The Whimsical Conservatism of The Kinks

Roland Dodds

Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular inactive at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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25 Responses

  1. Autolukos says:

    Really great piece, Roland.Report

  2. LTL FTC says:

    How is it possible to write about the conservatism of the Kinks without mentioning “Victoria”?Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    The British historian Dominic Sandbrook has argued that the Kinks never really made it big in the United States, besides getting into a big fight with unionized roadies, because they were too self-consciously English compared to the Beatles and the Stones. You really needed to be aware of a lot of English things to really get what the Kinks were singing about while the Beatles and Stones had a more universal appeal.Report

  4. Glyph says:

    Another very “English” songwriter that at times has expressed certain “conservative” sentiments that have landed him in hot water with leftier types, is Morrissey. Particularly around the time of Your Arsenal, which had lines like “We look to Los Angeles / For the language we use / London is dead” and “We are the last truly British people you will ever know”, which some took as having xenophobic and/or racist undertones.

    Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople) had a really great song on the appropriately-titled Rant in 2001, which expressed certain similar sentiments:

  5. Will H. says:

    IIRC, the first three or four Van Halen albums all had a Kinks cover on them.

    Village Green is a favorite of mine.Report

  6. El Muneco says:

    Speaking of dancing…

    They put a parking lot on a piece of land
    When the supermarket used to stand.
    Before that they put up a bowling alley
    On the site that used to be the local palais.
    That’s where the big bands used to come and play.
    My sister went there on a Saturday.

    Now I’m grown up and playing in a band,
    And there’s a car park where the palais used to stand.
    My sister’s married and she lives on an estate.
    Her daughters go out, now it’s her turn to wait.
    She knows they get away with things she never could,
    But if I asked her I wonder if she would,

    Come dancing,
    Come on sister, have yourself a ball.
    Don’t be afraid to come dancing,
    It’s only natural.

    Come dancing,
    Just like the palais on a Saturday.
    And all her friends will come dancing
    Where the big bands used to play.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to El Muneco says:


      One of my favorite songs!!!Report

      • El Muneco in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I haven’t heard it in years (“Give The People What They Want” is the only Kinks album I own), but I had it running through my head a while back and really listened to the lyrics for the first time. The nostalgia just hit me like a brick. Since it was a fairly fresh experience, it’s the first thing that came to mind when I saw this topic, and was as surprised as you that it wasn’t there.Report

        • Will H. in reply to El Muneco says:

          I have Village Green and Word of Mouth.
          That last one has this, which coincides with the thrust of this post:

          Told you I always screw that up.

          All the stories have been told of kings and days of old
          But there’s no England now
          All the wars that were won and lost somehow don’t seem to matter
          Very much anymore
          All the lies we were told, all the lives of the people running ’round
          Their castles have burned
          Now I see change, but inside we’re the same
          As we ever were

          Living on a thin line
          Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?
          Living this way, each day is a dream.
          What am I, what are we supposed to do?

          Now another century nearly gone
          What are we gonna leave for the young?
          What we couldn’t do, what we wouldn’t do
          It’s a crime, but does it matter?
          Does it matter much, does it matter much to you?
          Does it ever really matter?
          Yes, it really, really matters!

          There’s more to it than that, but I need to go screw off some other way for awhile now.Report

    • aaron david in reply to El Muneco says:

      I always smile when I hear that song, thanks @el-muneco!Report

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    How can you mention the conservatism of the Kinks without mentioning Come Dancing and their use of English Music Hall traditions? Also is it possible to be Conservative and sing about sexual relations with transexuals? 😉

    Lee is right about the very self-conscious English nature of the Kinks. I don’t know if they are completely conservative though. A Well-Respected Man pretty well covers the class hypocrisies of conservative Middle-Class England. Yet they were also capable of poking great fun at the over-the-top nature of Swinging London with A Dedicated Follower of Fashion.Report

  8. Saul Degraw says:

    I think in the end though that a lot of American conservatives are very puritanical. So anything conservative gets washed away unless it is as squeaky clean and pure as the Osbornes and as dull.Report

  9. Richards says:

    I don’t know… I think trying to pigeonhole a band’s ideology (Ted Nugent’s a crazy libertarian?) says more about the commenter’s leanings than the artist. If the Davies brothers were so right minded, please explain this critical little piece…

    ‘Cause he gets up in the morning,
    And he goes to work at nine,
    And he comes back home at five-thirty,
    Gets the same train every time.
    ‘Cause his world is built ’round punctuality,
    It never fails.

    And he’s oh, so good,
    And he’s oh, so fine,
    And he’s oh, so healthy,
    In his body and his mind.
    He’s a well respected man about town,
    Doing the best things so conservatively.

    And his mother goes to meetings,
    While his father pulls the maid,
    And she stirs the tea with councilors,
    While discussing foreign trade,
    And she passes looks, as well as bills
    At every suave young man

    ‘Cause he’s oh, so good,
    And he’s oh, so fine,
    And he’s oh, so healthy,
    In his body and his mind.
    He’s a well respected man about town,
    Doing the best things so conservatively.

    And he likes his own backyard,
    And he likes his fags the best,
    ‘Cause he’s better than the rest,
    And his own sweat smells the best,
    And he hopes to grab his father’s loot,
    When Pater passes on.

    ‘Cause he’s oh, so good,
    And he’s oh, so fine,
    And he’s oh, so healthy,
    In his body and his mind.
    He’s a well respected man about town,
    Doing the best things so conservatively.

    And he plays at stocks and shares,
    And he goes to the Regatta,
    And he adores the girl next door,
    ‘Cause he’s dying to get at her,
    But his mother knows the best about
    The matrimonial stakes.

    ‘Cause he’s oh, so good,
    And he’s oh, so fine,
    And he’s oh, so healthy,
    In his body and his mind.
    He’s a well respected man about town,
    Doing the best things so conservatively.Report

    • Ruben Vrielynck in reply to Richards says:

      Exactly!! To writer of this piece…The Kinks were always very tongue-in-cheek. How can you not get that ? My native language isn’t even English and I get their songs. Don’t confuse nostalgia with conservatism. It’s not because you don’t like the progress, that your mindset isn’t progressive…Report

  10. Oscar Gordon says:

    Alternative title of this post:

    Kinky ConservatismReport