"See My Friends" was written by Kinks' front-man Ray Davies and released as a single with "Never Met a Girl Like You Before" as the B-side. It came out in July of 1965 in the UK and in September 1965 in the US. It should be noted that this song only appeared on the re-released version of the UK release of the Kinda Kinks album.
According to Ray Davies, this song is about the loss of his sister, who lived for a time in Ontario, Canada. Upon her return to England she developed a sickness and died while dancing at a night club. Just before she died she gave Ray his first guitar for his 13th birthday. Inspiration for the song came after a stopover in Bombay, where, finding himself jetlagged on a beach, Davies encountered two fishermen chanting on their way to their morning work. "I remember getting up, going to the beach and seeing all these fishermen coming along," said Davies. "I heard chanting to start with, and gradually the chanting came a bit closer and I could see it was fishermen carrying their nets out."
He wrote the song while traveling in India years later when he heard about the significance of the Ganges river in the Indian death ritual. Two years later he again used the metaphor of crossing a river in his song "Waterloo Sunset."
For those of you who have been suffering from the delusion that The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" was the first Western rock song to integrate Indian raga sounds, "See My Friends" beat it by a cool two months.
Since the Kinda Kinks album was recorded and released in the space of two weeks, it was an unusually rushed production. Ray Davies mentions in the liner notes: "A bit more care should have been taken with it. I think (producer) Shel Talmy went too far in trying to keep in the rough edges. Some of the double tracking on that is appalling. It had better songs on it than the first album, but it wasn't executed in the right way. It was just far too rushed."
British guitar master Richard Thompson did a cover version of this song for his album 1000 Years of Popular Music.
This has been cited as one of the first pop songs about homosexuality, but Ray Davies told Q magazine that's not really accurate. He explained:
"It's more about you've lost the female love of your life, therefore you only have your friends left. That little interchange - 'She is gone' - is the sound of someone who is completely distraught. It's more about camaraderie than homosexuality. But then it borders on that. You go out for a pint with the blokes and then it gets to that moment… (whispery laughter) and they're singing to one another pissed, and they hug one another."
Winth from La Mesa CaAccording to Ray Davies, he was approached by Paul McCartney before the Beatles' album Rubber Soul came out; Paul asked him about the unusual instrumentation on "See My Friends". Presumably this led to "Norwegian Wood".