Come Dancing: The Best of The Kinks 1977-1986

Music review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Come Dancing: The Best of The Kinks 1977-1986 Music Poster Image
Strong collection of later tunes heavy on satire, sentiment.

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The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Kinks frontman Ray Davies adopts a never-ending range of characters to tell his stories, nearly all of them some combination of hilariously or tragically dysfunctional. Most of them tend to be dealing with pressing issues of the day (e.g. the bad economy) or the human condition (failed romance, lost youth), and rising above it all on pure improbable resilience and underlying sweetness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Quite a few Kinks characters are a bit seedy, and part of the recurring struggle in their songs over the years involves the tragicomic tension between integrity and getting by. "Catch Me Now I'm Falling" finds America itself, after bailing out the whole world, in need of a bit of assistance. The narrator of "Low Budget," while probably not the guy you'd want to spend quality time with, makes life on the cheap pretty hysterical. Some of the more sentimental ballads ("Don't Forget to Dance") are very much about keeping your spirits up in tough times, in the voice of a tender-hearted friend. "Good Day" finds the narrator drawing unlikely and somewhat ironic inspiration from then-living Princess Diana's ability to rise above the sleazy gossip and put on a good show.


"Father Christmas" involves the narrator's gig as a department store Santa going awry when he gets mugged for his money, but turns into a commentary on Christmas as experienced by the economically disadvantaged.


The major bombshell here is the famous "Lola," about the youthful narrator inadvertently going home with a transvestite, which concludes: "I'm not the world's most masculine man / but I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man / and so is Lola." Here's it's rendered as a raucous singalong. Other than that, the narrator of "Come Dancing" spares a moment of sympathy for his sister's boyfriend who'd "end up blowing all his wages for the week / all for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Liquor is consumed by presumably adult characters. The partying lifestyle comes up for discussion, but not for approval. In "A Gallon of Gas," the narrator laments the fact that his local drug dealer can fix him up with every illicit substance known to man, except the fuel needed to run his gas-guzzling Caddy.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that despite the band name, selected no doubt for its shock value as sexual innuendo back in the day, The Kinks rarely delved into problematical content. About as strange as it gets is the famous "Lola," about the innocent narrator's encounter with a transvestite in a London bar in his youth, and how neither one of them is sorry about it. The band's early, British-invasion songs blended power pop and social commentary, and influenced generations of bands to come. This collection (which includes live versions of "Lola" and The Kinks' first hit, "You Really Got Me") is drawn from The Kinks' later period and balances sentimental ballads, nostalgia for the past, and biting satire of the many economic and political ills of the era, as seen by founder Ray Davies.

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What's the story?

COME DANCING captures Kinks frontman Ray Davies in classic form, confronting the '70s and '80s with his trademark mixture of bitter satire, social commentary, and sweet sentiment. You won't find so much of the simpler pop of their British Invasion days (collections of which are currently rather hard to come by, except as imports); instead, you'll find the complex message of the narrator who gets a job as a department store Santa, is promptly mugged for his money, and exhorts his listeners to remember the less fortunate at Christmastime.

Is it any good?

If you're looking for their early-period material, this is not the collection for you. But you'll find Ray Davies' radical, misfit sensibility that things just have to be better than this, unleashed on an era that richly deserved it. The songs range from sentimental nostalgia to snarky social satire, set to catchy tunes that often became instant hits.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the bad economy of the '70s and its similarities to today's troubles. Do "A Gallon of Gas" and "Low Budget" still seem relevant? Do you still have to be Superman to survive?

  • Why do you think the past from one's childhood (as seen in "Come Dancing," for example) tends to inspire such nostalgia?

  • In "Catch Me Now I'm Falling" the United States has always come to the aid of other countries and now needs a bit of help itself. Does that match today's reality?

Music details

  • Artist: The Kinks
  • Release date: January 1, 1986
  • Type: Album
  • Label: Velvel
  • Genre: Rock
  • Parental advisory: No
  • Edited version available: No
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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