To mark its 50th anniversary, The Kinks release a special vinyl 2LP reissue of Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire which includes a 2019 newly remastered stereo edition of the original album plus singles, BBC mixes and lost Dave Davies' solo tracks. The deluxe gatefold packaging also includes a booklet with sleeve notes, band interviews and rare images. Without doubt, the Kinks seventh studio album is one of the greatest rock albums ever made, a near perfect example of Ray Davies' incredible storytelling ability in what was an innovation in 1969: a concept album. It's also poignant that a record based on the story of emigrating from the UK around its potential to enter the Common Market should hit its 50th anniversary right now. With Brexit on the horizon, the themes of Arthur ring alarmingly familiar.
Arthur received unanimous acclaim upon its 1969 release. Each of its 12 original album tracks is an absolute gem and all perfect examples of Ray Davies' intrinsic ability to weave a story around a song. In what was a golden period for the Kinks, Arthur followed another classic, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. "I started Arthur before the end of Village Green," says Ray. "The albums piggyback one another because they are joined. I'd already written the song ‘Arthur'. I think I wrote ‘Australia' when I was still living at 87 Fortis Green so it was quite early on. I remember taking it over to Dave, he lived in Cockfosters at the time, and playing it to him. We were laughing at the irony in the line, ‘nobody's got a chip on their shoulder'."
In the midst of the Arthur sessions, studio time was devoted to completing tracks for Dave's proposed solo album. The idea had progressed in staggered intervals since the initial success of his 1967 single, "Death Of A Clown" but, ultimately, never reached completion. "One of the reasons the album wasn't finished was because I felt The Kinks' management and record company were forcing me too much," Dave reflects. "I felt very comfortable being in The Kinks and it seemed fulfilling to be part of a band. I didn't really want for more. I couldn't see the point." Ray adds, "Hearing Dave's songs again after all this time, I found them quite moving because they were like the back story of what The Kinks were going through at the time." Reprise eventually scrapped the release by September 1969 and over the years, Kinks fans continued to obsess as to what Dave's album - which some referred to as A Hole In The Sock Of, a working title Ray had jokingly thrown to a music journalist - might have contained.