Monthly Archives: January 2010

Come Bowling… or Dancing

“Come Dancing”–The Kinks, State of Confusion

For some reason, the people who ran my high school in rural Nebraska
in 1990 thought it was important that we learn to bowl in PE class. I
don’t know why, and I don’t know where they expected us to use our new
skills- the only bowling alley in town had burned down years before,
with no rebuild on the horizon. But the verdict was for bowling, so
bowl we did. The lack of an alley wasn’t a problem (heck, we wouldn’t
have had time to get to the alley and back and still have a PE class
anyway); we just roped off half of the school’s gym and practiced with
special gym-friendly practice balls which were basically really firm,
hollow kickballs with fingerholes. Did they bounce? Oh, you better
believe they bounced.

Like I said, though, only half of the gym was used for bowling
lessons; the other half was open for other PE classes. As it worked
out, my 10th-grade PE class “bowled” while a 9th-grade PE class did
normal PE stuff in the other half of the gym. And that particular
9th-grade PE section included a girl who I was pretty nuts about for a
good chunk of high school. And I was somehow convinced (I guess the
takeaway here is that 15-year-old boys are superstitious morons) that
if I arranged to be in the faux-alley closest to the 9th graders, and
the Object of My Affection happened to see me kicking ass bowling,
she’d be driven mad with desire and would finally be mine. Blah blah
blah. So I took this ridiculous bouncey-ball bowling very seriously.

So where do the Kinks fit in? Around the same time, I was really into a
Kinks mix tape a friend had made me, including “Come Dancing”. I loved
the song, even though I couldn’t make out all of the lyrics; one of
the bits that did come in clear for me was a line about a bowling
alley (looking it up just now, I finally see that Davies was saying
“palais” over and over. OK, that makes sense, and never would’ve
gotten that). The song has nothing to do with bowling, but it’s catchy
and they mention a bowling alley and somehow that combined so that
every time I was bouncy-bowling in gym, I’d get the song stuck in my
head, and started to get convinced that if I could really GET INTO the
song I’d enter some sort of zen flow and bowl the shit out of that gym
and then bowl over the girl (see what I did there?) and all would be
right with the world.

I think I wound up with a Gentleman’s C for the bowling unit, and I
never did get the girl (the effort died once and for all when she
hooked up with an exchange student from Brazil; I knew I couldn’t
compete internationally), but to this day I can’t bowl without “Come
Dancing” kicking into my head as soon as I lift up the ball.

–Keith Pille rocks in Derailleur and draws and writes the weekly comic Nowhere Band, the best comic about being in a nowhere band on this planet.

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Misfits

“Misfits”–The Kinks, Misfits

The Kinks became one of my favorite groups, but only after the release of the album Misfits in1978.  I graduated from high school that year. Of course, growing up on 70’s rock, I knew about the Kinks.  Everybody knew the song “Lola,” and most people can only name that one song of theirs.  That’s about all I knew too, until I moved to Wichita in ’78.

The same day I moved there, a guy I kinda’ sorta’ knew moved there, too.  We got re-acquainted and started hanging around each other. We both had the same habits, that is, drinking as much as possible and smoking more weed than anybody we knew.  He had a Stratocaster knock-off,  and was always playing some Kinks stuff.  He had some of the older stuff, but I remember him mostly playing along with the 1979 album Low Budget.  I could identify with that.  It was a good album, but I wasn’t hooked yet!

I became a real Kinks fan when I picked up a copy of Misfits.  In my humble opinion, this album is one where the Davies brothers really bared their souls.  At the time,  I felt like a misfit, and all my friends were similar. One friend in particular really liked the title cut, and I decided it fit him to a tee.

So this is dedicated to my long-gone friend Mark Fabrycky.  As far as I’m concerned, it could be Mark’s ballad.

Mark was a tall, muscular guy.  He never knew a stranger.  I was a sophomore in high school when we became friends.  His brother and my older brother had been busted for weed together and we were birds of a feather.  He refused to conform to almost everything. He would skip school on a whim, doing whatever came to mind.  The first time I realized how different Mark was, he had gone to a forensics meet out of town.  While someone else was on stage, he jumped up on the side of the stage and broke into an impromptu interpretive dance!  They removed him from the meet, so he spent the day in a field across the street, brewing coffee in an old tin can and rolling cigarettes.

Later that summer, we jumped a boxcar and rode to the next town, got arrested there for it, too.  One night we slept in a cemetery, using dead leaves as a bed.  We slept on the top of the spillway at a state lake while doing LSD and watching the stars.  We would sleep on gravel bars out on the Neosho river.  We canoed streams in Missouri and generally enjoyed being teenagers.

Mark enjoyed climbing water towers just for the hell of it.  He was arrested in Pittsburg, Kansas, after he climbed a tower with a mutual friend, Crazy Vince.  The police came and asked them to come down. He replied that he would as soon as his weed was gone.  They waited.

