1967

The Kinks – ‘Lazy Old Sun'
Tony Ray Jones –  ‘Beachy Head Tripper Boat'
 
Beachy-head-boat-trip-1967-by-tony-ray-jonesAt what point in life does one start to form memories that stick? I have heard people say that they remember things from when they were two years old. These people may be tricking themselves, or they may not. All I can say is that I have no recollection of being two years old. Occasionally I will think it possible but quickly realise that this is simply me animating frozen images in my mother’s photograph albums. I am ambivalent about whether these imagined memories count. 
 
I know for a fact that I did not travel to Beachy Head when I was two (indeed to the best of my knowledge I did not go there until the summer of 2014) yet there is something in this Tony Ray Jones’ photograph that fills me with a delicious melancholic ache. One might argue that all photographs capture fleeting moments, yet this is clearly untrue. Some photographs capture nothing. Some capture everything. These things are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
 
I think Tony Ray Jones’ photographs capture everything they need to. His images of late 1960s England are enormously evocative both as historical documents and artful observations. They are eloquent compositions that anticipate in many ways Martin Parr’s work some thirty years later, so perhaps it is hardly surprising that Parr selected from them for the ‘Only England’ exhibition in recent years.
 
In honesty I could simply state that Ray-Jones’ entire body of work from 1967 is my choice for this series entry, yet there is something in his 'Beach Head Tripper Boat’ shot that brings me back to it, time and again, more so than with any of his other images. At times I wonder if part of this appeal is the rather flatness of the shot. There is depth, but not a significant amount. The chap smoking his cigarette and what one assumes is the captain of the boat are one step behind the central focus, with the be-spectacled lady and the obscured gent one step further back. Beyond that is simply the flatness of sea and sky. And that flatness is something that, over time, I have come to realise I rather look for in art. I have no real interest in illusions of depth on two-dimensional planes. Flatness is appealing, surface seductive.
 
Of course the central figures are beguiling. And, if you will forbid the dreadful pun, they anchor the image. One wonders, of course, what became of them. Lovers for life? A holiday romance? I’m not at all sure it really matters, for the picture manages to make them vitally important and irrelevant in the same breath. For they are every kiss you missed, every embrace that eluded you. They are that girl in the pink dress on the ferry to Tiree when you were 10; they are the boy in the blue shirt on the swings in the park when you were 8.
 
It is not an intention in this series that each artwork and song should compliment each other in some way, but I rather doubt that any will do so as well as the way in which this photograph nestles up to The Kinks’ 'Lazy Old Sun’. Ray-Jones as the Ray Davies of photography? More preposterous parallels will have been drawn, and I’m sure Ray-Jones himself might have recoiled at the very thought of a connection to Pop culture. If one were being unkind one might even imagine him crying out ‘Judas!’ at the previously mentioned Dylan show. But it’s my party so…
 
 
Now it is no secret that The Kinks are one of my favourite recording artists and Ray Davies one of my very favourite song writers. This has been catalogued elsewhere, usually inside words ostensibly about another artist or topic entirely, where a connection to The Kinks just seemed to be so obviously appropriate. Most notably I recall once saying or writing something about there being a shared sense of theme within the songs of Davies and the much-missed Nick Talbot, which led I believe, in part, to Gravenhurst recording that sublime version of ’See My Friends’. Now there are many cover versions of Kinks’ songs that I adore, but that one, for a host of reasons, is one that can make me break down and cry.
 
What has also been catalogued, I am sure, in various nods and winks, is that my own Kinky adventures surely began after reading Kevin Pearce’s sublime short article in his The Same Sky fanzine at the tail end of the 1980s. My perception of The Kinks was realigned on reading those words, in which, in short, an imagined conversation about starting one’s record collection from scratch would most assuredly involve the purchase of the mighty trilogy of records from 1966’s ‘Face To Face’ to 1968’s ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ by way of 1967’s ‘Something Else’. Three utterly essential LPs in the three years. Plus singles. Astonishing. 
 
My suspicion is that for many people those 1960s records of The Kinks are the start and end point of their journey of exploration, and I admit that it took me some years to fully explore the records of the 1970s and 1980s, certainly post-‘Loa versus Powerman’. When I did they were a revelation, although that is certainly an exaggeration because why should it have been even the mildest of surprises? Choosing a song from The Kinks to illustrate pretty much any year in the 1970s or 1980s would therefore have been no particular challenge at all aside from picking the albums apart to choose just one cut.
 
In the end though I do inevitably find myself coming back to that ‘60s trilogy. Is it because of familiarity? Is it because these were my first real Kinky encounters during what were, for me, my most impressionable years? (I did not really do 'impressionable youth' – it was more impressionable early adulthood. But that’s another story for another time with another analyst ). Who knows. Who cares. Certainly not you and I do not blame you for that.
 
Which brings me finally, in this circuitous way (you might even say tortuous, and I would not blame you for that either), to ‘Lazy Old Sun’ from the sublime ’Something Else’ set. From opener ‘David Watts’ to the closing ‘Waterloo Sunset’ it never fails to impress. ‘Lazy Old Sun’ is as sensational as any other track, as onomatopoeic a song as you could wish for. The woozy softly psychedelic glimpse of sunlight glimpsed through vapour trails and barely-there clouds. Squinted and skewered with gin-soaked regrets. Shena Mackay and pink lemonade.
 
