good morning everyone! You all deserve a ben davies pic.
For those of you who’ve been following along this week’s tracks of the day, you might have recognised a theme: They are all related to London. Let’s recap:
- Monday: Last Train to London, ELO
- Tuesday: The Hampstead Incident, Donovan
- Wednesday: Guns of Brixton, Jimmy Cliff
- Thursday: The Battle of Epping Forest, Genesis
There are innumerable songs that have found London as a muse. Some have been turned into tired cliches (London Calling) and others might just be the most beautiful words strung together in the English language.
Waterloo Sunset comes to mind there, and it is in fact my favourite song. But that’s for another day. Let’s stick with The Kinks, but let’s move north of the river from Waterloo Station to Tottenham Court Road Station.
I’m talking about Denmark Street, from my favourite Kinks album - Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One (otherwise known as Lola Versus or the Lola album). When I first moved to London six years ago I used this song as a map, believe it or not.
Down the way from the Tottenham Court Road
Just ‘round the corner from Old Soho
There’s a place where the publishers go
If you don’t know which way to go
Just open your ears and follow your nose
‘Cause the street is shakin’ from the tapping of toes
Soon I came across it, Denmark Street, and the myriad music shops that inhabit it. I, a shy and amateurish bass player, was too insecure to pop into one of the guitar shops. I did however walk into a store that sold sheet music.
Every time I stepped out of Tottenham Court Road Station that song would play in my head.
No writer wrote about London or captured it quite the way Ray Davies did. The Beatles had Penny Lane. The Kinks had Waterloo Sunset. Davies also remains one of my favourite writers. I one time looked at flats in Muswell Hill just because he and Dave Davies were from there.
Lola Versus, the final album from The Kinks, takes a satirical look at unions, businessmen, song publishers, money and touring. And the song appears quite early in the album, building to a relationship The Kinks had with these folks on Denmark Street.
The lyrics offer a striking juxtaposition between the lively scenes of musicians on Denmark Street and the cold-numbered cynicism of song publishers that also frequented it. All of this is played in a folksy manner.
I do wonder if it’s self-autobiographical considering The Kinks recorded You Really Got Me somewhere along Denmark Street. For so long I thought the entire first side of the album built up to Lola, with the group’s cheeky Top of the Pops and Moneygoround following.
The first side also represents the band’s naivete. Struggling artists who don’t know much about records and who just want to play music. That all changes after Lola and especially on Side Two, when the focus shifts to struggling with life on the road and the money-making music machine.
This album is what I would call a “transformative album”, in that it moulded what I believe music is capable of and ignited my love of music. This and Rumours were the first two albums to do that.
Lola will be the only song from this album to ever get airtime, but it is raised to such a high calibre because of the other 12 songs on the album, Denmark Street included.
I still think about Denmark Street. Sometimes I dream about it. I dream about walking down Tottenham Court Road, peering into Wunjo’s Guitars and stepping in, and hearing the music of ghosts dancing in the air and the ground beneath me shaking from the tapping of toes.
Fitzie’s track of the day: Denmark Street, by The Kinks
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