So . . . the autumn equinox is the 22nd. And that means today is the last day of summer, seasonally speaking. And tomorrow is the birthday of my old Philly friend Rick who, I know, performs a little ritual at this time of year: he plays today’s song to commemorate the end of the season.
The song is from Something Else by The Kinks, one of the albums of 1967 that just seems to get better with age, featuring a snappy selection of all the things The Kinks do so well, not least being their way of evoking various moods and subjects in the British way of life. The Kinks’ “End of the Season” is one of the best lyrical and musical representations of that little frisson—both a drop and a lift—that comes with the death of summer. And, while it may be a bit premature to say “winter is here, close of the play” that’s the way it feels, the older you get, when this time comes around. Winter’s first intimations are all it takes to say “so long” to summer.
Of course, since this is Ray Davies we’re talking about, the song is more than just a witness of seasonal change. It’s also about a guy losing his girl, and that guy is a rather tony type, the kind Davies was fond of satirizing. “I get no kicks walking down Savile Row” “Now Labour’s in, I got no place to go.” Rather jejune, hey wot? Feeling a bit de trop in the current climate—political and seasonal.
And that girl he once sported with as the summer dawdled away its daisy-chain days? “You’re on a yacht near an island in Greece / Though you are hot, forget me not / I will keep waiting until your return.” Good luck with that—maybe next summer. Poor old duffer, going the rounds while his sweet squeeze disports herself where the pretty people go.
The song, in its arrangement, is suave as hell. And that’s something Davies got away with better than most: no need to get stuck in rocker or balladeer mode, Davies could write and record songs that sometimes sound like they should be showtunes. It’s the kind of song that would accompany well some well-heeled character’s glum soliloquy in an East End musical. You can even imagine Davies, in spats with a cane and a tux and top hat, softshoeing “Back in the scrub / On a wet afternoon / Down in the mud / Dreaming of flowers in June.”
I won’t go so far as to say I’m dreaming of June already. In fact, I’m sort of pining, in my inner landscape of memoried seasons, for fall in Princeton, where it was frequently wet but with what after-showers sheen. I find some of that sparkle in Davies’ tune, though that leaden opening sounds enough like London: “All the sky is grey / Summer birds aren’t singing / Since you went away.”
Yes, let’s just call that little absent belle Persephone, or Proserpine. And pine we shall.
Happy birthday, Rick, another season’s gone, another summer ended.