K is for the Kinks: Muswell Hillbilles

For WAY too long, I used to go around saying, “Why is life so COM-Plicated?”

Kinks_-_Muswell_HillbilliesThe Kinks, commercially, went from being a rather successful rock band, to not so much, several times in its career arc. One of the latter was the 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies, “named after the Muswell Hill area of North London, where bandleader Ray Davies and guitarist Dave Davies [his younger brother] grew up and the band formed in the early 1960s.” I have alluded to this album so often I figured I must have written about it before, but I had not.

It was their ninth album, but their first for RCA. It was also the first one I ever bought. Even though it came from a particularly English POV, there was something quite universal about the feelings of alienation. It’s also sonically quite diverse.

Also in the band at that time were original drummer Mick Avory, bassist John Dalton (who had replaced Peter Quaife off and on for years), and pianist John Gosling, who joined the band in 1970, a year before the album’s release. Also new, the brass section, “The Mike Cotton Sound, which included Mike Cotton on trumpet, John Beecham on trombone and tuba, and Alan Holmes on clarinet.”

Side one starts with 20th Century Man [LISTEN], “I’m a 20th century man, but I don’t want to be here.” That’s followed by Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues

But it’s five of the next six songs that really sold me. A more eclectic bunch of songs I’ve seldom heard: the out of time Holiday [LISTEN]; the swing of Skin and Bone [LISTEN] (“stay away from carbohydrates”); Alcohol [LISTEN] (a boozy “Oh, demon alcohol”); and Complicated Life [LISTEN]. For WAY too long, I used to go around saying, “Why is life so COM-plicated?”

Side two starts with Here Come the People in Grey, and that’s followed by the very proper-sounding Have a Cuppa Tea [LISTEN]; my sister sells teas currently, and that’s a bonus for my enjoyment. After Holloway Jail comes Oklahoma U.S.A., which I DID write about before. Then Uncle Son and the title song. The 1998 CD re-issue bonus tracks were Mountain Woman and Kentucky Moon, which did not particularly enhance the enjoyment for me.

There was a 2CD extended package that came out in 2013, which I won’t get because what I already have is just perfect.

More about the Kinks and some of the Kinks’ better-known songs around June 21, when Ray Davies turns 70.

ABC Wednesday – Round 14

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

22 thoughts on “K is for the Kinks: Muswell Hillbilles”

  1. Love this album, and really love the band. I saw the Kinks in 1989 in Albany with Tom Skulan, great show!

  2. I wished I had your knowledge of popmusic and all those vocal groups you are writing about, but… alas! More is the pity!

    Have a great week.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  3. The Kinks was a band I really didn’t know anything about. Thanks for expanding my music knowledge!

  4. What a great letter K post, love the Kinks!
    I was lucky enough to see them live with Alice Cooper and the Tubes around 1977 (ugh!) at Angel Stadium…good times!
    Thanks for the wonderful post!

  5. Hi Roger,I loved The Kinks,

    ‘You’ve Really Got Me…..really ‘got me’ and I used shimmy round the floor of ‘The Basement’, a club in a big old house, called Lowlands in West Derby, Liverpool.UK.
    Alcohol wasn’t served yet, we still managed to have a blast.
    Lowlands still exists as a thriving Community Centre.

    I also liked ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion…
    Aye the Sixties certainly brought some very talented Rock Musicians to the

    I think Ray Davies still performs although I haven’t read of him of late…like most of us, he’s getting on a bit !

    I am enjoying your writings of the Music Industry,…. so much knowledge, good of you to share it.
    Best wishes,


  6. Great stuff! I love the Kinks. This era of the Kinks, starting with Village Green and on through Muswell Hillbillies are particular favorites of my wife’s.

  7. You have great insight to all of these groups. I was expecting maybe Kingston Trio for K. Didn’t listen to the Kinks too much but did know about them.

  8. Don’t really know much about the Kinks – well, I didn’t. Thanks for educating me further in the field of music.

    abcw team

  9. I think a name like that would stick in people’s minds but I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard of them. Listening to a couple of your links they do have a sound and style that I’d enjoy…

  10. These old rockers keep on going. Ray Davis seems to, he was on this year’s New Year Hootenanny programme.

  11. Seems like “Kinks” was a great name for them with the kinks in their career and albums! (Sorry for the pun – couldn’t help myself.) Cool post and great links for the Kinks….oh I better stop before I completely loose it!

    Have a great week.

  12. Saw them at the Palace Theater (Albany NY) in 1978. At the time a lot of Kinks fans were anti-disco, which for some reason was an important issue at the time. (You were either for or against disco, it was like abortion or pizza anchovies. No middle ground.) Ray Davies proceeded to whip up the crowd into an anti-disco frenzy. Then the band slid deftly into their then new song Superman, which has a strong disco beat. The audience went along happily.

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