DEAD END STREET by THE KINKS Story by Erin Bienvenu

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DEAD END STREET by THE KINKS Story by Erin Bienvenu

Melbourne, 2016

On the one hand sitting on a couch is not a very auspicious way for a story to start; on the other hand it ties in perfectly with the ‘discovery’ I was about to make.

I’m afraid I cannot quite remember how I first came across The Kinks’ Dead End Street. I confess to not being a typical twenty-something in my music tastes (or any tastes for that matter). I’m still not entirely sure what music my contemporaries listen too. But on this particular day as I trawled through the abyss of YouTube I was indulging, as I often do, in my fantasy of living in 1960s London. And there it was: Dead End Street by The Kinks.

I had long been aware of The Kinks and loved songs such as You Really Got Me and Sunny Afternoon but this song in particular was something of an epiphany.

I felt I had discovered the greatest song of all time, and for a little while it felt like a glorious secret that only I knew about.

It begins with a melancholic march, for this is no paean to a psychedelic summer of love, this is a story that tells the other, darker side of the sixties dream.

Finally here was a rock song that, hidden beneath a jaunty music hall piano and sing-a-long chorus, understood the bleakness of life. A song that accepted that not everybody was having a wonderful time – when life is not going well it is a relief to hear a song such as Dead End Street, even when the rest of the world seems to be living in a summertime dream.

And like all great Kinks songs Ray Davies creates beautiful poetry out of the most ordinary parts of life, and somehow every moment becomes relatable. I may not be a working class Londoner but ‘What are we living for?’ is something I ask on a daily basis.

Here was a song that had all the atmosphere of a novel. I could visualise these two characters in their miserable flat with its cracked ceilings and leaky taps. This is a lament more powerful in its 3-minute time frame than any dramatic film; in three finely tuned minutes Ray perfectly encapsulates the agony of being. And I long to write something equally succinct and atmospheric.

So though I was a young woman living in Australia I found myself relating to this once young English man. Sitting in my house, which on occasion does have a leaky roof, I was fully transported into the narrow streets of 1960s London.

The story of how Dead End Street – song and film clip – came into being is full of stubbornness, misunderstanding, discovery and of course, wonder.

During the recording of the song, and under the cover of darkness, a trombone player was hired from a local pub and asked to rerecord a part originally for  French horns. The horns had been the idea of producer, Shel Talmy, but they weren’t grungy enough for Ray (perhaps tellingly Talmy never noticed the change!). Next came the film clip – The Kinks were one of the first bands to use film as a medium for pop songs and the clip for Dead End Street is full of their wry observations and humour, but the BBC felt the film was in poor taste (basically because it was about a funeral) and refused to show it. Consequently Dead End Street never received the airplay it deserved, but for those that did hear it, it was another example of how quintessentially English The Kinks were and how in tune Ray was to his surroundings.

…So there I was ‘sitting on my sofa’ (as Ray himself would say) and I listened to Dead End Street all afternoon. Non-stop. Over and over again. It was wonderful. And thus began my undying love for Raymond Davies.

I have a degree in history and literature and I love old books, music and films. I’m such a fan of Ray Davies that I made an Instagram account about him. I sometimes blog about classic films.

By |2018-09-25T09:34:14+00:00September 25th, 2018|Latest Stories, Pop, Rock, Singer-songwriters, The Kinks|6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. colinritchie September 25, 2018 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    Love the Kinks, love Ray Davies, fortunate to see The Kinks in concert when they toured here in the early 70s. Ray Davies certainly is the quintessential commentator of everyday English life conveyed in so many classic songs, Waterloo Sunset being one of pop’s all time great songs. Glad you are a fan Erin, enjoyed your story. Regards Col R

  2. Erin Bienvenu September 26, 2018 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Hi Col! Thanks for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed the story. It must have been amazing to see The Kinks live!
    Erin

  3. rené dellemann September 27, 2018 at 3:48 am - Reply

    Great to see how RD and The kinks appeal to young and old! I would love to change places with you in having the (second) chance to discover the world of Kinkdom and be once again filled with this exclusive sensation of listening to somebody who know how to express emotions and to look at the world and life with wonder… but I have grown up with them, so too old for that sensation.
    Still, keep on expressing yourself, Erin, and sure I can tell your are intersted in literature and history. The work of RD must be a wonderful world to wander in and wonder about as it is full of references to writers and historical figures.
    As a teacher of English I used to play and discuss many a song and album by The Kinks, hoping to sow some seeds ….
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on ‘Deadend Street’!

    rené

    • Erin Bienvenu October 2, 2018 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      Hi René, Thanks for reading! I enjoyed your comments, it’s amazing all the things you can find in a Kinks song! I know I would have loved learning about them in school!

      Erin

  4. Bevan Penrose September 27, 2018 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Hello Erin, thanks for the story.
    Yes, it was Well Respected Man for me, way back in the mid-sixties. I’ve been a fan ever since and Dead End Street is still in my ‘grand final’ of Kinks songs.
    I saw the Kinks at Festival Hall, Brisbane, in 1971 and 1981. They are still my best remembered concerts, and I went to so many in the 70s in Brisbane, and a few since. I saw Ray at Byron Bay in 2008 and the Fuji Rock Festival in 2012. Still the greatest, but gee, I missed Dave and Mick.
    It always struck me as curious, that growing up in Ipswich, Qld, the songs seemed so relevant, and written for my own circumstances. I guess that’s part of Ray’s genius.
    God Save the Kinks!

    • Erin Bienvenu October 2, 2018 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Bevan. Thanks for reading, it’s always great to know how many Kinks fans there are out there! It must have been amazing to see Ray so many times, I’m hoping one day I’ll get the chance!

      Erin

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