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.