In late 1965 and early 1966, The Kinks released a pair of singles that were as unlike their earliest material as “Till The End of The Day” was (superficially) like it. Both songs featured prominent acoustic guitars, social commentary and an definite country influence, to boot.
The first one, “A Well Respected Man,” wasn’t even released as a single in the U.K. because it confused their record company so much. But the second one, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” was such an arrow aimed at the heart of swinging London (and maybe even their rivals who were pretending to be mods), it went top 5 in the U.K.
They seek him here, they seek him there
His clothes are loud, but never square
It will make or break him so he’s got to buy the best
‘Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion
And why not? From the opening fanfare to the last strangled “fash!”, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” is arguably the first song of the rest of Ray Davies’ life. It combines the lyrical satire of “A Well Respected Man,” the insane melodicism of “Tired of Waiting For You” and adds a couple of new wrinkles.
The first wrinkle is a joyful call-and-response chorus of “Oh yes, he is!” But of course, those aren’t unique to The Kinks. What is unique to the Kinks is Ray Davies’ vocals as he is describing the dedicated follower of fashion. Who of course, might just be his flash younger brother.
For the first time — and certainly not the last — Ray is both discussing and inhabiting the person he is singing about.
Over and over in “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” his voice changes to be his character, especially in the line “Everywhere the Carnabetian army marches on” and “In matters of the cloth he’s as fickle as can be.” On that last one, his pronunciation of the phrase “fickle as can be” is literally only something that Ray Davies could have pulled off.
At first, as I came across “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” on The Kinks Greatest Hits, I wasn’t so sure about it: despite the obviously satirical words, it honestly seemed to celebrate people who followed fashion, which I knew at an early age I was never going to be.
But over the years, I realized that Ray’s ambivalence was the point: he both shunned and admired that level of superficiality, and that point of view felt completely unique. Still does.
“Dedicated Follower of Fashion”
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