Friday, January 14, 2011

Misplaced Songs - 1/14/11

This is what I hope to be a weekly feature called "Misplaced Songs".  They are songs I think should have been bigger than they were but for some reason didn't catch on.  The artists in these songs will likely be artists that at the time of release were either very new and had (or have) yet to establish a following or older artists that had lost their popularity and therefore a place where their songs would be played on the radio.  Cheap Trick is a good example of the latter.  They keep making some pretty good music but I rarely hear a newer song of theirs on the radio.  It's also possible that the song might be "forgotten" meaning it received a lot of airplay at one time but is rarely heard today.  I'll feature more songs that should've been bigger instead of forgotten songs.

To kick it off I'm starting with my favorite band of all time, The Kinks.  Part of the British Invasion and led by the brothers Ray and Dave Davies, their success in the US ebbed and flowed.  It kicked off in 1964 with "You Really Got Me" and with a string of hits for a few years, through "Sunny Afternoon", until a ban on performing in the US* dropped their popularity.  They made a comeback to the charts with "Lola" in 1970, had a few more hits, then dropped off in popularity again.  They made another comeback in the states starting in 1977 with "Sleepwalker" eventually culminating with a top 10 song in 1983 with "Come Dancing".  They slowly faded out of view and haven't worked together as a full band since 1996.  Many books and stories have been written about their career and I won't get into detail here but the Wikipedia article on the Kinks is a good place to start if you want to know more about them and Dave Emlen's Kinda Kinks website is a great authority if you want to know, well, pretty much anything about the band.

*There are conflicting reports on why this was but my favorite is Dave told a union representative to fuck off.

Ray and Dave are currently keeping active with solo work.  Ray released new recordings in 2006 and 2007 and recently has been reworking some of the classic Kinks catalog.  I expect the "See My Friends" record which is supposed to be released in March of 2011 in the US to do fairly well. 

While I could probably put a misplaced Kinks song in this feature every week for a year I'll try to resist that.  Instead I'll start with one of their most recent misplaced songs.  Phobia was an album they made for Columbia Records in 1993.  It was their only record for them and their last album of completely new material.  It's 16 songs and if 4 below average songs had been removed it could have been outstanding.  Instead it's good but uneven.  I rarely listen to it from beginning to end.  However there is one track I can't get enough of.  It's called "Scattered".  It talks about how one leaves bits of one's life scattered everywhere.  The singer laments someone who's moved on with her life leaving the singer with her empty room and memories. Ray Davies said it took him a ten years to write the song.  "I originally wrote the song because I ended a relationship and my trousers were in New York and my shoes were in London."  Eventually he finished after a close friend passed away which helped bring in the spiritual references.  But as usual with me it's the melody that gets to me.  It's an acoustic guitar driven song with nice harmonies and a country tinge. 

So why have most of you never heard this song? The Kinks changed record companies frequently, sometimes by their choice and sometimes the record company's.  In this case they had just left MCA  records by mutual agreement and started with Columbia.  Columbia planned to release "Scattered" as a single in Feb of 1993, the first single off of Phobia, but MCA filed an injunction claiming they had rights to the song as at least a version of it was submitted to them.  "Hatred (A Duet)" was released instead.  Columbia eventually abandoned releasing the song as a single in the US.

A lot of the information in those last two paragraphs came from the book, "The Kinks All Day And All Of The Night" by Doug Hinman.

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