MOJO 280, FEATURING AN in-depth cover interview with The Kinks’ mainman Ray Davies, also features one of our best ever FREE CDs. The Kinks’ 1967 album Something Else has been covered, top to tail, by some of MOJO’s favourite contemporary artists.
Debuting in September 1967, Something Else contains some of The Kinks’ most enduring songs, but David Watts, Waterloo Sunset and Death Of A Clown are only the tip of an iceberg of brilliance. The album saw principal composer Ray Davies assume greater control over the band’s sound in the studio, and move into more complex, observational writing. The emotions contained within the album’s lyrics continue to resonate, as is clear from these reworkings.
Each participating artist was hand-picked by MOJO with a song in mind, and were allowed the freedom to reinterpret the tune as they saw fit. As ever, we invite you to check out the work of the participating artists, and to revisit the genius of the original album. It’s just been reissued on vinyl as part of the The Kinks Mono Collection box set.
MOJO’S SOMETHING ELSE: A TRIBUTE TO THE KINKS TRACKLISTING
1 David Watts
by American Wrestlers
While the song is named after a concert promoter from Rutland who worked with The Kinks in 1966, David Watts sees Ray Davies reaching back to his school days and casting envious looks in the direction of a former head boy. The Jam’s muscular cover of this tune in 1978 emphasised its venomous lyrics. In contrast to this, acclaimed St Louis-based indie-rockers American Wrestlers deliver a version packed with yearning.
2 Death Of A Clown
By Wreckless Eric
The Kinks touring schedule was always arduous, while perceived mismanagement led to Ray’s guitar-playing brother Dave casting himself in the role of a circus entertainer. The pathos of Dave’s original is underlined by the irrepressible Wreckless Eric – himself a national treasure – whose acerbic rendition begins with canned laughter possibly culled from a ’70s quiz show. What follows is a sneering reading of a track that Dave issued as a solo single prior to the album’s release.
3 Two Sisters
By Les Limiñanas Feat Anton Newcombe
It is not hard to decode the story of Sylvilla and Percilla, two sisters with contrasting responsibilities. The first is single and fancy-free, the second is married with responsibilities. Substitute Dave and Ray Davies’s names into the narrative of sibling jealousy and you arrive at the track’s original inspiration. The song’s kitchen-sink angst is evident on this wildly psychedelic interpretation by French duo, Les Limiñanas, who enlist The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe to crank up the tension.
4 No Return
A sophisticated songwriter from the very start of The Kinks’ career, Ray Davies drew on bossa nova for inspiration for this tune. In a bid to return the track to its roots, MOJO asked Brazilian psychedelic outfit Boogarins – named after a popular flower grown in their homeland – to try their hand at this number. The result is a fantastically woozy cover, with a seductive, hypnotic ebb and flow.
5 Harry Rag
By Modern Studies
If No Return embraces the exotic, then the nicotine-stained Harry Rag is Ray Davies drawing on something closer to home, namely vaudeville and music hall influences which he encountered first-hand thanks to his father. Modern Studies amplify the original track’s sense of nostalgia, as they translate it into a remarkable baroque, neo-folk piece that is rich in texture and detail. Like Ray himself, the Glasgow-via-Yorkshire four-piece appear to hear an olde world.
6 Tin Soldier Man
By Declan McKenna
Having just turned 18, Hertfordshire-born songwriter Declan McKenna is an old head on young shoulders. With a clutch of EPs and singles to his name, he is working on his debut album with producer James Ford and interrupted his day job to contribute this rousing version of Tin Soldier Man. It proves that clearly great things beckon for an artist who, less than two years ago, decided to forego his A-levels in favour of a career in music.
7 Situation Vacant
By Chuck Prophet
Along with Waterloo Sunset’s more famous couple – Terry and Julie – the protagonists of this tune, Suzy and Johnny, were vessels for Ray Davies’ shattered romantic idealism. Here, Johnny’s attempt to please his mother-in-law and his “little mama” simply lead to unemployment. Fellow storyteller Chuck Prophet, formerly of US Americana pioneers Green On Red, keeps the original’s bleakness intact on this spirited cover, resplendent with its mid-‘70s-Kinks-style guitar solo.
8 Love Me Till The Sun Shines
By Grumbling Fur
Another tune written by Dave Davies, Love Me Till The Sun Shines again appears to inhabit the vacuum at the heart of pop stardom, disillusionment rippling throughout the lyrics. Surfing between the realms of psychedelia, electronic music and avant-pop, the British duo of Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan give the original’s barely submerged ennui an ‘80s-style makeover. Imagine Godley and Creme doing Davies and Davies.
9 Lazy Old Sun
By Jacco Gardner
Twenty-eight year-old Dutch musical adventurer, Jacco Gardner has released two albums of sun-dappled psychedelia, making him the ideal candidate to tackle this Mellotron-soaked, raga-inspired tune. While there can be no escape from the heaviness of the lyrics – “When I am dead and gone/Your light will shine eternally,” writes Ray – Gardner creates a swirling musical backdrop where Sgt. Pepper vibes abound.
10 Afternoon Tea
By Max Jury
A very British ritual is employed by Ray Davies to revisit a place where nostalgia cloaks a sense of loss, in this case abandonment by a girl named Donna. In many respects, this makes Afternoon Tea the archetypal Ray ‘love’ song, and its all-pervading sense of quotidian failure is given an edge of jaunty sophistication by acclaimed Des Moines singer-songwriter Max Jury.
11 Funny Face
By Mick Harvey
While Kinks mythology has it that Dave enjoyed the freedoms that came with stardom where Ray did not, the younger Davies’ contributions to Something Else tell a different story. Here, too, the guitarist can’t hide his yearning for an old flame, encasing his emotions in a medical allegory. Former Bad Seed and esteemed solo artist Mick Harvey allows the lyricism of this bittersweet tune to ring out fully.
12 End Of The Season
By Nada Surf
Bird song introduces the original version of what is ostensibly another of Ray’s love songs. And yet, the lampooning, semi-crooned vocal soon turns to usher in what is in fact a political commentary. Its musical warmth, however, is maintained on this burnished version by much-loved New York alternative types Nada Surf (themselves celebrating 25 years of active service). Here, frontman Matthew Caws delivers a vocal performance that adds to the wistful quality of the original.
13 Waterloo Sunset
By Ty Segall
Having covered The Kinks’ 1965 classic Till The End Of The Day with his heavy garage-rock combo Fuzz, back in 2014, Ty Segall is entrusted with the band’s best-loved composition. The ever-prolific, 29-year-old Californian brings his Bolan-inspired vocals to bear on Ray Davies’ observational masterpiece and delivers a version of the song that remains faithful but which also boasts a decided impish charm.
14 This Time Tomorrow
By Gaz Coombes
Unlike other acts that were formed in the ‘60s, The Kinks were never disowned by subsequent generations of musicians, influencing both punk, New Wave and then Britpop. This tune is emotionally rooted in the band’s first decade but was release on 1970’s Lola Versus Powerman… album, and is covered here to fine effect by Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes. It confirms the evergreen nature of Ray Davies’s songwriting.