The Kinks: They Really Got Me

They are looking very ponderous and thoughtful here.

They are looking very ponderous and thoughtful here.

It seems that every few months, I become obsessed with a new band or artist that’s already famous to most humans and their household pets. Last summer, it was Elton John. February break, it was Gavin DeGraw. Spring break, it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But as I’ve delved into the wonderful world of British Invasion-era bands, I’ve recently fallen deeply in love with the Kinks. I’ve enjoyed their music for a long time, but since I heard a couple of their songs on the radio last week, I’ve listened to them more than ever before. They are not completely unlike the Beatles, but they definitely have their own, distinctly British sound. There are so many things about them that I love, so I’ll list a few of them here.

1. They are (in my opinion) extremely underrated.
Sure, I like bands like Led Zeppelin and Queen a lot. They’re great. But I honestly feel that their overall musical output is just a tad over-celebrated. However, the Kinks, for some reason, are not on as much of a lauded pedestal as many other bands (yes, the Beatles are very lauded and celebrated, though deservedly so). I don’t know why this appeals to me, I guess I just like the idea that they are not as “mainstream” popular. And I always root for the “underdogs” of rock who never seem to get the accolades they deserve. Like George Harrison!

2. Ray Davies. Need I say more?
I’ve basically been listening to the Kinks nonstop for about three days, and I can safely say that I haven’t discovered a Kinks song I don’t like. I finally understand why Ray Davies is considered, as my dad has been telling me for years, a musical genius on par with the Beatles. His lyrical style is honest and accessible, but also clever, witty, and often amusing. I also love his voice, because it’s very different from any of my other favorite singers. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!
His songs are very melodic and easy on the ears, but they also make me stop and think about life. And his utter British-ness is, to me, very appealing. Just watch this video and you’ll see what I mean.

Yes, uninformed interviewers from the 60s and 70s always make me cringe (did this guy really think that people at a Kinks concert in 1977 would be screaming the whole time?), but Ray is so quietly charming and witty that I don’t even mind. He has fantastic hair, which always helps. He also says here that he isn’t as good looking as Mick Jagger, but I respectfully disagree. 🙂
Hmm, soft-spoken, underrated musical geniuses from the sixties with fantastic hair. Have we, at Beatle Me Do, seen this before…? 🙂

3. The Kinks invented a whole lot of things.
I did not know this, but apparently the 1965 Kinks song “See My Friends” is the actual first pop song credited with Indian influence, BEFORE the later, sitar-flavored “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul. Now that I listen to it, I definitely hear it. Take a listen for yourself!

Also, their first big hit, “You Really Got Me,” is commonly recognized as one of the first proto-metal and punk songs because of its power chord structure and overall rawness. I’m not really into metal as a genre, but this is definitely one of the best harder rock songs of the early sixties.

4. They wrote my favorite rock Christmas song.

I listen to this year-round, with no shame whatsoever. It’s a really great song!

Now that I’ve introduced the Kinks on this Beatle blog, I will at some point in the future describe my favorite songs by them. In the meantime, I need to actually go through their discography in detail beyond their greatest hits compilations. I refuse to be an uneducated fan for long!
I’m also praying that the supposedly confirmed reunion album and tour between Ray and Dave will actually happen. How awesome to see these legends together in concert! One can only hope they will put aside their differences long enough to make their fans happy.
In the meantime, have a fantastic week! 🙂

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More Beatlesque Songs

I saw this online a while ago. It's so true.

I saw this online a while ago. It’s so true.

So, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve blogged. With SATs, finals, APs, and whatnot, May will certainly be a crazy month. But I promise to keep blogging as often as possible! Today I’ve decided to do a part 2 to the post I did way back last year about Beatlesque songs, because while I love entertaining people about the Beatles, I also love showing just how much the Beatles have influenced music by posting songs by other artists. So, here we go!

Universally Speaking- Red Hot Chili Peppers

I’ve been listening to this band a lot recently, and one thing I love about them is their versatility. Their songs range from being funky and hip-hoppy to more mellow alt rock to… Well, this one, the opening to which could absolutely be part of a Beatles song. This song is really cheery and upbeat and makes me feel happy about life, which is definitely a sign of a Beatlesque song.

10538 Overture- Electric Light Orchestra

If you’ve seen the movie “American Hustle,” then you know this song. I firmly believe that had the Beatles continued making music through the 1970s, they would have morphed into something similar to ELO. This song contains a lot of clear nods to the Beatles, like the psychedelic vocals and the strings throughout, without ripping them off of any direct melodies. ELO is just brilliant. It’s a crime that they’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Addicted to You- The Smith Bros

I love this song, mostly because of this video. 🙂
But if you can get past the pictures, the song itself is actually pretty Beatle-like, especially the bridge part in the middle. It’s a great song that very accurately summarizes my love for all things Beatles.

