It’s important to remember that things moved a whole lot faster in the music biz back in the ’60s. Even with modern artists writing, recording and posting songs online in the course of an afternoon, the schedule musicians were expected to keep 50 years ago — recording, touring, promotional appearances, repeat — was both back-breaking and soul-crushing.
And once the record industry sniffs a good thing, the cycle becomes even more accelerated. Just look at the ’90s grunge movement for proof. How many Nirvana and Pearl Jam copycats were rushed to the public following the success of Nevermind and Ten? It was even worse in the ’60s, especially after the Beatles exposed an entire British music scene ready for its closeup. Dozens of bands flooded the market; few mattered.
The Kinks got caught up in this brutal cycle. They’d released their debut single — a pretty dismal cover of Little Richard‘s “Long Tall Sally” — in early 1964. By mid-year, they scored their first U.K. No. 1 hit with the immortal “You Really Got Me.” A self-titled album was released a couple months later. And then more recording, tours and promotional appearances. Repeat.
The band was barely off the road when they were rushed back into the studio to make a second album, Kinda Kinks, during the first few weeks of 1965. By the first week of March, it was in stores. And the exhausting pace of the sessions — which actually began with Ray Davies quickly penning 10 new tunes for the album — can be heard in the mix, performance and, ultimately, the songs.
Nobody was really happy with way things turned out, not even Davies, who wrote in the liner notes of the album’s 2011 “Deluxe Edition” reissue, “A bit more care should have been taken with it. I think [producer] Shel Talmy went too far in trying to keep in the rough edges. Some of the double tracking on that is appalling. It had better songs on it than the first album, but it wasn’t executed in the right way. It was just far too rushed.”
Even though Davies had written, or co-written, all but two of the LP’s songs (“Naggin’ Woman,” a throwaway misogynist blues number, and a barely awake cover of the Motown standard “Dancing in the Street”), most are forgettable. The opening “Look for Me Baby,” the half-ignited rave-up “You Shouldn’t Be Sad” and “Got My Feet on the Ground,” co-written with brother Dave, were quickly discarded by the end of the year, when the Kinks’ third album, The Kink Kontroversy, was released.
Even though Kinda Kinks is kinda unlistenable, Davies was by no means falling off at this point. The 23 additional tracks found on the album’s “Deluxe Edition” include some of his early triumphs: “Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy,” “Set Me Free,” “Who’ll Be the Next in Line,” “See My Friends” and “A Well Respected Man” were all recorded during the period but saved for single or EP releases rather than used as album cuts.
That’s also how things worked back then. The best material was issued as singles while many lesser tracks recorded during the same sessions would fill out albums’ typical dozen-song playlists. Some groups, like the Beatles, could get away with it; others, like the Kinks, coasted through a few spotty albums before later finding their footing.
Within the next three years, it was all sorted out. Bands broke up or disappeared. Some reinvented themselves. Some got better. And some, like the Kinks, eased up on their hectic pace and made the best music of their career.