Sunny Afternoon

Album: Face To Face (1966)
Charted: 1 14
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  • Despite the title, this is not a breezy, carefree summer song. The guy in the song is a moneyed elite whose mansion has been emptied by the tax man, who even took his yacht! All he has to enjoy himself is the sunny afternoon.

    The song was written by Kinks frontman Ray Davies, who was going through a very difficult time. The Kinks were in the midst of a sudden rise to stardom, but group tensions, lawsuits, an unrealistic workload and craven management made them miserable. Davies was also dealing with fatherhood, and left the band for a while.

    While he was recovering, Davies wrote "Sunny Afternoon," putting the music together first and then creating an alter ego to voice his feelings. "The only way I could interpret how I felt was through a dusty, fallen aristocrat who had come from old money as opposed to the wealth I had created for myself," he said.

    As he feared that listeners might sympathize with this sad, decadent Conservative, "I turned him into a scoundrel who fought with his girlfriend after a night of drunkenness and cruelty."

    When the song hit #1 in the UK (knocking off "Paperback Writer" by The Beatles), it did bring Davies out of his funk for a while.
  • In a Rolling Stone interview on November 10, 1969, Ray Davies talked about recording this song. "'Sunny Afternoon' was made very quickly, in the morning," he said. "It was one of our most atmospheric sessions. I still like to keep tapes of the few minutes before the final take, things that happen before the session. Maybe it's superstitious, but I believe if I had done things differently - if I had walked around the studio or gone out - it wouldn't have turned out that way. The bass player went off and started playing funny little classical things on the bass, more like a lead guitar: and Nicky Hopkins, who was playing piano on that session, was playing "Liza" - we always used to play that song - little things like that helped us get into the feeling of the song.

    At the time I wrote 'Sunny Afternoon' I couldn't listen to anything. I was only playing The Greatest Hits of Frank Sinatra and Dylan's Maggie's Farm - I just liked it's whole presence, I was playing the Bringing It All Back Home LP along with my Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller and Bach - it was a strange time. I thought they all helped one another, they went into the chromatic part that's in the back of the song. I once made a drawing of my voice on 'Sunny Afternoon.' It was a leaf with a very thick outline - a big blob in the background - the leaf just cutting through it."
  • Released as a single with "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" on the B-side, "Sunny Afternoon" was the third (and final) UK #1 hit for The Kinks, following "You Really Got Me" and "Tired of Waiting for You." Americans didn't take to The Kinks like they did to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and from 1965-1969 a union dispute kept them from touring in that country. Still, their early singles did reasonably well there, with "Sunny Afternoon" reaching #14 even though they couldn't set foot in the US.
  • Shel Talmy, who came to England from California, was The Kinks' producer at this time. He also worked with The Who, which gave him access to two of the great songwriters of the era: Pete Townshend and Ray Davies.

    According to Talmy, Davies was a very prolific songwriter who provided plenty of material when it came time to make their albums. "'Sunny Afternoon,' I think I heard four bars, and said, 'That's probably our next #1,'" Talmy told Songfacts. "It was so obvious."
  • Ray Davies recalled writing the song's intro in the book Isle of Noises by Daniel Rachel: "I'd bought a white upright piano," he said. "I hadn't written for a time. I'd been ill. I was living in a very 1960s-decorated house. It had orange walls and green furniture. My one-year-old daughter was crawling on the floor and I wrote the opening riff. I remember it vividly. I was wearing a polo-neck sweater."
  • Backing vocalists on this track were Dave Davies, bass player Pete Quaife, and Ray Davies' wife at the time, Rasa.
  • Ray Davies was suffering from a bad cold on the day he recorded this song. He recalled to Q magazine in 2016:

    "I did it in one take and when I heard it back I said, 'No, let me do it properly,' but the session was out of time. So that was the vocal. I heard it again the other day. I was 22 but I sound like someone about 40 who's been through the mill. I really hang on some of the notes. A joyous song, though, even if it's suppressed joy. I had real fun writing that."
  • Ah, save me, save me, save me from this squeeze
    I gotta big fat mama trying to break me

    Ray Davies explained the lyric to Q: "My mother was quite large. But that also alludes to the government, the British Empire, trying to break people. And they're still doing it... (sighs) How are we going to get out of this f---ing mess?"

Comments: 10

  • Preston from American ScouserIt's a brilliant tune. Nellie McKay did a nice cover of it, too. Thanks, Ray!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 31st 1966, "Sunny Afternoon" by the Kinks entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #90; and on October 25th, 1966 it peaked at #14 {for 1 week} and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...And as already stated above it reached #1 in the U.K.; and on September 26th, 1966 it also peaked at #1 {for 1 week} on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles chart...Between 1964 and 1984 the quartet had twenty-four Top 100 records; with five making the Top10 and their two biggest hits both peaked at #6, "Tired of Waiting for You" for 2 weeks on April 18th, 1965 and "Coming Dancing" for 2 weeks on July 10th, 1983...They just missed having four records peak at #6 when "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night" both peaked at #7.
  • Bubblesk from Memphis, TnBack in 1966, as this song was climbing the charts, I started loving it while in college. I lived in a co-ed dorm on campus & across the hall lived a portly (make that rotund----no make that obese) hippy girl and her boyfriend who loved to pretend he was "upper crust!" Haaa! Back then whenever this song was on the radio, I'd think of them. What a pair! Actually, they were really goodhearted kids & good neighbors. But what a song! I just love it because it's so quirky and FUN. Anyway, I love The Kinks even after all these decades of decadence!
  • Mike from Park Ridge, IlCrazy to shoot this video in the dead of winter.
  • Louise from Newcastle, --A lot of Brits do drink beer ice-cold, Terri :)
  • Terri from Phoenix, Azline "sipping at my ice-cold beer" is kinda ironic, considering the British drink theirs at room temperature.
  • Dave from Lacrosse, WiI think it's funny as hell. I always end up laughing when I listen to it, picturing some wealthy British play boy strolling about on the grounds in front of his mansion wearing a smoking jacket, bemoaning the 'difficulties' of his life.
  • Shannan from Wilmington, DeI love the song and video. The Kinks are great!!!
  • Elie from Londongrat song lifts you up when ure down
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrMy favorite Kinks song.
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