‘Lazy Old Sun’ is languid yet simultaneously wired and anxious. Melancholic resignations melt seamlessly into the blissful release of angelic choirs. Halos on black holes. Wings on a prayer and Sartre on your shoulder. Like Tony-Ray Jones’ photograph it holds both promise and regret in the palm of it’s hand; says everything it needs to say and then leaves us. 
 
Like magic.
 
  
 

7 thoughts on “1967

  1. Choosing a Kinks track didn’t surprise me Alistair but what a wonderful selection.I’d not played this – nor the album- for some considerable time so many thanks for directing me back to a half remembered gem.There was an inordinate amount of psychedelic ‘bandwagon jumping’ going on in ’67 but this has that essence which soars above much at the time.
    Coincidentally, if you caught the Guardian today tucked towards the back of the G2, Ray Davis writes about Waterloo Sunset. A nice touch.Finally, what a photo! I’d never seen this and your ‘melancholic ache’ comment hits the spot. Thanks a lot and the guessing for 68 begins (Alistair is walking, talking and possibly taking in the current sounds? I’ve placed a tiny bet that it won’t be anything off the White album….)

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  2. When I first got into music around the age of 10- I started with The Beatles, and quickly after that came the Stones, The Who and the Kinks-the whole British Invasion bag. But as an awkward pre-adolescent I definitely identified most strongly with The Who and the Kinks much more than the Stones or even the Beatles (though they bordered on an obsession with me). Both the Kinks and the Who had a sense of outsiderness and awkwardness both Pete and particularly Ray wrote songs that dealt empathetically with outsiders, weirdos, sensitive losers, etc. and both seemed talented but a little unstable themselves. Both in the mid 60’s had a sense of not quite fitting in of missing or ignoring larger trends, for example the way neither really took the psychedelic dive of their peers, though certainly there were little bits here and there (I Can See For Miles & Armenia and See My Friends & Fancy in particular). So I related to them as sort of compadres because of their humanness and weirdness- whereas I looked up to and idolized the Beatles and was probably envious of the Stones coolness and access to Marianne Faithful, but the Kinks and The Who felt like friends. To use high school for an analogy The Beatles were the popular kids everybody likes, good guys that things come easy for, The Stones were the shifty, untrustworthy juvenile delinquents you didn’t particularly like, but respected and did not fuck with and then the Kinks and the Who were the freaks and geeks contingent, writing songs about masturbation, gender confusion and not being like anyone else etc. etc.

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  3. Man, William, you are pretty much anticipating a couple of future posts. Take out the Beatles (except for the bit about them being the popular kids that everyone likes – which is why I hate(d) them) and I’m pretty much with you on all of that. Except certainly add another 8/9 years for ‘getting into music’ at all, and another 10 on top of that (at least) for getting into most of the ’60s stuff… I was a late bloomer. Ha ha.
    And Rob, yes, isn’t that Ray-Jones photo a magical moment? Co-incidentally today I picked up a book of Tony Ray-Jones’ photos from his time in America. They are colour shots and are, as expected, utterly fabulous.

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  4. Ah so we can finally dismiss your Beatle hate as some kind of Freudian reaction formation! Kidding, but still I’ll continue to pray for your eventual deathbed conversion, like those French surrealist who came back to the Catholic Church in their final hour <: Maybe in Britain when you were growing up there was more the feeling of having the Beatles shoved down your throat, a treasured national institution and all that, but in the 80's in America it wasn't as prevalent a thing, and the whole retro trend was not big like now either, it was much more underground- I remember people thought it was really odd, especially my peers, that I listened to "old" music, though The Beatles were the most known and acceptable of the lot. Looking forward to reading more of these posts and hopefully your reflections on those other two big B's (Beach Boys and Byrds).

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  5. Is there a lapsed Catholic who HASN’T gone back to the church in their final hour? 😉 The Church of The Beatles however is an entirely different beast… 😉

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  6. I’m with William regarding the impossible conversion and my (frequent) offer of a B…..s comp which anyone (except he who right now can be heard digging his musical heels in)would recognise as wonderful. I accept that a dark matter comp of utter dreck (and maybe more than one)is equally viable. But I did see them in a pub where the band I was in played and met them in the bar – and yes, they were fine modest scousers (six weeks later they were at the Birmingham Odeon and couldn’t be heard…and the rest is history). The Who were a different proposition – a gig at Liverpool Uni was possibly the most shambolic, tempestuous, discordant and angry performance I’ve ever witnessed – and as such, despite lateness. arrogance and, I suspect, pilled-up fury, spellbinding. And then came Tommy…Nevertheless, I’ve checked the year and my money is on..
    And I’m enjoying the paper and glue series Alistair – thanks!

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  7. The years between 1966 and the mid-70s have been particularly difficult to pin down to one artist and one song, mainly because I’ve discovered and loved so much from that era. 1973, for example, has already switched musical artist four times… Of course it is entirely possible that the later years will provide similar challenges, but frankly I’ve not really thought in too much detail about those yet (and fully expect my rough notes to change somewhat as the series unfolds).
    Glad you are enjoying the Paper and Glue series too. I’m thoroughly enjoying getting my hands stuck into something physical again.

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