God On My Side- World Party

I think this sounds more like an Oasis song than a Beatles song in actuality, but it has a lot of wonderful Beatley qualities and is just an all-around beautiful song that I had to post it here! This whole album, “Goodbye Jumbo,” is fantastic and has a very diverse collection of songs, but all of them are subtly Beatlesque in their own special ways. Definitely check out the rest of the album if you like this song.

Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)- Robyn Hitchcock

If you’ve never heard of Robyn Hitchcock, he’s a British musician whose entire catalog is practically an homage to the Beatles. All of his songs are lovely and relaxing, like this one. Also, this song has the world “Beatle” in the title, so there’s that. 🙂

Hopefully these songs will tide you over until I post again, which I promise will be soon. Until then, enjoy spring, enjoy the nice weather, and enjoy the Beatles!

While My Sitar Gently Weeps…

Ravi Shankar giving George sitar lessons

Ravi Shankar giving George sitar lessons

No, I don’t own a sitar. I don’t own a guitar either. I don’t own a tar of any sort. But today I’ve decided to share some rock sitar songs that I love. Before I became a Beatles fan, I didn’t even know what a sitar was, but now that I’ve listened to lots and lots of Beatles music and watched Ravi Shankar playing sitar in the Concert For Bangladesh movie, I now appreciate it as an instrument that requires complete technical mastery in order to be played well. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s a pretty cool instrument!
The whole “sitar in rock music” thing started with, guess who, George Harrison playing it on Norwegian Wood, and from there the Beatles released a number of other songs based around the sitar. Of course I’ll share some of those, but there are a few songs by other artists I know and love that feature a sitar in some way on them, so I’ll share those as well. I hope you enjoy!

Norwegian Wood- The Beatles

This is where it all started! George wasn’t a very experienced sitar player when he played it on this song, but the point of the sitar is made. Also, this song is just beautiful. John is sometimes labeled as the harsh, cynical Beatle, but he really had a knack for writing beautiful, emotional songs like this.

Love You To- The Beatles

A fantastic song on Revolver, written by George. The intro to this is stunning, and I wonder how on earth George even came up with it. I guess it’s called “being a songwriter in the most creative band in the world.” 🙂

Within You Without You- The Beatles

This song is absolutely amazing!!! The sitar is front and center here, and this is the kind of song that is best listened to in bed at night. No distractions, so you can get the full effect of how brilliant it is. In fact, I think it’s arguably the best song on the Sgt. Pepper album. Yes, I know A Day In The Life is on there as well, but this is just my opinion.

The Inner Light- The Beatles

This is not one of the more well-known Beatles songs, but I think it’s a beautiful song in its own right. Or as John would say, In His Own Write. 🙂
(the title of John’s 1st book, published in 1964, was In His Own Write. Random Beatle factoid of the day!)

I think you get the gist of Beatles sitar songs. On to other artists!

Holiday Inn- Elton John

Honestly, Elton John is about the last artist I’d expect to feature a sitar on one of his songs, so imagine my delight when I first heard this song! I absolutely love this song, and when it gets stuck in my head, it stays there for days. This song also features fantastic mandolin playing by Elton’s guitarist at the time, Davey Johnstone. All in all, a delightful song from one of my favorite Elton albums, Madman Across The Water.

Paint It Black- The Rolling Stones

This was released during the Stones’ psychedelic period, and while it’s clearly inspired by the work of the Beatles not too long before, it’s definitely a great song.

The Devil’s Been Busy- The Traveling Wilburys

Guess what? George is back! 🙂
This song, released on the Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 album, has a lovely sitar solo, but some of the melody of that solo isn’t actually original. I don’t know if the Wilburys did this on purpose or not, but the beginning of this sitar solo sounds an awful lot like the melody from Paul McCartney and Wings’ song, “Jet”. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but considering that Paul and George were Beatle bandmates for about 13 years, I think otherwise!
Besides the sitar element, I think this is one of the best Wilburys songs. It’s a great song, through and through.

When We Was Fab- George Harrison

This isn’t really a “sitar song”, but it does have a cool little sitar bit right at the end. I mostly included it because I love the really weird, Monty Python-esque video that accompanies it! George apparently has 6 more arms than I thought he did! Jeff Lynne (who produced the album, Cloud Nine), Elton John (who played electric piano on this album), Phil Collins, and Ringo Starr all appear in it. See if you can spot them all in the video! 🙂
Anyway, it’s just a cool, trippy, very Beatlesque song.

I think that’s enough sitar talk for one day. Have a fab weekend!

Paul McCartney’s “New” Song!

This week, as I was tuned in to the 12:00 Beatle Block on Q 104.3, I heard something that caught me completely off guard. They reported that Paul McCartney had just released a new single, entitled, rather appropriately, “New”, and that his new album was coming out on October 14th in the UK and October 15th in the US! I knew that Paul was making a new album, but I had no idea about this new song! What a wonderful surprise for a Beatles/McCartney fanatic like me!
And so I thought I’d share this song and my thoughts on it here on my blog. Here you go!

