While discussing ‘Phenomenal cat’ in his balanced and context-embracing take on The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (Continuum), Andy Miller excavates the following quote by Kinks’ bassist Pete Quaife:
‘I just let the whole flower people, L.S.D., love thing flow over my head. I just laughed at it. The trouble is it changed a lot of good blokes, who everybody rated, into creeps. Instead of expanding minds, L.S.D. seemed to close minds into little boxes and made a lot of people very unhappy. You still can’t beat going to the pictures, a couple of pints and a fag. The Kinks all agree that Sunday dinner is the greatest realisation of heaven.’
Which might be thought a somewhat passé thing to declare but for the fact that Pete was saying it in November 1967, directly after the Summer of Love.
Miller’s exploration of Ray Davies’ idealised village green is mind-expanding in the non-chemically induced sense, showing just how out of step with the times the Kinks became in the space of a few short months. Evidently it didn’t help that the Kinks’ record label, Pye, were also at odds with the times. Together with last minute changes of heart by the perfectionist Davies, the mockers were put on the record at the moment of its release, and only the passing of time has corrected the silence that greeted it.
Still I wish that ‘Mr. Songbird’ had made the Preservation Society’s final cut, and not the throwaway floweriness of that minor concession to the times, ‘Phenomenal cat’. But the songs were up against the shifting preferences and inner conflicts of Ray Davies, and so, rather than a perfect LP, we are left with an almost perfect one.