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Music / Muswell Hillbillies

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"I'm a twentieth century man but I don't wanna die here."

Muswell Hillbillies is the tenth studio album by The Kinks, released in 1971. Named after Muswell Hill, the district of North London in which the Davies brothers grew up, it introduced a new country music influence to the band's sound, as well as New Orleans-style horns on some tracks.


Side One

  1. "20th Century Man" (5:57)
  2. "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues" (3:32)
  3. "Holiday" (2:40)
  4. "Skin and Bone" (3:39)
  5. "Alcohol" (3:35)
  6. "Complicated Life" (4:02)

Side Two

  1. "Here Come the People in Grey" (3:46)
  2. "Have a Cuppa Tea" (3:45)
  3. "Holloway Jail" (3:29)
  4. "Oklahoma U.S.A." (2:38)
  5. "Uncle Son" (2:33)
  6. "Muswell Hillbilly" (4:58)

Principal Members:

  • Mick Avory - drums, percussion
  • John Dalton - bass, vocals
  • Dave Davies - guitar, vocals, banjo
  • Ray Davies - lead vocals, guitar, harmonica
  • John Gosling - piano, organ, accordion

Tropewell Hillbillies:

  • The Alcoholic:
    • “Alcohol”, obviously.
    • Rosie Rooke in “Muswell Hillbilly” has “bloodshot alcoholic eyes”.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: “20th Century Man”. As he says “but I don’t wanna be here.”
  • Conspicuous Consumption: The main target of the entire album is how local traditions are being ground down by consumerism and modern life, including pressures to have unrealistic weight ("Skin and Bone"), expecting that a "computerized community" can stifle local Cockney pride and so on. In the end, people are confused, bitter and alone.
  • Girls Behind Bars: Fanservice aspects are entirely averted on “Holloway Jail”.
  • The Government: Recurrent source of angst, especially on “Here Come the People in Grey”. The climactic verse of "20th Century Man" is especially bitter and poignant:
    I was born in a welfare state
    Ruled by bureaucracy
    Controlled by civil servants
    And people dressed in grey
    Got no privacy, got no liberty
    Cos the twentieth century people
    Took it all away from me.
  • Longest Song Goes First: "20th Century Man", which is also the only song on the album to go over 5 minutes.
  • Longing for Fictionland: “Oklahoma, U.S.A.”
  • Morality Ballad: "Alcohol", which begins:
    Here's a story about a sinner
    He used to be a winner
    Who enjoyed a life of prominence and position.
  • New Sound Album: Marked a new country rock sound for the Kinks, it specifically mixes American country with English musical hall, so convincingly that it's hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. "20th Century Man" is even sung with a typical country western nasal twang.
  • One-Man Song: "20th Century Man", "Uncle Son".
  • One-Word Title: "Alcohol"
  • Properly Paranoid: The protagonist of "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues".
  • Shout-Out:
    • Some long-gone creators get mentioned on “20th Century Man”:
    You keep all your smart modern writers
    Give me William Shakespeare
    You keep all your smart modern painters
    I’ll take Rembrandt, Titian, da Vinci and Gainsborough.
  • Something Blues: “Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues”
  • Weight Woe: Fat Flabby Annie in “Skin and Bone” takes her desire to lose weight to the point of eating disorder:
    She used to be so cuddly
    She used to be so fat
    But oh what a sin cos she’s oh so thin
    That she’s lost all the friends that she had.
  • Working-Class Hero: “Uncle Son”, which ambiguously seems to be a eulogy for a simple man, more sympathetic in tone than Lennon's famous song but the same undercurrent of scorn is there. It notes how working-class people are honoured and eulogized but exploited by the same people who romanticize their plight:
    Unionists tell you when to strike
    Generals tell you when to fight
    Preachers teach you wrong from right
    They'll feed you when you're born
    And use you all your life
    • The bonus track "Mountain Woman" also has a similar theme. The government shoves off people from their home and landscape to build a dam, and then compensate them with a modern apartment filled with Conspicuous Consumption.