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Thursday, March 03, 2011

SONGS I LIKE: Rock and Roll Fantasy (The Kinks)

Want to start anew, throw in your hand
Break up the band, start a new life, be a new man

The Kinks are an odd band. They've been around since the early 60s and had some big hits back then, but were a bit more cerebral and inventive than most of their contemporaries and never really hit it that huge. Their first big song was "You Really Got Me" in 1965, and they often went years between major hits, but each one was so memorable and significant that they have been standards on classic rock stations for decades. Pete Townsend of the Who was a big fan, who after listening to one of their songs (the first use of a Sitar in popular music) "God, he's done it again. He's invented something new."

In 1978, the Kinks released Misfits, which included the song "Rock and Roll Fantasy" which is one of my favorites from the band (along with "Celluloid Heroes," a more sad song and "Come Dancing," a sweet nostalgic song). This song is a conversation between members of the band, some say between Ray and his brother Dave Davies. One of them wants to leave and give up rock and roll. They've grown older, their lives have changed. They aren't kids rocking out to meet girls and have fun, they are parents and have responsibilities.

Ray agrees, but he thinks the band has more to say (and it did, they're still around although Ray and Dave left the band in 1996), and he reminds his brother of the people who listen to their music and why. Like "Magic Power" by Triumph, Ray explains how rock and roll helps people make it through a tough day, its an escape, a way to have a few moments happiness when things are going wrong. He reminds them of the fans they have, loyal people who have been with them from the beginning, don't they owe these fans something?

The song is a conversation, Ray and the other member going back and forth, and in the end, it isn't clear how it turns out. Like a lot of Kinks songs, it is basically sad and uncertain, which is probably why so many people think the band is so terribly deep and literate (many people mistake miserable depression for brilliance). But it is a great song that's easy to listen to and in the end it accomplishes what Dan, the neighbor down the street Ray mentions in the song, looks for on a hard day.

Hello you, hello me, hello people we used to be
Isn't it strange, we never changed
We've been through it all yet we're still the same
And I know it's a miracle, we still go, and for all we know
We might still have a way to go

Hello me, hello you, you say you want out
Want to start anew, throw in your hand
Break up the band, start a new life, be a new man
But for all we know, we might still have a way to go
Before you go, there's something you ought to know

There's a guy in my block, he lives for rock
He plays records day and night
And when he feels down, he puts some rock 'n' roll on
And it makes him feel alright
And when he feels the world is closing in
He turns his stereo way up high

He just spends his life, living in a rock 'n' roll fantasy
He just spends his life, living on the edge of reality
He just spends his life, in a rock 'n' roll fantasy
He just spends his life, living in a rock 'n' roll fantasy
He just spends his life, living on the edge of reality
He just spends his life, in a rock 'n' roll fantasy
He just spends his life, living in a rock 'n' roll fantasy

Look at me, look at you
You say you've got nothing left to prove
The King is dead, rock is done
You might be through but I've just begun
I don't know, I feel free and I won't let go
Before you go, there's something you ought to know

Dan is a fan and he lives for our music
It's the only thing that gets him by
He's watched us grow and he's seen all our shows
He's seen us low and he's seen us high
Oh, but you and me keep thinking
That the world's just passing us by

Don't want to spend my life, living in a rock 'n' roll fantasy
Don't want to spend my life living on the edge of reality
Don't want to waste my life, hiding away anymore
Don't want to spend my life, living in a rock 'n' roll fantasy...

This is part of the Songs I Like series.

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