In the autumn of 1996 I was 23 years old, newly married and covering the Boston suburb of Brookline for a weekly newspaper there.
As part of my duties, I got a Brookline library card.
And as part of getting a Brookline library card, I took out their 2-LP vinyl copy of the Kinks compilation The Kink Kronikles. Sides 3 and 4 were too warped and scratched to enjoy, but sides 1 and 2 more than made up for it.
I taped my favourites — which, really, was just about the entire first album — and listened to them repeatedly that autumn.
There was a certain English cosiness and provinciality, even in the brasher numbers, that seemed to fit nicely with crisp air and dead leaves in the gutters. Even now, I associate those songs and that album very closely with autumn.
Fast-forward to the present.
Eastern Pennsylvania gets a few truly stinking weeks of summer every year, and we’ve just started one of ’em, with temperatures forecast to reach 95 degrees every day this week.
Reaching for some music on my way out the door, I grabbed both discs of The Kink Kronikles. (My old Brookline cassette has gone the way of dead leaves; there’s nothing in my car to play it on.)
About thirty seconds into “Victoria” it became clear that the music was totally, completely out of place on a hot summer morning.
I didn’t care. I listened anyway.
And I truly enjoyed the most autumnal song of them all, “Autumn Almanac,” which is a wonderful meandering slice of power-pop with enough production touches to shine any time of year. To list is to omit, but here are a few:
– One of those marvelous sad-sack Kinks horn sections.
– Ray Davies singing about his “poor rheumatic back,” and randomly mispronouncing “almanac” as if it rhymed with “Armagnac.”
– That upwards rip of guitar and/or saxophone that follows each “la la la la la” chorus.
– A few stray incursions of clap track — don’t sneeze or you’ll miss it.
– The tasteful use of backwards effects at the end of the song, which works marvelously in a tune that otherwise sounds like it could have been recorded in 1920.
“Autumn Almanac,” appropriately, was issued in October 1967 in the U.K. — where it hit the Top Five — and November in the States, where it went pretty much nowhere.
It’s still got the power, at least for two or three minutes, to take a little of the edge off a ferocious summer day.