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The Kinks - "Father Christmas" / "Prince of the Punks" - Arista - ARISTA 153 - 1977 Lots of rock bands have put out novelty Christmas singles over the years, but I can't think of too many that did it quite so well, and, I guess the word would be, "fittingly." It's not that Ray Davies did a Christmas song so much as that he turned Christmas itself into a Kinks song. I have loved this mildly ironic socially-conscious Santa Claus meets the poor kids parable since I first heard it way back when. And Christmas aside, no single song the Kinks did in their later punk-reactive phase is so well put-together, on-target, and satisfying. It is about as perfect as a song of its kind can be. The guitars sound great, that lead is killer, the arrangement dead effective, it rocks and rolls just hard enough to make it seem easy, and the chorus is as catchy and shoutable as choruses get. There's nothing more to say about it, really, except; A+, Mr. Davies. You did it again. There is, however, more to say about the flipside, "Prince of the Punks." For many years I'd unthinkingly classed this as a typical sardonic lampoon of the punks around town, in the same spirit as "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" or "Well Respected Man" from days gone by. Ray is still, in effect, in his Fortis Green front room, or rolling down the King's Road in his limo perhaps, casting a jaundiced eye once again, skewering the hypocrisy and posturing of the purveyors of the "latest thing" in his updated but characteristic style. The old boy hasn't changed a bit, and a rousingly dry, hummable, vitriolic character study has always been one of the things he does best. A solid B side. Much later I learned that the song's subject wasn't some generic punk character but in fact none other than Tom Robinson, of the celebrated, admired, and at least quasi-punk Tom Robinson Band. (Things were so different in the 70s, children: much of what was called punk rock then probably sounds like Springsteenish roots rock to you now, as it kind of does even to me, though I still like it: that's the "pub rock" roots showing, I expect.) The enmity between Ray Davies and Tom Robinson stems from the fraught debut album of Robinson's pre-punk folk rock band Cafe Society, which Davies produced and released on the Konk label in 1975. This friction seems to have developed into a massive, longstanding feud, and for all I know it's still simmering to this day. In the intervening couple of years, the Sex Pistols happened, Robinson got punked up and politicized, came out as glad to be gay, and launched a successful career in the new, "new wave' context, which, to judge from the "Prince of the Punks" lyrics, seems to have just, well, burned Ray up. Robinson had a response-song as well, "Don't Take No for an Answer", directed at a "well respected man" who wants not a slice but "the whole lot", pretty much a classic "record company screwed me over" anthem (and, if I'm honest, a better song.) This was released on the TRB's 1978 live 7" Rising Free, and these two records, with their bitter dueling B-sides, rested in my record collection side by side, as it were, for decades before I realized there was a connection between them. And I gotta say that, once the Prince of the Punks has a face, and that face is Tom Robinson's, the sheer pettiness and nastiness of Ray's rather grossly uncharitable lampoon is suddenly, well, a bit unappetizing. And, to quote Jez Usborne, not very Christmassy. I love and respect Ray Davies more than perhaps any other person on this earth, but this is... well, not your finest hour, sir. And despite my effectively worshipful esteem for Ray Davies the artist, I've heard stories, and it doesn't diminish my love to grant that in his personal and professional life, the guy could be a bit of a bastard. This isn't all that uncommon among great artists, or lesser ones, I am given to understand, and fair enough: it's all part of the rich tapestry of their island story. But I have no trouble believing that a peeved Ray Davies, the celebrated millionaire pop magnate, would, as reported, tie up and strangulate struggling little Tom Robinson's comparatively microscopic publishing for years and years just out of spite. So have yourself a merry little Christmas, indeed. Have yourself a good time. But remember the kids who have nothing while you're drinking down your wine. That's all I'm saying. notes: -- The Kinks - "Father Christmas" promotional film: https://youtu.be/fPPCPqDINEk -- "Prince of the Punks" lyrics: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/kinks/princeofthepunks.html -- "Prince of the Punks", bonus track on the Sleepwalker CD re-issue. -- Tom Robinson Band, "Don't Take No for an Answer" on Top of the Pops: https://youtu.be/y-EzjWY-gB8 #music #vinylcollecter #minds

