#911: Dedicated Follower Of Fashion by The Kinks
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.
The next hit was “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” drew again from the British dance hall tradition.
“Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” is a satirical commentary on the mods of the mid-60’s in what was being coined “Swinging London.” In the 1960’s in London, fashion trends changed rapidly. Carnaby Street shops in Soho did a brisk business from those trying to avoid seeming out of step with the latest craze. Ray Davies saw all this and satirized the extreme. The subject of the song spares no expense in order to buy clothes reflecting the latest fads and trends. He’s willing to shell out a lot of money risking his financial stability while hoping that being seen in his latest poka-dots or stripes will help him get noticed by people who can advance his station in life. His life is focused on clubs and parties. Sound like anyone you know, or have known?
In the song, the clothes of the dedicated follower of fashion are described as “loud, but never square.” In the 1960’s the word “square” was slang used to speak about someone regarded as dull, rigidly conventional, and out of touch with current trends. In referring to a person as “square,” the word originally meant someone who was honest, traditional and loyal, as in the sense of someone who reaches an agreement that is equitable on all sides that was a “square deal.” But in America, during the rise of jazz music, “square” shifted from a compliment to an insult.
Carnaby Street is three blocks long and dates back to 1687 in what is now the Soho district in the City of Westminster in Greater London. In 1957, the first boutique, His Clothes, was opened by John Stephen. A number of other clothing stores soon followed suit including I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, Gear, Lady Jane, Mates, Ariella and Ravel. Numerous fashion designers had premises on the street. The Small Faces, The Who, and Rolling Stones were among the rock bands that frequented the street while working nearby at venues like the Marquee Club, to shop and hand out with friends. Carnaby Street became an “in” place to be and be seen during the 1960’s Swinging London. Carnaby Street was a feature of a Time magazine’s cover story in April 1966 that commended the street: Perhaps nothing illustrates the new swinging London better than narrow, three-block-long Carnaby Street, which is crammed with a cluster of the ‘gear’ boutiques where the girls and boys buy each other clothing. The Kinks reference the “Carnabetian Army” is satirical, as the Army conquers one clothing shop at a time.
In the song the lyrics detail “they seek him here, they seek him there.” This may be the members of the press who are trying to get photos of the latest young people who look good in front of the camera and help the press create a buzz about Carnaby Street. As well, it could be other people part of the Swinging London scene who want to be seen with people who have been getting a name for themselves as trend-setters. The Kinks think all this fashion obsession is over the top as their subject “flits from shop to shop just like a butterfly.” While it was quite scornful toward them, many of the fashionistas the song mocks would later take its title to heart. The record peaked at #4 in the UK and went to #1 in New Zealand and The Netherlands. While it stalled at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA, “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” peaked at #7 in Vancouver. Perhaps Vancouverites could identify with Carnaby Street, given their own Robson Street. In the 1960’s Robsonstrasse, as it was known due to its German-Canadian shopping district origins, was more modest. Robson Street, by 2006, had become the 5th most expensive street in the world for businesses to rent commercial space.
Another song that concerned mod fashions in the mid-60’s was “Mod Socks” by a Cleveland garage band, The Grasshoppers. They had a #11 hit in Vancouver in April, 1965.
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 had an impact on the groups’ 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”. Years later they 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.
October 26, 2017
About the Kinks – The Band, The Kinks.info.
“London The Swinging City,” Time, April 15, 1966.
“Great Britain: You Can Walk Across It On the Grass,” Time, April 15, 1966.
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.
“Silver Dollar Survey,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, June 5, 1966.
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.