As one who was embarrassingly raised in the moral fog of a rock-and-roll culture, I enjoyed reminiscing over the Kinks’ lyrics while reading Jesse Walker’s article, “The Muswell Hillbilly” (March 1997). Unfortunately, Ray Davies has not been as consistently reactionary as Mr. Walker implies. For an example of the “irrational exuberance” in the Kinks’ music, I offer the following lines from their 1981 hit, “Better Things”:
I know you got a lot of good things happening up ahead
The past is gone, it’s all been said
Here’s to what the future brings
I know tomorrow you’ll find better things.
Quite naturally, such optimistic verse reminds me why I no longer listen to the music of my youth: blind drivel was suitable for a naive teenager, but eventually we must open our eyes to the bitter reality that the future might not bring better things. In other words, I grew up.
—Brett M. Decker
Jesse Walker Replies:
Yeah, but you gotta admit, it’s a catchy tune. On a more serious note, I realize that Mr. Decker’s tongue is probably grazing his cheek, but for the benefit of other readers, I’ll point out that “Better Things” is the final cut on Give the People What They Want (1981), an album filled with songs about people whose lives are far from happy. The readers of Chronicles may thus rest assured that Davies is not guilty of a giddy, immature optimism—or of an adolescent bleakness that would prevent him from recognizing any cause for hope.
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