Stuart Anthony, member of The Long Lost Band, is perhaps best known for his recent collaborations with legendary poet Larry Beckett. Following One More Mile (2015) and Love & Trial (2018) they’ve just released the Risk Is Music EP (our review here) where he’s put more of the Beckett words to music. Having pressed him for his own inspirations, theses words came flooding out as he tells us about his love for the massively influential Sixties outfit, The Kinks.
When I was 10 years old I moved with my family to the edge of the New Forest leaving the busy port city of Southampton behind. A more rural existence beckoned. I had been learning to play the trumpet at school, and I was introduced to a village Silver Brass Band and joined. This led me into an innocent world of performance at cake laden garden fetes, village greens, harvest festivals in old churches, and carols round dark villages on the back of farm trucks. It was about as rock and roll as a plate of scones. However, it was a part of my growing up and it meant something to me as the last time of innocence.
Fast forward to 1994 and I was caught up in the 60’s revival that Brit-pop bought and I stumbled upon ‘The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society’ album after it had been mentioned in an article about Blur’s ‘Parklife’. Somehow, I had missed it.
Of course I’d heard The Kinks before and like everyone in the world with ears, I loved ‘Waterloo Sunset’ but this album was different. The title intrigued me. I have a perma-image of the village green which I frequented in that brass band in hazy Summer months, burnt onto my memory, and to my delight, the album was taking me back to my own childhood and that lost world. My reference village green was what ran in my mind as Ray Davies sang about his.
This opened the door to that album in way that was very personal, and as every song tumbled out I just instantly fell under its spell in a wave of recognition. ‘Do You Remember Walter?’ Oh yes. ‘Johnny Thunder’ rode through my village once a year heading for some big bikers south coast hang out and punch up. I often sat by the riverside looking at ‘The Big Sky’, or found myself on Animal Farm running after escaped piglets and chickens. I played the endlessly requested ‘Floral Dance’ on the Village Green at bunting strewn fetes. I remember trying to make friends with the neighbour’s fat cat that did sit in a tree, and of course, I was afraid of that big house at the end of the village where the scary old lady lived like in ‘Wicked Annabella’.
Ray Davies did this a lot. He was able to get under the skin of being English and ordinary. I dipped more and more into their catalogue finding delights like ‘She’s Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina’ and ‘Young And Innocent Days’ which emit a humble Englishness like a lamp emits light. The power of song to say what is usually impossible to encapsulate, lay heavy on Ray Davies and the band
I was inspired by that ability to tell stories in song and to emote often missed subtleties and moments in life. I fell in love with the Kinks canon and dug their slightly underdog vibe that The Beatles lost.
It’s very hard to pick out a favourite song or lyric because so many take no prisoners, and Village Green to me is a cohesive whole, but forced at gunpoint into a Desert Island Disc’s scenario it would be Young And Innocent Days from Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) and the stand out lyric that still rings around my head, is from ‘Do You Remember Walter?’. I think we all have that friend in the past who is our Walter.
“Do you remember, Walter, how we said we’d fight the world so we’d be free?
We’d save up all our money and we’d buy a boat and sail away to sea.
But it was not to be.”
God bless the Village Green.
Many thanks to Stuart for writing about his love of The Kinks for us.
Listen to You Belong To Me from Stuart’s latest collaboration with Larry Baeckett:
You can read more from the Why I Love archive here.