I’ve been listening to the magnificent album The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society a lot recently, sometimes as much as a few times a week. I have come to regard it as sort of a performance piece — like a short play for the ears that I can enjoy wherever I am whether through the magnificent cigarette pack sized iPod or, more properly, spinning thirty three and a third revolutions per minute. It is a brilliant thirty-nine minutes performance although it usually feels longer than that, particularly when you think about the words being sung.

I got the idea to listen to the album initially because I have been reading books in the 33 1/3 book series. The books each go into great detail about a single album — often one that was not particularly popular when it first came out.

Every song on the album ties together with other songs on the album, making it one solid masterpiece of an audio experience. From the opening piece, “The Village Green Preservation Society”, we get an immediate feel for what sort of performance we are to be receiving. Here is the band playing that lead track on television in 1972.

Just a little different than how it appears on the 1968 album but quite excellent, I think. The words themselves are magnificent.

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do

In the second song — “Do You Remember Walter?” — the singer takes us into the depths of a good friendship. We can relate to it, having had friendships like this in our own lives.

Do you remember, Walter, playing cricket in the thunder and the rain?
Do you remember, Walter, smoking cigarettes behind your garden gate?
Yes, Walter was my mate,
But Walter, my old friend, where are you now?

As we listen to song after song, the imagery of the quaint village green comes together. On what concludes Side A of the record, “Sitting By the Riverside,” the singer expresses what a simple pleasure it is to just sit by the riverside and to enjoy the water flow. The difference in how artists write with the sides of a record in mind versus a never ending stream of music files is interesting, as a side note. Knowing you are segmenting blocks of music together and keeping them in a framework is impressive to me.

I would like to recommend the album if you have a chance to get it, iTunes or otherwise. Bring the greatness of these forty minutes into your life and have your own performance to go.

7 Comments

  1. I love the argument that an album can be a performance piece, Gordon.

    I don’t know if we’ll ever recover the musical brilliance of the recording industry in the 1970’s. Some great music was being written and performed back then and the idea of a an album as an entire entity — and not just a collection of unrelated, individual, songs — became the the standard.

    We’ve lost that standard today.

    1. David,

      It does happen now and again, but it is only through the perseverance of individual artists who want to make such beautiful albums. See, for example, “The Aeroplane Over The Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel.

      Coheed and Cambria are a group that are dedicated entirely to this principle — each album is cohesive and makes part of a terrific storyline but these are exceptions to the rule — the sad collection of unrelated individual songs.

      1. I’m talking about mainstream popular acceptance of a concept album — like “Dark Side of the Moon” released in 1973 — that is still selling tons of copies today.

        I can’t think of a mainstream, popular, equivalent in the past 20 years, can you? Maybe Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album in 1982, but isn’t as cohesive as “Dark Side of the Moon” where the whole album is tied together as “one song.”

          1. I agree! There was, however, a time in our musical history when the best, most fascinating, and most everlasting music was mainstream popular and Top of the Charts. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening today. The fleetingness of Rap and Hip-Hop killed it all.

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