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Entry date: 1-21-2024 – Resting is Key to Dreaming – Letters to My Friends

Updated: Jan 22

Dear Friends,


Numbers aren’t bad, but they can make me mad.


I’ve been toying with the idea of coming up with some poems or songs to help my students learn math. I don’t know why I haven’t considered blending two of the things I love to do, like writing and teaching, more seriously in the past. I think I could resist turning a fun story about math into something with evil spiders or whacked out movie producers.


Last night was a lot of fun. Outside of a hopefully minor mishap and some magic tricks by one of the kids, it was a smooth evening of fun conversation with friends and spinning records. The weather held up (I feared it would rain) and it was so good to be amongst some of my favorite people.


We hadn’t entertained on that level for a bit, so I was reminded of how it was to host and stay relatively sober. I didn’t drink and didn’t even want to drink, which was great, but I was probably a little stony. I have the urge to talk to everyone and when there are 30ish people over, it sometimes feels like you can’t really talk to anyone enough.


Either way, though, last night was a very good reminder of how many great people I (and we) are lucky to share life with each day, even if we don’t see each other as often as we would like. Today will be something of a lazy day, although I have a date with The Bet later, so look for some new installments this week if you are so inclined. I will get around, sooner than later, as well, to putting the whole story up on the fiction page.




When KZZP started playing “Destroyer” by The Kinks, I was instantly hooked. I enjoyed their classics as a young’un, of course, but there was something about “Destroyer” that just grabbed me. I had to have the record, so I got myself (or was gifted) the cassette.


I listened to Give the People What They Want a lot. I remember bringing it up to a few of my more musically knowledgeable friends who dismissed it pretty often as second- or third-class Kinks. I didn’t really understand that until a few years later, but I didn’t care. There are some pretty great moments on it, even if it is a wildly inconsistent record.


As I listen to it now, I hear a band that was trying to kind of latch on to punk rock. This is pretty ironic because you could say that between them and The Who, they had done quite a bit to inspire punk and metal. I’ve always felt like The Kinks had a huge hand in punk eventually happening between the fearless lyrics and stellar guitar tones.


Having said that, this is also a raw rock and roll record and one that wants to be a bit arty, too. Give the People What They Want is all over the place. The first two tracks are pretty rockin’, especially the title track, but then “Killer’s Eyes” happens and even a young me was like, “What the fuck is this?” Now I know it was just The Kinks mixing things up and doing their best to be a little edgy. I can’t say, in all honesty, they pulled it off on this song, though.


“Predictable” is another song that I can kind of live without these days. It just seems kind of tired and if it were a cat, it would just lay on the back of the couch and occasionally yawn. “Add It Up” is a fun one, though. It has a bit of a new wave-y kind of vibe in the front and then goes into that good Dave Davies guitar tone. It’s peppy and fun and I like it. The chorus is infectious, too, which never hurts.


The Kinks did DJ’s like me a great favor by having “Destroyer” be the first song on the B side. I still love it so much. I remember when I first met my buddy (and sometime contributor to ErgMis) Steve and found out that his band at that time, Victims of Progress (VOP!) covered “Destroyer.” It was all I needed to know about Steve. I was an instant fan and stoked to have a new friend. He was even kind enough to show me the riff on guitar, so it was one of the first I could kind of play.


I love how Ray Davies gives a nod to one of The Kinks big hits, “Lola,” in the song. I thought that was so cool when I was 12 and still love it. The lyrics in total are fucking great. Super punk rock and angry and dismissive of the world in general. Even back in 1981, Davies knew the mainstream view on mental health was total fuckery.


“Yo-Yo” follows “Destroyer” and because of that, I grew to be fond of it. It’s a simple tune meant to feature Ray Davies lamenting the banality of life, but it revs up nicely about halfway through. Again, is there a better guitar tone in rock music than Dave Davies’ stuff? It would be hard to argue against it.


There is something about “Back to Front” that entertains me a lot even though it is not the greatest song in the world. It’s a rocker, for sure, but it is also one of those songs that, at the time, they probably didn’t expect people to dig it. Maybe because it has a little metal/punk crossover kind of thing going on, especially with the chant-y vocals. As I think of it now and listen more closely, I kind of want to cover it. It could make a good Hillbilly song.


The most grossly ridiculous song on the record is definitely “Art Lover.” I remember thinking it was so serious and adult when I was kid and now it just makes me a little cringy. “Come to Daddy, ah, come to daddy” has got to be one of the most repulsive lines in any Kinks’ song. Basically, Ray Davies is singing about drawing pictures of little girls. He kind of tries to make it sound not so pedo-ish at one point in the lyrics, implying that maybe he was a dad who lost a daughter, but I’m guessing it’s just a gross song about an adult sexualizing a child.


“A Little Bit of Abuse” is a more straightforward attempt to say that abuse is bad. Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders sings back up on this one. It’s a C- minus effort, too, on behalf of the band to make up for the shit they dropped one song previously with “Art Lover.” It’s no wonder you can consistently pick up pretty clean copies of Give the People What They Want on vinyl for relatively cheap.


The last song on the record does come with a bit of redemption. Would “Better Things” make a Kinks top 20 or 30 songs list, probably not, but it would get some consideration. Solidly pop and a little melancholy, “Better Things” helps to wash away some of the schmaltz and yuckiness of the previous two songs, although it’s not the best guitar lead Dave Davies ever did.


I’ve got a couple of copies of this record in my collection. I forgot, I think, that I already had it on vinyl when I bought the second one. I spin “Destroyer” sometimes when I DJ. I might have to give “Back to Front” a spin soon, too.




Enjoy your Sunday.


See you tomorrow.

My Uncle Allen painted this picture. Probably in the early 1970s, but I'm not exactly sure. Uncle Joe has a number of his paintings and drawings at his home. Seeing them brings back an awful lot of memories. Some good, some a little troubling. I hope, if there is an afterlife, that Uncle Allen found some comfort and rest.

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