Jun 212024

Head back to the beginning.

40. Preservation Hall Jazz Band — Complicated Life

The British Mod movement, of which The Kinks were identified as a part, traced its lineage back to fashion and musical trends of the past. As sharply dressed, working-class musicians with a refined musicality they lionized the great jazz musicians of the past, who they saw as fellow travelers. So one of New Orleans’ top bands returning the favor is always gratefully received.

In addition to the marvelous musical journey that this version takes us on, we should really be grateful for the video. Recorded in 2005, just before Katrina struck, it is a remarkable record of a place which was profoundly changed soon after. The culture of Bourbon Street and the shared love of music, food and fashion shine through as Clint Maedgen cycles through a city comfortable in its own skin, before joining his bandmates for a rousing chorus at the end. – Mike Tobyn

39. The Figgs — Father Christmas

“Father Christmas” is a great example of the non-sappy holiday song. It’s about a department-store Santa who gets mugged by children who demand money, rather than useless toys better suited for “little rich boys.” Despite that dark message, and a proto-punk sound (it was released in 1977, and Davies was certainly listening to new music), the song has become a holiday staple. The Figgs, a garage/punk band that formed in Saratoga Springs, NY in 1987 and basically avoided my notice, except for the period when they were Graham Parker’s backing band, released a cover of the song in 1996. It ratchets up the speed and punky sloppiness. – Jordan Becker

38. Buster Poindexter — Alcohol

The speakeasy-flavored, anthemic, self-pitying-asshole march “Alcohol,” from 1971’s Muswell Hillbillies album, featured a damn fine vocal turn from Dave Davies on the chorus. But I digress. Given the song’s theme and vibe, it is particularly well-suited to the interpretive skills of sleazy party lizard Buster Poindexter aka David Johansen. His cover is silly. It’s extremely (Tom) Waits-ian. And the Buster-man’s vocal is a real scenery-chewer. All of which is to say, it’s one oily charmer. – Hope Silverman

37. Holly Ramos — Art Lover

Yes, the lyrics of this song have a high cringe factor on the surface (but get some context here). However, this simple cover may help us understand the lyrics’ more wholesome side: a longing for children in the parental sense. Something about it being sung by a woman, in a straightforward, no-frills way, doesn’t put us as much on high alert. The line “She’s just a substitute / For what’s been taken from me” does a lot of work in this new parental interpretation, a child lost due to custody struggles in a divorce, or maybe even a miscarriage with this new singer’s point of view. The replacement of the xylophone with the guitar also takes away the child’s music box imagery that might seem too overt in the original. – Sara Stoudt

36. David Bowie — Waterloo Sunset

“Waterloo Sunset” is the Kinks at their most emotionally mature. With a gorgeous melody and lyrics one can rightly claim to be poetry, Ray Davies took a snapshot of London that forever captured the fleeting atmosphere of a time and place (Davies asked his girlfriend to drive him to Waterloo Bridge to see if he’d gotten it right; he needn’t have worried). “It’s like one of those Cartier-Bresson pictures,” Davies said about the story of Terry and Julie. “You see the two people and that’s their love caught for eternity. Regardless of what happens to them later in life, that’s the moment they were in love and it exists forever.”

It’s also a very British song, one that resonated in the UK but never charted in the States. David Bowie captured the song’s blend of familiar and exotic in his cover, adding to both by officially releasing it only in Japan. “It may not be the most radical recording of Bowie’s career,” one reviewer wrote, “but it’s a faithful, affectionate cover of an eternally wonderful song.” – Patrick Robbins

35. Tim O’Brien — Muswell Hillbilly

Irrespective the fact that the actual song is a piece of genre chicanery, applying hillbilly tropes to Muswell Hill, a leafy suburb of London, it works well as country standard. But, if the Kinks give it as much Appalachian authenticity as they could muster, it takes a real good ol’ country boy to give it the full moonshine. Tim O’Brien does just that. He’s a native West Virginian, adept on guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and probably a whole lot more, with an engaging keen that marks him out as a true bluegrass boy. – Seuras Og

34. Of Montreal — Did You See His Name?

Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes explained: “I’ve always been a huge Kinks fan. Ray Davies is one of my all time favorite songwriters. One of the first albums I bought of theirs was a compilation album called The Kink Kronikles. It had all the hits and b-sides from the golden era of their career. Songs like ‘Autumn Almanac,’ ‘Days,’ ‘Waterloo Sunset,’ ‘Shangri-La,’ ‘Get Back In Line’ and Dave Davies’ ‘Death of a Clown’ all totally blew my mind. The Davies brothers wrote about British working class life in a way that no other has ever come close to. Their songs are full of intelligence, wit and an incredible amount of pathos.” – Ray Padgett

33. Kirsty MacColl — Days

In “Days,” Ray Davies mastered that trickiest of song types, the positive break-up song, even if the 1968 track was actually based on his sister emigrating to Australia. It’s a contradiction of a song: both sad and inspirational; melancholy yet uplifting; with an air of finality as well as a new beginning. It’s unmistakably about loss, but also about the most wonderful effect a person can have on you that lasts for the rest of your days. And who better to sing it than Kirsty MacColl, who, as Billy Bragg noted back in the late ’80s, sounds even more world-weary on the tune than Davies himself? In an instant, she just sounds like she’s learnt a bunch of harsh lessons in life and experienced more heartbreak than she cares to remember, yet found the courage to carry on. Plus, when she gives the song the full ABBA treatment with her distinctive self-harmonies, she packs emotional punch like no other into sublime lines like “And though you’re gone, you’re with me every single day, believe me.” And there are a lot of sublime lines. – Adam Mason

32. The Kooks — Victoria

The first comment after the posting of this cover on YouTube says that it makes the listener smile, and, well, it is just so darn true. From one of the many Warchild charity commissions, it differs little from the original, apart from a dip into French and some faux horns. And that’s fine by me. So, are the Kooks French? Far from it, with the band coming from Brighton, on England’s south coast. Why the affectation? Who knows, who cares. Another link to the Kinks is that the name of their second album is Konk, that being the studio where they made it, owned by chief Kink Ray Davies. – Seuras Og

31. The Bird and the Bee — You Really Got Me

From the opening piano rolls, it’s clear this is going to be different. The Bird and the Bee’s second volume of covers was dedicated to Van Halen, so it’s fair to say this is their take on the VH cover. It’s wildly different, but as usual it’s done with reverence to the source material. The instrumentation builds precipitously as the song rolls along, with pounding drums, strings, and choruses of vocals. By the end, the song has veered into an almost experimental jazz freakout. Despite the new direction, the heart of the VH cover, and by extension the Kinks’ original, is never really overpowered by all the flair added here by The Bird and the Bee’s Inara George and Greg Kurstin. – Mike Misch


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  One Response to “The 50 Best Kinks Covers Ever”

Comments (1)
  1. Thanks for the wonderful Kinks covers great work So many good artists and great versions

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