Soap Operas, Art Lovers & Other Stories
(TV-Performances + Videos 1974 – 1996)
Soap Operas, Art Lovers & Other Stories presents two hours of rare Kinks video over a twenty-two year period from 1974 to 1996. This covers the band (i.e. Ray Davies’) fascination with music drama and Broadway, into their late seventies to mid-eighties peak, and into the decline in popularity and eventual ending in the nineties.
The collection comes from various sources, all taped off of the telecasts, with varying visual and sound quality. Some videos are better than others, but all are at least very good and perfectly watchable.
DVDs are extremely valuable for The Kinks because they were one of the most visually striking and theatrical bands. Perhaps only David Bowie conveyed more information through gestures and drama than Ray Davies. His attempt at fusing rock and drama in the early seventies was seen by some to be ahead of his time. And when MTV began in mid 1981, transforming the way rock was marketed and disseminated, The Kinks were one of the pioneers in producing interesting narrative based videos.
The first video, and perhaps most important is “Starmaker.” According to the liner notes, it is “a 40 minute play written by Ray Davies. The story presents Ray’s character dueling with alter egos: he’s a glamorous rock star who decided intentionally to place himself in the role of Norman, a common accountant whose dull routines of everyday married life become fodder for the star’s songwriting inspiration. In the ensuing confusion the roles blur in and out of reality. His (Norman’s) wife is played by June Richie. The musical backing is provided by The Kinks. Songs include “Starmaker / Ordinary People / Rush Hour Blues / Nine To Five / When Work Is Over / Have Another Drink / You Make it All Worthwhile / Ducks On The Wall / Face In The Crowd / You Can’t Stop The Music.” The play was especially commissioned for the UK-TV-programme LATE NIGHT DRAMA, taped on 25 July 1974 and broadcast on 4 September 1974. All of the songs later surfaced on the 1975 Kinks LP A Soap Opera.
It contains major themes Ray was playing with throughout his career: the distinction between art and life, that rock has the power to transform and help the individual transcend the mundanity of everyday life and that every vocation is subject to “stardom.”
As such, it seems to be a way for him to cope with his fame as leader of The Kinks. Coming from working class backgrounds without formal musical education or training, it comes off as a cosmic irony that someone like him would be well known instead of, say, people studying music at conservatory and such.
The actual 40 minute production is interesting. Ray isn’t the best actor and June Richie as the wife carries the dramatic weight in the play. It is a fascinating document of pop music’s attempt to assimilate into mainstream narrative and is a direct predecessor to contemporary works such as R. Kelly’s “Trapped In The Closet.”
This would form much of the album Soap Opera and would be performed as a live act on their tour in 1975. The New York show was actually filmed and was shown in theaters for a brief time. But it’s very nice to have the entire teleplay on DVD in such clear quality.
UK-TV “On Site” – July 4th, 1978: Life On The Road / Live Life / Waterloo Sunset / Lola
The next video clip is their appearance on “On Site” on the BBC. It was recorded on July 4th and telecast on July 6th, right before a US tour in support of Misfits. In very clear quality, they band lip sync to “Life On The Road” from Sleepwalker and their latest single “Live Life” from the latest album. The second two songs, “Waterloo Sunset” and “Lola” are live performances with only Ray and pianist John Gosling performing mellow acoustic arrangements of the songs.
1981 video Predictable
“Predictable” is the third single from Give The People What They Want. Ray’s original plan was to produce a short musical using the songs from the new album focusing upon himself as a DJ. He failed to obtain financing for the project. This video is the only thing to come out of the project.
Directed by Julien Temple, it came out in October 1981, a few months after the beginning of MTV and was their first video to truly exploit the new medium. The narrative follows Ray from the 1950’s up to present day (early 1980’s), out of touch with the culture and living a predictable life. It functions nicely as a three minute summary of “Starmaker” above.
US-TV “Saturday Night Live” – October 10th, 1981: Destroyer, Art Lover
The Kinks made three appearances on “Saturday Night Live.” The first (which is not included in this collection) was in February 1977 singing a short medley of their hits and “Starmaker” from their latest album.
