20. Sleepwalker (Sleepwalker, 1977)
Sleepwalker is probably The Kinks’ most transformative single (and album). It came on the heels of the afore-mentioned Schoolboys In Disgrace, at a time when the band’s fortunes were fading fast. It was looking like it might be over for The Kinks, and then they moved to Arista and took on a much more deliberately “rock singles” orientation—like many of the bands coming up at the time (Cheap Trick, for example). But like everything else Ray and Dave Davies did, they did it better than just about anyone. During the recording sessions, they also began working out several songs that would later appear on Misfits—my all-time favorite Kinks album.
Sleepwalker is a great song, even if the rest of the album felt like songs that weren’t quite finished. There were some strong singles like “On the Road” and “Life goes On,” but the rest of it felt like filler. But that’s because the band was finding it’s way into what would become its most famous and lucrative period: The late 1970s and early ‘80s.
Covers: So much for that idea. No covers here, either. Am I the only Kinks fan out there? Here’s the band playing it live. They were a terrific live band. I’m glad I got to see them once.
19. Do It Again (Word of Mouth, 1985)
Many of Ray Davies’ songs are about the monotony of day to day life, and this one is perhaps the best, with the chorus, “Day after day I get up and I say/Come on and do it again, do it again…” It was a minor hit for the band.
Covers: There are a few, but I couldn’t find anyone hosting them online. But this song was new enough to have an official video, and it’s kinda funny. So here it is:
18. Stop Your Sobbing (Kinks 1964)
It’s amazing how many songs on this list are better known as covers—this was the first single for the 1970s/80s punk-and-alternative-rock supergroup, The Pretenders, whose lead singer was babymama for Ray Davies. That’s why the 1960s weren’t my favorite Kinks period—the writing is terrific, but the performances often feel raw, like demos, and subsequent artists released polished and better versions of the same songs.
Covers: Ahhh. There are a few for this one. And one of them is even better than the original, so we’ll start there. Then there’s also…Scajo!
17. Art Lover (Give the People What They Want, 1981)
At once both loving and creepy, a song about a man who has lost his child and stares at little girls in playgrounds. I’ve never been certain about this one—whether he’s a mourning father or a stalking molester. It’s part of the genius of the song.
Oh, and that’s Chrissy Hynde on background vocals.
Covers: Not many, but the Lambchop version is really good, and pretty different from the original to boot.
16. Sunny Afternoon (Face to Face 1966)
One of the bands’ biggest early hits, and a great example of how “sweet” their music can be, without sounding stupid or insipid. Fun fact: It’s about Ray Davies’ recovery from a nervous breakdown!
Covers: Lots and lots and lots. This is the last song for today, so let’s go crazy! Starting with the former lead singer of the Boomtown Rats…