The Kinks: When Rock ‘n’ Roll Met Preservation
Preservation and rock ‘n’ roll are rarely mentioned in the same breath, it seems fair to say – with at least one notable exception.
When the great British rock band The Kinks, one of the most influential groups of the 1960s and beyond, released a concept album in 1968, they didn’t call it “The Village Green Plumbers Guild” or “The Village Green Medical Association.”
No, they called it The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. If that weren’t enough, the creative, prolific songwriter and frontman Ray Davies followed it up with the rock opera “Preservation: Act 1” and “Preservation: Act 2.”
Like many conceptual works, these albums received less fan adulation than critical praise – and sometimes not even that. Over the years, though, “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society” achieved cult status, and today is their best-selling album (says Wikipedia). It also inspired a book in the 33 1/3 music series. The title track is a cheerful-sounding anthem that celebrates the everyday fixtures of bourgeois life at the same time that cultural revolution throughout the West was turning that life upside down. (Perhaps the ultimate subversive move.)
Indeed, what frontman Ray Davies means by “preservation” isn’t quite what today’s preservationists relate to: He expresses more nostalgia for a comfortable suburb than engagement with the intricacies of architecture, history and public life. But the yearning for familiarity, coherence and unity are deeply human desires that inspire everyone with a preservationist impulse. The line “God save little shops” certainly resonates with our current obsession with disappearing small businesses.
And the refrain says it all, as only song lyrics can:
Preserving the old ways from being abused.
Protecting the new ways, for me and for you.
What more can we do?
Thanks to Jimmy Carbone for playing “The Village Green Preservation Society” for staff members of this preservation society at Jimmy’s No. 43 one winter night.