Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)

Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
The front cover artwork of the album. A white coffee mug with the word "Arthur" and a picture of two men sits in the foreground; a sepia-tone profile photo of the Kinks sits behind it; a swan and other small, various objects sit behind the photo. A hand raises a flag from behind the pileup, which reads "The Kinks". These objects sit on a green background, with the exception of the top border, which is covered by storm clouds.
Studio album by
Released10 October 1969
RecordedMay–July 1969 at Pye Studios, London
GenreRock
Length49:17
LabelPye (UK), Reprise (US)
ProducerRay Davies
The Kinks chronology
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
(1968)
Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
(1969)
Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
(1970)
Singles from Arthur
  1. "Drivin'"
    Released: 20 June 1969
  2. "Shangri-La"
    Released: 12 September 1969
  3. "Victoria"
    Released: 15 October 1969

Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) is the seventh studio album by English rock band the Kinks, released in October 1969. Kinks frontman Ray Davies constructed the concept album as the soundtrack to a Granada Television play and developed the storyline with novelist Julian Mitchell; the television programme was never produced. The rough plot revolved around Arthur Morgan, a carpet-layer, who was based on Ray and guitarist Dave Davies' brother-in-law Arthur Anning. A mono version was released in the UK, but not in the US.

The album was met with poor sales but nearly unanimous acclaim, especially among the American music press. Although Arthur and its first two singles, "Drivin'" and "Shangri-La", failed to chart in the UK, the Kinks returned to the Billboard charts after a two-year absence,[1] with US lead single, "Victoria", peaking at number 62.[2] The album itself reached number 105 on the Billboard album chart, their highest position since 1965. Arthur paved the way for the further success of their 1970 comeback album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One.[3]

Background

Four men sitting or standing next to each other. The man furthest left gazes upwards; he wears a black leather suit. The man to the right is seated, wears black, and stares towards the left. Behind and to the right of him stands another man, barely visible and staring straight ahead; he wears white. Next to him, and furthest right, stands a man dressed in white; his gaze is turned towards the left of the image, and his face is viewed in profile. All men stand in front of a black background.
The Kinks with a newly hired Dalton in 1969. From left: Dave Davies, Ray Davies, John Dalton, Mick Avory.

British production company Granada TV approached Ray Davies in early January 1969, expressing interest in developing a film or play for television. Davies was to collaborate with writer Julian Mitchell on the "experimental" programme,[4] with a soundtrack by the Kinks to be released on an accompanying LP.[4] Agreements were finalised on 8 January, and the project was revealed at a press release on 10 March. Separately, the Kinks began work on the programme's companion record, entitled Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Development of Arthur occurred during a rough period for the band, due to the commercial failure of their previous album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society and the subsequent single, "Plastic Man", as well as the departure of founding member and bassist Pete Quaife.[5] In early 1969, Quaife had told the band he was leaving,[6] though the other members did not take the remark seriously (Quaife had previously left the band in 1966, only to have a change of heart and rejoin shortly afterwards).[7] When an article in the New Musical Express mentioned Maple Oak, the band he had formed without the rest of the Kinks' knowledge,[6][8] Davies unsuccessfully asked Quaife to return for the upcoming sessions of Arthur.[9] Bassist John Dalton, who had briefly replaced Quaife when the latter had stepped-aside three years prior, was asked by drummer Mick Avory to rejoin the band.[9][10][11]

Davies travelled to United Recording Studios in Los Angeles on 11 April 1969, to produce American band The Turtles' LP Turtle Soup with engineer Chuck Britz.[12] While in Los Angeles, Davies helped negotiate an end to the concert ban placed on the Kinks by the American Federation of Musicians in 1965.[12] Although neither the Kinks nor the union gave a specific reason for the ban, at the time it was widely attributed to their rowdy on-stage behaviour.[13] After negotiations with Davies, the Federation allowed the group to return to touring in America. Once the main sessions for the Turtles LP were completed, Davies returned to England. While Davies was abroad, the other members of the band had been rehearsing and practising for the upcoming album, as well as lead guitarist Dave Davies' solo album, nicknamed A Hole in the Sock of.[4][12] When Ray returned, the Kinks regrouped at his house in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, to rehearse Arthur.[12]

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