My first thought when I first listened to this song was, “IT’S BEATLE PAUL!!!! HE’S BACK!!!” Not that he ever left, of course, but this song is so wonderfully Beatlesque that I practically jumped for joy when I heard it. It’s so bouncy and happy, and I’m almost certain that wrote the lyrics with his wife Nancy in mind. There’s definitely a lot of Penny Lane in there, with some Got To Get You Into My Life and Fixing A Hole for good measure. And yet it doesn’t sound retro, but instead it sounds fresh and modern. I love how Paul continues to reinvent himself with every song and album he releases, and as long as he keeps loving to make music, it will show in his songs.
As much as I love George, nothing makes me quite as instantly happy as hearing Paul’s voice, and it’s awesome that he’s going strong after all these years. He is still a relevant musician, he can still write amazing songs, and he still rocks! I can’t wait for the album in October! I LOVE PAUL!!!!!!

My Top 10 Favorite John Lennon Solo Songs

My all time favorite picture of John Lennon!

My all time favorite picture of John Lennon!

I intend to do a solo countdown for each Beatle, and John Lennon’s solo career is next up on my list. Although I’m not as familiar with his solo work as I am with George’s or Paul’s, he has a lot of great songs from his too-short career. I used to not be a big fan of John in general, for some reason, but once I started listening more closely to his solo songs, I began to appreciate him much more. And now we arrive at this countdown! Here we go!

10. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)

John wrote this for his son, Sean, back in the late 70s. I can really feel the emotion he puts into this, and he seems so protective and loving of his son. I suppose that he wanted to try again at being a father after his first attempt with Julian in the heyday of Beatlemania didn’t work out so well. In any event, he succeeded, both with this song and with Sean.

9. Working Class Hero

Despite John’s use of the F-word in this song, twice, I love the lyrics and the whole song in general. This is John at his most honest, and the guitar part is haunting, but beautiful.

8. Cold Turkey

I think Eric Clapton plays guitar on this song, but even if he doesn’t, I LOVE the guitar on this song!!!! This could have been a Beatles song. I believe the Beatles rehearsed this at some point, but I guess it didn’t make the cut. Oh well, neither did 90% of George’s songs, and he turned out all right!

7. Imagine

It would basically be blasphemy if I didn’t have Imagine on my list, so here it is. Seriously though, it’s not my favorie John song ever, and I haven’t spent hours studying the lyrics like some people, but I do love the song. I think that people take this song a bit too seriously sometimes, and they forget that, as John once said, “It’s just a song, man!” Since John didn’t take it too seriously, neither will I!

6. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night

This was John’s only #1 hit while he was alive, and he wrote it with Elton John. They actually had a deal where John agreed to appear on stage with Elton John if it went to #1. John didn’t think it would get to #1, but it did, and he appeared on stage at Madison Square Garden because of it. Anyway, this is one of John’s most upbeat and bounciest songs, and I love it!

5. Instant Karma

This song rocks!!! I love singing along to the chorus! Also, I think George played guitar on this track. Double the Beatles, double the awesomeness!

4. Watching the Wheels

This song is kind of like Imagine, but I actually like it better. The piano part is so soothing, and as usual with John, the lyrics are great. I first heard it in a ice cream store in Montauk, of all places. I’m not quite sure why I remember that.

3. #9 Dream

Ahhh, it’s Beatlesque John! This song could easily be a psychadelic Beatles song, and also reminds me a lot of one of my favorite George songs, Dream Away, especially in the “ow bowakawa” part (Spell check, anyone?) Also, one of the lyrics is actually, “Dream, dream away.” I wonder if George was inspired by this song? My Beatley senses tell me YES!

2. Jealous Guy

For some reason, this song is so beautiful that I’m always tearing up within the first 10 seconds. Combine that with an emotional Lennon/McCartney video, and I’m a wreck. It’s just so perfect. Lennon/McCartney videos always make me emotional. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this song in a public setting, but I guarantee that if I did, I’d have a hard time holding back the tears.

1. Nobody Told Me

This is my favorite John solo song and my favorite John tribute video, combined! This is rocking John at his best! He knew how to have a good time! This is the song to listen to when you’ve been working hard and nobody told you there’d be days like these. Strange days, indeed!

So there you have it. Lennon in a nutshell, sort of. But here are some more solo John songs to check out if you’re curious!
Power to the People
(Just Like) Starting Over
Oh, Yoko!
Woman
Happy Christmas, War is Over!
How Do You Sleep?
Mind Games

For all you Lennon Lovers, here’s another, stunningly beautiful picture of John to end the post. I’ve always firmly believed that George was the best looking Beatle, but John sure gives him a run for his money here!

John Lennon, lookin' fine!

John Lennon, lookin’ fine!