarist for Slint reunion), Todd Cook (bass) and I lightheartedly discussed continuing to play together after the Slint tour,” says Pajo. “Weeks later, Todd turned to me in the van and said, ‘Do you know what a good name for a metal band is? Dead Child.’”

Attack, the full-length debut from Dead Child (Pajo, Cook, McMahan, drummer Tony Bailey and vocalist Dahm), arrives April 8 on Quarterstick. Keeping with McMahan’s original vision and the sound of last year’s self-titled EP, Attack honors heavy metal’s classic tendencies (wailing vocals, hard-wired riffs) while avoiding its modern pitfalls (no programmed drums or cookie-monster vocals).

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Funny Guys Andrew Earles And Jeffrey Jensen Sign To Matador; Yeah THAT Andrew Earles

Judging from the volume and content of letters submitted to MAGNET over the past few years, readers will be either delighted or appalled to learn that contributing writer Andrew Earles (author of Where’s The Street Team?) has signed to Matador to issue a comedy CD. Earles & Jensen Present: Just Farr A Laugh Vol. 1 And 2, due in April, consists of prank phone calls by Earles and partner Jeffrey Jensen. Listeners expecting Jerky Boys-style locker-room humor will be disappointed; the duo instead traffics in slow-developing, character-driven calls. One features the singer of a smooth-R&B cover band called Bedroom ETA attempting to secure a gig at a Memphis blues club, while another has a junk-collector type attempting to sell Garfield memorabilia to an antiques dealer.

“We wanted to make a different type of prank-call CD,” says Earles. “One devoid of cruelty and overstuffed with pop-culture references.”

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Please Explain: Stephen Malkmus

What’s up with your passion for fantasy sports? We heard you played online multi-player basketball while recording your latest album, Real Emotional Trash (Matador).

I’m the commissioner for the basketball league that (current Jicks bandmates) Janet Weiss, Joanna Bolme, (Pavement drummer) Bob Nastanovich and others play in. People can protest trades, and I can flat-out reject them if I think they’re unfair. But I won’t, because we’re all adults, and people can make their own choices. Within reason. Lately, I haven’t cared about who wins the NBA Finals—it’s just a show, entertainment. The Spurs win because they do lots of fundamental things well. But fantasy is where the fun is. It’s streaky, guys drop like flies from injuries, people do well for a short time, then someone else shines and does well. You start the season full of hope, then you ride the wave.

Al Jourgensen: Please Explain


You spend much of Ministry’s final album, The Last Sucker (13th Planet/Megaforce), warning us about the evils of the Bush administration. You even call Dick Cheney “the son of Satan.” Does this mean that you actually care about us?

I think that after I got out of my heroin haze of the ’90s, Ministry became a socially relevant band singing about social issues. How am I not gonna sing about George W. Bush? What am I gonna do, pick up an acoustic guitar and sing for the next six years about how I kicked heroin? I actually give a shit again about our culture, our society and the state of things. A lot of other people are doing it, too, but I like the way we do it. We do it with a sense of humor; I hope people can pick up on this. I just saw a right-wing Web site where I was public enemy number two, behind Michael Moore. I love that. It tells me I’m doing something right.

Please Explain: Ian Hunter


Dating back to your days in Mott The Hoople and throughout your solo career, you’ve always worn incredibly large sunglasses. How did this fashion trend begin?

It all started when I was a kid, living with my parents in England. My eyes were extremely weak. Even driving down a road, normally, I was like this [hunkers, squinting over imaginary steering wheel]. And my mother used to say, “You should really get some glasses.” But the glasses weren’t very good in those days. When I finally went onstage, I couldn’t handle the lights at all; my eyes were just too weak. So I started wearing sunglasses. I used to get ’em out at the motorway garage. But I’ve got a big head. And I mean physically—I have a big head. Small glasses don’t look right on me, so I like big ones. And then, of course, you can’t find ’em. So I wound up with Gazelles about 15 or 20 years ago. The wrestlers all wear them, and they’re really nice glasses, too. So now my problem is completely solved.

—Tom Lanham

Ambulance LTD: Please Explain

ambulancemaracus315Ambulance LTD has undergone some reconstructive surgery. After last spring’s New English EP, vocalist/guitarist Marcus Congleton left his bandmates and New York for Los Angeles, tapping John Cale to produce the new Ambulance record, due in March. So how did Congleton hook up with Cale, and what happened to the other guys in the band?

Last winter, somebody gave me one of Cale’s first solo records, (1970’s) Vintage Violence. I thought it was the coolest thing I’ve heard in a really long time. So I thought it’d be worth a shot to send him some demos and see if he’d be interested. Months and months later, after I kinda forgot about it, I came out to L.A. and ended up meeting with him. I lucked out, I guess. Then we got together in the studio and made a song from scratch; we pretty much wrote it on the spot. We thought, based on that, we’d be able to do a whole record together. A lot of these songs are ones that I started playing with the band, but those members started their own group (the Red Romance). They said they would be OK with me continuing to use the name because I wrote most of the songs and have been doing the band the longest.