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Oct 05

THE KINKS – “Sunny Afternoon”

Popular37 comments • 4,417 views

#218, 9th July 1966

I have a vivid image of Summer in the 60s, heat-hazed beauty, dollybirds in floral print minidresses, everything rich and green and the whole English countryside suffused with light. Since I wasn’t born until 1973, this can’t be from memory. My best guess is that it’s rooted in The Golden Oldie Picture Show, a tawdry early-80s TV show fronted by Dave Lee Travis whose hook was “what if old hits had had videos?”. Very cheap videos. I can’t remember if “Sunny Afternoon” was given the video treatment but later songs by the Mixtures and Mungo Jerry certainly were and they told me that the recent past was bucolic, full of rich young things, boaters, long legs, lawns, lanes and muttonchops.

“Sunny Afternoon”, with the Kinks playing an English Lovin’ Spoonful, is a seed for that languid vision, even if I didn’t realise it. It’s also a satire of the idly wealthy, but the languor overwhelms the satire for me, now and every time. Mind you, it seems to me that effective satire has to carry within it the temptation to become the thing it hates – or in this case the rueful fear that it already has. Pop itself was creating new wealth – yachts, stately homes, the taxman’s hand were hot topics and not just for mockery, especially given how the London scene mingled pop and fashion and the young aristocracy, all basking in each others’ glory. Distance and deference balance in “Sunny Afternoon”: compromised bliss is still, after all, blissful.

“Sunny Afternoon” is also one of those records where I wish I had any kind of musicological chops, so I could piece together exactly how the Kinks create its four-pints-down sense of boozy irresponsibility, where time meanders by and nothing matters except the sunshine and a refilled glass. Something in the rhythms, the pub backroom piano, the buskerly strum and Ray Davies dreamy, blurred vocal, no doubt.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    John V. Keogh on 24 Jan 2010 #

    One of the first records in our house – I was 9, I bought Hideaway by Dave Dee, Dozy, etc and my younger brother bought Sunny Afternoon. I’ve never been sure which is the better record!

  2. 27
    Darren on 27 Aug 2010 #

    I remember the Golden Oldie Picture show, and yes, Sunny Afternoon was featured as a video on there. Furthermore, the video produced was like 90% of the other videos shown on the programme – an incredibly literal transaltion of the lyrics. Girl drives of in the Rolls as the guy sips beer by the pool in his stately home.

  3. 28
    Tom on 6 Jan 2011 #

    Now THIS is a record I should have given more than 8 to.

  4. 29
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISCS WATCH:

    Ann Mallalieu, First lady President of the Cambridge Union(1968)

  5. 30
    James K. on 12 Jul 2011 #

    “Furthermore, the video produced was like 90% of the other videos shown on the programme – an incredibly literal translation of the lyrics.”

    There is an actual 1960s-era video of this on Youtube in which the Kinks perform the song in the snow, which for me reinforces the deadpan tone of the lyrics. To see “In the Summertime” or a Beach Boys song performed in the snow would be merely strange, but for this song it is actually funny,

  6. 31
    Mark G on 12 Jul 2011 #

    2005 reviews seem totally tired of the Kinks. Were they ubiquitous at the time? probably.

    now, being 2011, and (re)discovering them via my nice 10CD Pye box, it seems less about the mourning for a disappearing englishness, and more about laughing (a little) at those whose only way forward is nostalgia.

    I resisted getting the “Village Green” because of the “god save Donald Duck” line, but actually it was a purposefully throw-away line to distance the singer from the subject.

    “Walter” from the same album seemed more about regret for passing of an old friendship, but even then “If you saw me now, you would’t even know my name” is fake as walter’d certainly realise his mate was lead singer of The Kinks.

    Anyway, arch-toryism was endemic to much of the entertainment provided to yer working classes around this time: How many comedies were about “work-to-rule” and “striking” Unions, returning home to find yr house invaded by squatters, not to mention …….

  7. 32
    Lena on 30 Aug 2011 #

    A songwriter emerges: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2011/08/turning-points-gene-pitney-no-one-needs.html Thanks for reading everyone!

  8. 33
    Billy Smart on 4 Dec 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: The Kinks thrice performed Sunny Afternoon on Top Of The Pops;

    9 June 1966. Also in the studio that week were; Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch, The Yardbirds, Tom Jones and Wayne Fontana. David Jacobs was the host.

    23 June 1966. Also in the studio that week were; Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch, Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames and Petula Clark. Jimmy Savile was the host.

    7 July 1966. Also in the studio that week were; Chris Farlowe, Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Los Bravos, Petula Clark and The Shadows. David Jacobs was the host.

    None of these episodes survive.

  9. 34
    Mark G on 10 Jul 2012 #

    ..and now I have found it.

  10. 35
    lonepilgrim on 9 Nov 2012 #

    the number one hit in the USA at this time was a more primitive offering – as noted here.

  11. 36
    hectorthebat on 28 Apr 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Greil Marcus (USA) – STRANDED: “Treasure Island” Singles (1979)
    Pitchfork (USA) – Top 200 Songs of the 60s (2006) 200
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  12. 37
    lonepilgrim on 6 Sep 2015 #

    this song provides the title for the 2014 stage musical based loosely on the life and times of the band. It has won awards and praise from critics and is still running in the West End. I don’t know anyone who has seen it so can’t comment on its quality.
    As for the song itself it sounds like a trad jazz shuffle minus the horns. I hear a little bit of Noel Coward in the lyrics but, whereas he often seems to want to dazzle you with his wit, Ray Davies obscures his opinion of his protagonist as he loses (or finds) himself in this booze addled perspective.

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