creative workshop ad
creative workshop

Ray Davies on The Kinks’ “Picture Book”

| June 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

I always knew that song would have its day,” Ray Davies says of 1968’s “Picture Book.” “Sometimes you just know. It was never a hit, but it’s become a hit in another way.”

Tucked away as an album track for 36 years, “Picture Book” finally had its day when it was featured in an innovative 2004 TV commercial advertising the Hewlett-Packard Company’s digital photography products. Davies isn’t bothered by the use of his songs for marketing purposes, as long as the product doesn’t have negative connotations that might reflect poorly on the song. Besides, he says, “It was perfect for that commercial.”

The jaunty number about looking through a family photo album was originally written for a planned Davies solo project, but the head Kink finally relented and let his band take a shot at it. It was recorded in May 1968 and released that November on the nostalgia-soaked The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. The recording features Davies singing and playing acoustic guitar, brother Dave Davies on electric guitar and the original Kinks rhythm section of bass player Pete Quaife and drummer Mick Avory. (Quaife would leave the band less than a year later.)

Davies, who also acted as producer, wanted the sound of Village Green to reflect its old-fashioned themes. “I wanted a very low-fi, underachieved record with the vocals mixed down, not great, brilliant sounds,” he says. In fact, Davies had the sound of “Picture Book” in mind before he even had a song. “Sometimes I think about songs as tracks: ‘I’m going to write a track,’” he explains. “The whole magic of that track is that 12-string guitar and the snare drum with the snare off. It’s the way Phil Spector used to work—he had his sound and wrote songs to fit that sound. I’d like to go back and do more of that.”

—By Chris Neal

From Performing Songwriter Issue 109

Category: Behind The Song

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *