The Kinks - Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) - Review
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critics' view

Best of British what, what?

An undoubted high point in the Kinks story – yet, as with many episodes, the back-ground events were enough to drive them mad. The set was recorded in the summertime of ’69 and issued in October of that year. It was conceptual; conceived as the soundtrack to a Granada Television play that fell apart due to withdrawn financial backing. Novelist Julian Mitchell and Ray Davies had worked closely together on the storyline; losing the performance platform was a real kick in the teeth after a lot of hard work. Still, at least an album lasts for generations yet unborn; their labours were far from wasted. As Wikipedia tells, the liner notes reveal some of the plot:

“Arthur Morgan … lives in a London suburb in a house called Shangri-La, with a garden and a car and a wife called Rose and a son called Derek who's married to Liz, and they have these two very nice kids, Terry and Marilyn. Derek and Liz and Terry and Marilyn are emigrating to Australia. Arthur did have another son, called Eddie. He was named for Arthur's brother, who was killed in the battle of the Somme. Arthur's Eddie was killed, too—in Korea.”

With an underlying theme of nostalgia, the songs describe the England that Arthur once knew (“Victoria”, “Young and Innocent Days”), the promise of life in Australia for one of his sons (“Australia”), the emptiness of his superficially comfortable life in his home (“Shangri-La”), the resolve of the British people during the Second World War (“Mr. Churchill Says”), the privations that marked the austerity period after the war (“She's Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina”), and the death of his brother in World War I (“Yes Sir, No Sir”, “Some Mother's Son”). Who knew tales of suburban disenchantment could be responsible for such greatness? I say, well played.

Cup of tea Mrs? Best china, mind.

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