Let’s finish this deep dive on the Ray Davies catalog by giving the man some credit where credit is due, specifically in the arena of pop music known as Twee.
In short, Davies does not get enough credit (or blame) for perfecting this particular strain of pop.
These days most pop listeners consider Scotland’s Belle & Sebastian and their mix of reverby guitars, contemplative melodies, and symphonic washes as the high water mark of this gentle brand.
The parochial subject matter and jangly sound of Belle & Sebastian’s early catalog almost immediately linked the band with The Smiths and other indie acts of the C-86 movement. Their orchestral dabblings and child-like vocal delivery can be traced back to The Beach Boys or even the Mo Tucker led tracks of the Velvets, but it is almost criminal not to acknowledge Ray Davies’ influence on Belle & Sebastian’s particular phrasing, and not simply because he had a hit single called “Dandy.”
Davies’ brand of Twee eschewed the jangly guitars and common adolescent yearning in favor of chamber-pop sophistication and articulate introspection with a proper English patois.
“Be Rational” is an unreleased demo from a short lived musical called 80 Days that Davies composed based on Jules Verne’s Around The World in 80 Days. This song is straight My Fair Lady territory. The high society woes of a debonair Hot Air Balloonist, who’s balloon and heart are both off course. The unabashed white collared nature of this song is definitely part of the Twee fabric.
“Sitting In My Hotel” from 1972’s Everybody’s In Show-biz is a unique and gorgeous take on celebrity. While most bands of the time would be singing about the hardship of the road, or the bottle, here we find Davies lamenting about what his working class mates would think about the posh rock n’ roll lifestyle he is embodying.
“If my friends could see me now, driving round just like a film star, in a chauffeur driven jam jar they would laugh.”
The self-deprecating and insecurity riddled lyrics, the slightly effeminate vocal delivery with piano accompaniment. Davies has Stuart Murdoch beat by decades.
Ray Davies – Be Rational
The Kinks – Sitting In My Hotel