He was a brilliant guy who had a Masters’ degree in agronomy from K-State, but he never conformed there either.  Mark was always wearing old second-hand clothes, and a WW2 green trench-coat.  He had a running joke with the ladies who ran the student union in which they would touch a long string hanging from his trench-coat (which he conveniently left there), as a parody of Christ healing the lady of faith.  His hair would be shoulder length for awhile and the next time you’d see him, it was shaved, eyebrows and all.  I asked him, “Why the eyebrows?”. His answer? “Shock effect, I want to be different.” IT WORKED.

He quickly made friends with some chemistry students, and they supplied Mark with all the windowpane LSD he wanted.  This was most likely his downfall, but that was years later. No matter what drug, food, or drink was around, Mark needed more.  If you did a hit of acid, Mark would do six! If you grilled chicken, he needed a whole chicken for himself. Weed?  He inhaled it like the breath of life itself.

After graduating from college, he ended up in California.  Lived in a commune with an older lady as his partner.  Grew ‘community gardens’ in any extra space he found.  I remember him picking veggies right out of the field and eating unwashed anything.

Anytime Mark came home to see his Mom, he would always make a point to come see me.  I felt honored.  His mother said he never cared to see anyone else here.  The last time he came home, his mom called me, saying Mark was having some mental problems.  She was warning me that he was coming to my house, and she hoped I could handle him. I did, sort of.  He spent the night, and ate everything in the house, right after he smoked all my stash.  It was obvious he was in some trouble, as his mind was racing and he was speaking in broken sentences.  He had a portable typewriter with him, and cranked out ‘beat’ poetry like crazy.  He drank all the booze, and never slept a wink.

The next day, I knew I had to get him home.  I finally got him loaded up, and he made me take him to the old MKT hospital.  They had a mental ward at the time, and he insisted he was due to check in there.  I was relieved, until they told me they didn’t know Mark and there was no knowledge of his problem.  He walked the hospital halls, scaring the hell out of everybody. I finally got him to his mother’s.

That was the last time I saw Mark alive.  His mom got him into a hospital in Pittsburg.  The hospital took a group to an AA meeting a few days later.  Mark walked out of the meeting and into oblivion.  The police found him dead, underneath the same water tower he had been arrested at.  Vince, his old friend, had come back to town when he heard about Mark being here. He was at my house when we heard the news. Mark was gone.  He had went to mingle with the stars.

Mark, my misfit friend, this is still your song to me.

–Tracy Phillips resides in SE Kansas and is a married father of two as well as a grandfather of two.  A pedigreed ancestor of Ozark Hillbillies and Oklahoma Sooners, he’s mediocre in most every way, and tends to countenance the hackneyed on his blog Kansas Mediocrity.

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Daylight

As part of a series, we’re (or rather, I’m, hopefully with some others adding their opinions along the way)  going to explore the later albums by The Kinks, those that tend to be overlooked by the critics, starting with the album Muswell Hillbillies, with possibly some Lola and solo records/production work by Ray Davies along the way. The series will be called “Kinks Chronicled” for lack of a better term, but it seems fitting given the alliterative need by those who package the band’s early albums and compilations (see Kinda Kinks, The Kinks Kontroversy, and the comp Kinks Kronicles). You can also check out things like the Ray Davies Forum or the awesome and fairly comprehensive kindakinks.net, Dave Emlen’s Unofficial Kinks site if you’d like other unsolicited opinions, interviews, lyrics, etc.  I actually started this about 4 years ago, right before Melissa and I left Kansas, so it’s good to finally get back to it.  I’m guessing this will go on for awhile, so I hope you enjoy it.  –Hiram

“Daylight” –The Kinks, Preservation Act 1

This seems like as good a starting point as any to look at the later Kinks output.  “Daylight” is a paean to morning filled with the working class, everyday people that have inhabited Ray Davies songs from the beginning but couched in a looser, vaudevillian music.  This is something that The Kinks had used on previous albums, of course, but the ’70s bring about the use of a larger band and horns. The truth is that most of the later albums by the band tend to be exactly like the older albums–Davies/Davies and company didn’t exactly get into musique concrete or anything–but there seems to be a reliance on moving the story along more than songcraft (yes, a no brainer, but since this is the first in a series, I thought I’d get that out of the way).

Preservation Act 1, along with part two and Soap Opera, are extensions of the much-heralded and -loved album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.  In this ongoing story, a character named Flash is trying to buy the Village Green and turn it into condos or a shopping mall or whatever it is that land developers do with old buildings and low prices on land.

“Daylight” is one of the better tracks on the album, in my humble opinion, and could easily be a part of earlier, more acclaimed albums including Village Green.

–Hiram

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