The second was on October 10th, 1981. It was the second episode of the seventh season with host Susan St. James. The Kinks play two songs from Give The People What They Want. The first is the uptempo “Destroyer.” Ray gives an emotive performance complete with new wave style jacket and skinny tie. The second track is the more mellow “Art Lover.”
1983 videos: Come Dancing / State Of Confusion / Don’t Forget To Dance
Next are the three videos produced for the 1983 release State Of Confusion, all directed by Julien Temple. “Come Dancing” and its correlate “Don’t Forget To Dance” are both conceptual narrative videos featuring Ray’s “spiv” character. The former has a more intricate plot, following the character as he dates his sister meanwhile threatening young (bespectacled Ray). The video ends with guy’s comeuppance at the hand of the adult ray “older and singing in a band.”
“Don’t Forget To Dance” is a ballad filmed in the same London ballroom as “Come Dancing.” The Kinks play the song onstage while many old couples dance to the tune. Ray’s character tries to dance with a few girls but is rebuffed, finding temporary sucess with the hatcheck girl. She runs away from him while there is a strange alternate dance set in a castle with the same two characters.
The title track’s video features the band in the studio and playing on stage in front of an audience inter cut with little vignettes in London.
1984 video: Do It Again
The late 1984 release of Word Of Mouth is (arguably) the peak of The Kinks’ popularity. The first single “Do It Again” is their final song to chart in the US. The video was released in April 1985. Again directed by Temple, it features Ray as a one man band busking in the London Tube while experiencing grotesque visions of people dancing, skeletons, and the spiv character from “Come Dancing” and “Don’t Forget To Dance” making an appearance. It is a striking piece of visual art, never to really be topped again.
US-TV “Saturday Night Live” – November 17th, 1984: Do It Again / Word Of Mouth
Following is their third and final appearance on “Saturday Night Live” on the episode airing on November 17th, 1984 with Ed Asner as host. The first song is the single “Do It Again” featuring Ray wearing a plaid suit. Dave is particularly animated during this number. The title track from the new album Word Of Mouth is the second song played on the show.
1986 video: Quiet Life (excerpt from the movie Absolute Beginners)
Julien Temple, known for directing rock videos (including all of the Kinks’ for the preceeding five years) and documentaries such as The Great Rock And Roll Swindle and The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, directed his first feature film Absolute Beginners. Released in the spring 1986, it gained some publicity for the starring role of David Bowie.
Ray plays the role of the main character’s father. “Quiet Life” is an amusing little song about his desire for peace and quiet living in a large border house run by his wife. This DVD includes the song taken directly from the film.
“The Video Shop”: Ray guests on a video show on MTV (USA) in November 1986 where he introduces some recent hit videos including the newest one by The Kinks “Rock N Roll Cities”
The next piece is recorded off of MTV when Ray was visiting New York in either November or December 1986 to promote the latest album Think Visual. This includes his video introductions and the complete Kinks video “Rock N Roll Cities.” Ray makes some amusing comments such, admitting that he didn’t like Genesis until they got a sense of humor, and offers to buy all the video tapes in the store at the end.
The video for “Rock And Roll Cities” involves a missing Ray Davies’ and The Kinks’ attempts to find a replacement. It features Marina Sirtis who plays (Deanna Troi of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fame playing Dave Davies’ wife in this video.
1987 videos: How Are You / Lost And Found
Two more videos from Think Visual follow. “How Are You?” is a straight narrative showing the effects of fame and sucess upon the dissolution of Ray’s relationship with a very attractive woman. Ray is shown in the studio and at a bar, obviously missing his beloved. The final scene shows her walking past him in a park, ignoring his presence.
“Lost And Found” hows the band with orchestra in studio scoring a silent film narrating the plot of the song. Ray plays the protagonist, finding and protecting his beloved from the hurricane in New York.
