Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Preserve the Village Green

Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do?

There are very few lyrics in rock 'n' roll that are better and more chilling than Ray Davies' in "The Village Green Preservation Society." They mean as much as now as they did 1968—although I can't really imagine how much of a shock it must have been when the Kinks' Village Green came out, due to how different it sounds from their previous material like "You Really Got Me" (although there was a sign of their changing style with songs like "Waterloo Sunset,” another of the finest rock songs ever). I suppose said shock must have been similar to the one given by Bob Dylan with the release of John Wesley Harding, almost exactly a year before.

Instead of indulging on overblown rock, the Kinks (and Dylan, for that matter) took themselves back to a place where they were asking God to "save little shops, china cups and virginity." Not very rock 'n' roll, but the Kinks were in the for long haul, meaning that their albums sound better and less dated now than most from that time period.

While all of Village Green is fantastic, the truly standout songs are the title track, "Picture Book," and "Village Green." The last of those songs shouldn't be confused with "Preservation Society," although they do have similar themes.

In "Village Green," Davies sings:

And now all the houses are rare antiquities
American tourists flock to see the Village Green
They snap their photographs and say, "Gawd darn it,
Isn't it a pretty scene?"

Again, it's a song about the preservation of the old, a rare theme in rock. But it goes to show that Ray Davies (and the rest of the Kinks) could write a song for the ages about the ages.

That's something to preserve.

Five Best…Songs from The Village Green Preservation Society

#5. “Johnny Thunder”

Though everybody tried their best,
Old Johnny vowed that he would never, ever end up like the rest.
Johnny Thunder rides the highway, moves like lightning.
But sweet Helena just says, "God bless Johnny."

#4. “People Take Pictures of Each Other”

You can't picture love that you took from me,
When we were young and the world was free.
Pictures of things as they used to be,
Don't show me no more, please.

#3. “Picture Book”

A picture of you in your birthday suit,
You sat in the sun on a hot afternoon.
Picture book, your mama and your papa, and fat old Uncle Charlie
Out boozing with their friends.
Picture book, a holiday in August,
Outside a bed and breakfast in sunny Southend.
Picture book, when you were just a baby, those days when you were happy,
A long time ago

#2. “Village Green”

I miss the Village Green,
And all the simple people.
I miss the Village Green,
The church, the clock, the steeple.
I miss the morning dew, fresh air and Sunday school.

#1. “The Village Green Preservation Society”

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties