#527: Apeman by The Kinks

Peak Month: January 1971
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CKVN chart
Peak Position #5
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #45
YouTube.com: “Apeman
“Apeman” lyrics

The Kinks were an English rock band formed in 1963 in Muswell Hill, North London, by brothers Ray and Dave Davies and Pete Quaife. Known as a British Invasion band in North America, the Kinks were one of the most significant and influential bands of the era. The Kinks first came to prominence in 1964 with their third single, “You Really Got Me” written by Ray Davies. It became an international hit peaking at #1 in the UK, #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #5 in Vancouver on CKLG. Extremely influential on the American garage rock scene, You Really Got Me has been described as “a blueprint song in the hard rock and heavy metal arsenal. In 1965 the Kinks toured internationally headlining with other groups including Manfred Mann, The Honeycombs and The Yardbirds.

The next single release on the pop charts for the Kinks was “All Day And All Of The Night” which peaked at #2 in the UK, #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 in Vancouver on CFUN. This single added a B Flat into the chord progression, but was otherwise similar in its musical structure to “You Really Got Me”. Both singles were uptempo power-chord, rock hits. Their next single, the more introspective “Tired Of Waiting For You”, also charted into the Top Ten at #1 in the UK, #6 in the USA and #3 in Vancouver on CKLG. In 1965 the Kinks toured internationally headlining with other groups including Manfred Mann, The Honeycombs and The Yardbirds.

Their regular appearance in the Top Ten in Vancouver continued when the Kinks turned from releasing power rock tunes to tunes tinged with British music hall influences. While Pye Records in the UK refused to release the song in the Kinks native country due to its sociological subject matter, “A Well Respected Man” charted to #13 in the USA and #7 on Vancouver’s CKLG in January 1966, and #6 in the Netherlands. This was the first of five single releases with a British dance hall or vaudeville flavor over the next year. Their next hit, “Till The End Of The Day”, relied on their power-chord rock ‘n roll, and peaked at #12 on the C-FUNTASTIC-FIFTY, #8 in the UK and #50 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Their next hit was “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” drew again from the British dance hall tradition. The Kinks next hit, “Sunny Afternoon” had a vaudevillian-themed arrangement took the band to #5 on CKLG, #1 in the UK and #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Between November 1964 and September 1966 the Kinks had charted six songs into the Top Ten in Vancouver. “Dead End Street” would be the Kinks seventh Top Ten hit in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, in 1965 the Kinks went on tour in the USA and during the tour they had a dispute with the American Federation of Musicians. The dispute remained unresolved until 1969 when a ban was finally lifted on allowing them to perform in America. This ban on concert performance in the USA at a time of the height of their chart success elsewhere, contributed to the Kinks more modest chart performances in the USA.

The Kinks missed charting songs in North America for most of 1967, 1968 and 1969. Back in the UK the Kinks had three Top Ten hits in 1967: “Waterloo Sunset” (#3), “Death Of A Clown” (#3) and “Autumn Almanac” (#3). But they did score a #1 hit with “Lola” in 1970 in Vancouver and the UK, followed by a Top Ten hit called “Apeman”.

Apeman by The Kinks

“Apeman” is a song bemoaning the social issues of the day: pollution, “over-population… inflation… starvation…. I don’t want to die in a nuclear war. I want to sail away to a distant shore and make like an ape man.” The song got the attention of people who were part of the peace movement and a perennial concern about the Cold War strategy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). The lyrics create an idyllic paradise where an ape man can swing on coconut trees, eat bananas all day and be kept warm and sane living with his “Jane.” The song was critical of the pretense of modern living and the world created by society and its political leaders. For all the advances and achievements, the song argued it was better to leave civilization behind and be like Tarzan and live in the jungle.

Timeline.com comments on the anxiety children lived with during the Cold War, “Fear of total human annihilation is a tough feeling to live with every day. For children growing up in the Cold War, mutually assured nuclear destruction literally haunted their dreams. Many of them wrote letters to the president, begging Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and their successors not to push the button…. At the end of the 1950s, 60 percent of American children reported having nightmares about nuclear war. In the 1960s, 44 percent of children in one survey predicted a serious nuclear incident.”

“Apeman” climbed to #2 in Salt Lake City, #4 in Sioux Falls (SD), #5 in Vancouver (BC) and #8 in Chicago. The song peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Years later the Kinks had a Top 20 hit in 1983 called “Come Dancing”. They also had four albums in the late 70’s into the early 80’s that consecutively climbed into the Top 20 of the Billboard 200 Album chart.

A musical based on the early life of the Kinks frontman, Ray Davies, called Sunny Afternoon, continues to play at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End. The songs in the musical showcase songs by the Kinks during the peak of their career as part of the British Beat rock scene. In 2015 Sunny Afternoon won four awards at the UK’s 2015 Olivier Awards. These included an Olivier Award for Ray Davies for the Autograph Sound Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music. Davies wrote almost all of the songs for the Kinks and in addition to being rhythm guitarist he was the lead vocalist. Ray Davies had a huge influence on Pete Townsend of the Who, Morrissey and others.

In addition to Ray and Dave Davies, the original line-up included Mick Avory on drums. Avory placed an advert in Melody Maker that was spotted by The Kinks management and after just one try out at the Camden Head pub in Islington Avory was hired. Within days of joining the Kinks Avory was on stage with them in an appearance on the British TV show Ready Steady Go! Peter Quaife played bass and was in the forerunner to the Kinks, a group he and the Davies brothers, called the Ravens in 1962. Quaife died in 2010 of kidney failure.

August 28, 2019
Ray McGinnis

References:
About the Kinks – The Band, The Kinks.info.
Jovanovic, Rob. God Save the Kinks: A Biography. Aurum Press, London, UK, 2013.
Sunny Afternoon: The Hit Musical About The Kinks, Sunny Afternoon the Musical.com.
Stephanie Buck, “Fear of Nuclear Annihilation Scarred Children Growing Up in the Cold War, Studies Later Showed: “What do you want to be if you grow up?” Timeline.com, April 29, 2017.

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