UK-TV “The Tube” – April 3rd, 1987: Lost And Found / Think Visual
On April 3rd, 1987 The Kinks made an appearance on the BBC program “The Tube.” They play two songs from the latest album Think Visual. “Lost And Found” sounds much more raw and aggressive than the studio cut. And the title track from the album “Think Visual” is a nice rocking number which closes the television program. The closing credits roll over the screen as they band are performing.
1988 video: The Road
“The Road” is a song included on the May 1988 LP The Road (The Kinks Live). Most of the album was recorded live at the July 1st, 1987 show in Philadelphia, but “The Road” is a studio recording reflecting upon their career on the road. Although Ray has written many songs about the travails of being a pop star, none have been as autobiographic as this one. The video shows the band on stage performing the song intercut with older footage including the 1968 video “Starstruck” to give the viewer some perspective on their career.
1989 videos: Down All The Days (Till 1992) / How Do I Get Close
UK Jive was released in 1989, three years after Think Visual. Some think it is the nadir of their career (NME absolutely hated it) while others admit it’s much better than the preceding album. The band were fascinating with modern (late-80’s) studio production, so there are an abundance of synthesizers in the mix.
“Down All The Days (Till 1992)” is a high concept video, showing Ray’s younger alter ego in his childhood house seeing visions of his past ancestors and predictions of his future. Ray’s “spiv” character, who also appears in “Come Dancing,” “Don’t Forget To Dance” and a cameo in “Do It Again,” makes his final appearance in a Kinks video (and seems to have settled into married life quite nicely). The story ends with the altar ego running out of the house and turning back into Ray again.
“How Do I Get Close” was taped on October 4th, 1989 right when the album was released. On location in Florida, Ray plays several roles in a hotel full of gorgeous models including a butler trying to get close to them. One model has some strange hallucinations until Ray comes to the rescue. It’s a good rocker, devoid of the synthesizers and sounding close to their heavier tunes from the mid-sixties.
1993 video: Just A Dream
“Just A Dream” is one of the videos from the final Kinks LP Phobia, released in 1993. Filmed in black and white, it shows Ray and Dave in Paris, hanging around the Eiffel Tower, and cavorting with a beautiful model.
US-TV “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” – May 25th, 1993: Hatred / Celluloid Heroes
One of their publicity appearances for the new album was on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. Ray and Dave, joined by Leno’s studio band, perform “Hatred (A Duet),” a humorous look at their relationship. They give an energetic performance, and Dave spits out a hostile guitar solo. All the while the keep giving each other funny looks and at the end Ray throws Dave a playful punch (Dave thankfully ducks).
After the song they sit with Jay and comedian Billy Crystal. Leno makes a few observations about seeing them at the Boston Tea Party in 1969 and asking them if they have creative differences. Crystal asks them to sign some underwear. Dave takes it and puts it over Crystal’s head. “You know those English like to dress up” Leno quips.
They return for one more song, an abridged rendition of “Celluloid Heroes.” The two acoustic guitars playing in harmony sounds very rich and pleasing.
1996 video: To The Bone
The final Kinks release before breaking up was To The Bone, a compilation of re-recorded Kinks classics. The only original new song was the title track “To The Bone.” The video features a long haired and bespectacled Ray sitting in a house singing the words seeing flashbacks of his beloved leaving and watching The Kinks on television (reoccurring plot devices for Kinks videos) while Dave stands on a jetty playing guitar. It’s a fitting end to their career and a good way to end the collection.
Soap Operas, Art Lovers & Other Stories is packaged in a one disc digipack. Manufactured with region zero, it is compatible for all DVD players. The scope of this release is breathtaking and essential for Kinks collectors. The only minor complaint is about the material they left out including videos for “Father Christmas” (1977), “Mean Disposition” (1983), “Return To Waterloo” (1984), “Aggravation” (1989) and “Scattered” (1983) along with the 1977 appearance on “Saturday Night Live.” However for what it does have Soap Opera, Art Lovers & Other Stories is a magnificent release worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)