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More from frankportman

The Kinks - "Father Christmas" / "Prince of the Punks" - Arista - ARISTA 153 - 1977 Lots of rock bands have put out novelty Christmas singles over the years, but I can't think of too many that did it quite so well, and, I guess the word would be, "fittingly." It's not that Ray Davies did a Christmas song so much as that he turned Christmas itself into a Kinks song. I have loved this mildly ironic socially-conscious Santa Claus meets the poor kids parable since I first heard it way back when. And Christmas aside, no single song the Kinks did in their later punk-reactive phase is so well put-together, on-target, and satisfying. It is about as perfect as a song of its kind can be. The guitars sound great, that lead is killer, the arrangement dead effective, it rocks and rolls just hard enough to make it seem easy, and the chorus is as catchy and shoutable as choruses get. There's nothing more to say about it, really, except; A+, Mr. Davies. You did it again. There is, however, more to say about the flipside, "Prince of the Punks." For many years I'd unthinkingly classed this as a typical sardonic lampoon of the punks around town, in the same spirit as "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" or "Well Respected Man" from days gone by. Ray is still, in effect, in his Fortis Green front room, or rolling down the King's Road in his limo perhaps, casting a jaundiced eye once again, skewering the hypocrisy and posturing of the purveyors of the "latest thing" in his updated but characteristic style. The old boy hasn't changed a bit, and a rousingly dry, hummable, vitriolic character study has always been one of the things he does best. A solid B side. Much later I learned that the song's subject wasn't some generic punk character but in fact none other than Tom Robinson, of the celebrated, admired, and at least quasi-punk Tom Robinson Band. (Things were so different in the 70s, children: much of what was called punk rock then probably sounds like Springsteenish roots rock to you now, as it kind of does even to me, though I still like it: that's the "pub rock" roots showing, I expect.) The enmity between Ray Davies and Tom Robinson stems from the fraught debut album of Robinson's pre-punk folk rock band Cafe Society, which Davies produced and released on the Konk label in 1975. This friction seems to have developed into a massive, longstanding feud, and for all I know it's still simmering to this day. In the intervening couple of years, the Sex Pistols happened, Robinson got punked up and politicized, came out as glad to be gay, and launched a successful career in the new, "new wave' context, which, to judge from the "Prince of the Punks" lyrics, seems to have just, well, burned Ray up. Robinson had a response-song as well, "Don't Take No for an Answer", directed at a "well respected man" who wants not a slice but "the whole lot", pretty much a classic "record company screwed me over" anthem (and, if I'm honest, a better song.) This was released on the TRB's 1978 live 7" Rising Free, and these two records, with their bitter dueling B-sides, rested in my record collection side by side, as it were, for decades before I realized there was a connection between them. And I gotta say that, once the Prince of the Punks has a face, and that face is Tom Robinson's, the sheer pettiness and nastiness of Ray's rather grossly uncharitable lampoon is suddenly, well, a bit unappetizing. And, to quote Jez Usborne, not very Christmassy. I love and respect Ray Davies more than perhaps any other person on this earth, but this is... well, not your finest hour, sir. And despite my effectively worshipful esteem for Ray Davies the artist, I've heard stories, and it doesn't diminish my love to grant that in his personal and professional life, the guy could be a bit of a bastard. This isn't all that uncommon among great artists, or lesser ones, I am given to understand, and fair enough: it's all part of the rich tapestry of their island story. But I have no trouble believing that a peeved Ray Davies, the celebrated millionaire pop magnate, would, as reported, tie up and strangulate struggling little Tom Robinson's comparatively microscopic publishing for years and years just out of spite. So have yourself a merry little Christmas, indeed. Have yourself a good time. But remember the kids who have nothing while you're drinking down your wine. That's all I'm saying. notes: -- The Kinks - "Father Christmas" promotional film: https://youtu.be/fPPCPqDINEk -- "Prince of the Punks" lyrics: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/kinks/princeofthepunks.html -- "Prince of the Punks", bonus track on the Sleepwalker CD re-issue. -- Tom Robinson Band, "Don't Take No for an Answer" on Top of the Pops: https://youtu.be/y-EzjWY-gB8 #music #vinylcollecter #minds

1.06k views ·