#1080: Dead End Street by The Kinks

Peak Month: January 1967
5 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #8
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #73

The Kinks were an English rock band formed in 1963 in Muswell Hill, North London, by brothers Ray and Dave Davies and Pete Quaife. Categorized in the United States as a British Invasion band, the Kinks are recognized as one of the most important and influential rock groups 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.

Their ability to chart into 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.  The next hit was “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” drew again from the British dance hall tradition and peaked at #7 on CKLG, #4 in the UK and #36 in the USA. Similarly, “Sunny Afternoon” with its 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. The Kinks were doing very well in this town compared to most national charts elsewhere. Of course, in their native United Kingdom, the Kinks had fared best and “Dead End Street” would be the bands ninth Top Ten hit on the UK singles chart. It would be their seventh Top Ten hit in the Netherlands. But including this latest release the number of Top Ten hits elsewhere was only three so far in the USA, Germany and New Zealand. In Toronto, on CHUM 1050 AM, the Kinks so far had managed only three Top Ten hits into the spring of 1967. It was only since the band had turned to British dance hall influenced tunes beginning with “A Well Respected Man,” that Toronto record buyers turned out in numbers.

“Dead End Street” concerns the plight of an unemployed couple who have been stuck in a spiral of poverty with the wolf at the door. They admit they are “deep in debt and now it’s much too late.” They want to work hard but, whatever jobs they are applying for, are getting passed over. There are a number of basic problems with their rental accommodation: ceiling cracks, leaking kitchen sink and not sufficient heating. They’ve run out of options and face a bleak future with the rent collector at their door. The song was Ray Davies neo-Dickensian portrait of the misery and poverty that plagued many in the lower classes of English society.

Kinks - Dead End Street 45 (Pye Canada).jpg

There’s a crack up in the ceiling,
And the kitchen sink is leaking.
Out of work and got no money,
A Sunday joint of bread and honey.

What are we living for?
Two-roomed apartment on the second floor.
No money coming in,
The rent collector’s knocking, trying to get in.

We are strictly second class,
We don’t understand,
(Dead end!)
Why we should be on dead end street.
(Dead end!)
People are living on dead end street.
(Dead end!)
Gonna die on dead end street.

Dead end street (yeah)
Dead end street (yeah)

On a cold and frosty morning,
Wipe my eyes and stop me yawning.
And my feet are nearly frozen,
Boil the tea and put some toast on.

What are we living for?
Two-roomed apartment on the second floor.
No chance to emigrate,
I’m deep in debt and now it’s much too late.

We both want to work so hard,
We can’t get the chance,
(Dead end!)
People live on dead end street.
(Dead end!)
People are dying on dead end street.
(Dead end!)
Gonna die on dead end street.

Dead end street (yeah)
Dead end street (yeah)

(Dead end!)
People live on dead end street.
(Dead end!)
People are dying on dead end street.
(Dead end!)
Gonna die on dead end street.

Dead end street (yeah)….

 

A mimed promotional film (precursor to the modern music video) was produced for “Dead End Street” in late 1966. It was filmed on Little Green Street, an eighteenth century lane in North London, located off Highgate Road in Kentish Town. The film was shot in black and white, and featured each member of the band dressed as an undertaker, as well as playing various other characters throughout. With a length of 3:15 in total, the film is one of the first true “music videos.” Dave Davies recalled the BBC disliked the film. This was because the band members were dressed as Victorian pallbearers and one of their roadies in a nightshirt leaped out of the coffin as they put it down on the pavement. The BBC felt this showed poor taste. The song with the promotional film is embedded below. However, depending on where on the planet you are watching this from, you may see a message once you click on the video that reads “this video contains content from WMG. It is restricted from playback on certain sites. Watch on YouTube.” If you get this message from your locale, just click the “watch on YouTube” link and you’ll be directed to the promotional film and audio of the song.

In the mid to late 60s, as a theme in popular songs, the reality of working class struggles appeared on the Vancouver pop charts. In late 1969 Bobbie Gentry charted a song called “Fancy.” It was about a pregnant mother who’s husband had left her. She decides to sell her daughter, Fancy, into prostitution. Wayne Newton’s 1967 hit “Love of the Common People” described a family that doesn’t have enough money to buy bus fare, own dresses with patches and shoes with holes in them. In 1966 Johnny Rivers sang about the challenges of a dating relationship trying to straddle the class divide in “Poor Side of Town.” Also that year the Standells’ “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” asserted to potential girlfriends white collar worker or the digger in the ditch/Hey, and who’s to say who’s the better man/When I’ve always done the best I can/How bad was his dirty mind/All those messed up chicks of the changin’ times/White pills and easy livin’/Can’t replace the love I’ve given… And in 1967 the UK band Rupert’s People charted into the Top Ten in Vancouver with “Reflections of Charles Brown,” about a guy worked to the bone and too exhausted be of much use to his family on his one day off between six-day work shifts.

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 had an impact on the groups’ more modest chart performances in the USA.

The Kinks fell off the radar for stretches at a time in the years following. But they did score a #1 hit with “Lola” in 1970 in Vancouver and the UK, followed by a Top Ten hit called “Apeman.” Years later they had a Top 20 hit in 1983 called “Come Dancing.” They also had four albums in the late 70s into the early 80s 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.

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