Essential Listening

The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, released in the autumn of 1968, failed to sell well. A collection of thematically-related vignettes assembled from songs written and recorded over the previous two years, the album lacked a viable single and seemed willfully out of touch with the social and psychedelic music popular at the time. “Village Green” is an intentional refutation of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper concept piece. Where The Beatles’ song cycle is full of countercultural themes and sees John, Paul, George and Ringo taking on an artificial persona as a psychedelic marching band, “Village Green” is sung from the point of view of middle-class Britishers, bewildered by the enormous social shifts of the late 60s. “God save little shops/China cups and virginity” goes the title track.

The album was commercially unsuccessful but well-received by the new underground rock press, particularly in the US, where The Kinks’ status as a cult band began to grow. Village Green is now widely considered one of the best rock records of the era, and even yielded an unlikely “hit” of sorts when the album track “Picture Book” was used as the theme music for a popular Hewlett-Packard television commercial in 2004.

Favorite songs from Entertainment!: “Picture Book”, “Starstruck”



There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of Rock Sellout at the moment. We’re secretly scheming away with hopes of bringing a better product to your monitor. One of the things that we’ve been discussing is the direction of the content. We’re hoping to bring several new features to life that will keep you coming back for repeated visits.

Essential Listening is a feature that can be about a specific album or a specific band. It will be more of a history lesson than the review of an album that’s probably been in your collection for decades. It’s not going to be an excercise in creative writing. It’s going to be the sharing of the musical experience that changed our lives. Enough of my senseless babbling…

Gang of Four are a British post-punk group from Leeds, England. They play a stripped-down mix of punk rock, with strong elements of funk and dub reggae and an emphasis on the social and political ills in society.

Their angular, slashing attack and liberal use of dissonance had a significant influence on their post-punk contemporaries in the States, including Mission of Burma. Gang of Four went on to influence a number of successful funk-tinged alternative rock acts throughout the 80s and 90s, (even, arguably, many rap-rock and nu metal groups “not in touch with their ancestry enough to realize it”), although few of their followers were as arty or political. Michael “Flea” Balzary of the Red Hot Chili Peppers has stated Gang of Four were very influential on his band’s early music. Like the Velvet Underground before them, the influence of Gang of Four on later musicians is far greater than their original record sales might suggest. King and Gill were critical of some of the musicians they had inspired for embodying the musical style but ignoring the socio-political observations within the lyrics. However, some American bands with an obvious GO4 influence such as Minutemen and Fugazi maintained and expanded the band’s early agenda.

Gang of Four can also be credited as one of the early influences on techno or electronic music; they released dance remixes of several later singles.

Recently the band has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, initially due to emergence of new post-punk influenced bands such as The Rapture, Liars and Radio 4 and then the rise of Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, which led to the renewed patronage of the NME. Guitarist Andy Gill even produced 5 of the tracks on The Futureheads first effort.

Favorite songs from Entertainment!: “Damaged Goods”, “I Found that Essence Rare”, “Natural’s Not In It”

Click here to sample “To Hell With Poverty” (which is not on Entertainment!)