The terrible show that inspired an iconic The Kinks hit

the kinks

Embarrassment is a difficult pill to swallow when you’re the frontman. Unfortunately, delivering a subpar performance is an unavoidable part of the job. However, whether or not you go out in front of an audience after the fact is your choice. Ray Davies of The Kinks dealt with his mistakes by channelling them into songs.

The Kinks’ 1968 concept album, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, featured the band investing in production. However, their faith in the creative process dwindled following the commercial failure of their previous album, Wonderboy. After its release, the album received a lacklustre reception. It peaked at number 12 on the UK album charts and failing to secure a spot on the chart in the US.

Davies loosely structured the album as a series of character studies, taking inspiration from Dylan Thomas’ 1954 radio drama Under Milk Wood. The album focuses on nostalgia, memory, and preservation. This reflects Davies’ concerns about growing modernisation and the increasing influence of America and Europe on English society.

‘All of My Friends Were There’ tells the story of Davies taking the stage at a concert in 1967. This also incorporates personal anxieties based on real-life experiences. The Kinks had agreed to play at the South East R&B Festival at Rectory Field in Blackheath, London. Despite falling ill prior to the performance, Davies was persuaded to go on stage in accordance with the contract.

As he recalls in Andy Miller’s Thirty Three and a Third book about Village Green: “I had lots and lots to drink, and I thought, ‘It doesn’t matter,'” he said. “When the curtains opened, I saw all of my friends in the front row. “It was a terrible night, so I decided to write a song about it.”

Lyrically, the song explores the complexities of regret, reflecting Davies’ mental state following the unfortunate event. Davies’ words seem bittersweet, as if he is both embarrassed and grateful for his friends’ support during such a strange and troubling time.

The Kinks did not become addicted to drugs and alcohol to the same extent like other bands in the 1960s. However, the song explores the difficulties of fame and the unsettling nature of being in the spotlight. Ray Davies’ lyrics express a yearning for a different time, with lines like, “I wish today could be tomorrow / The night is dark / It just brings sorrow anyway”. It served as an important reminder of the gloomy aspects of leading a popular band.

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