Saturday, June 14, 2014

West Virginia: Muswell Hillbilly

Probably the artists with the least experience with West Virginia that we are featuring this week are The Kinks. When the “Muswell Hillbillies” was released in 1971, I’m not sure the band had ever been to West Virginia because the band had been prevented from touring in the US for a number of years. This didn’t stop Ray Davies from whining “I'm a Muswell hillbilly boy, but my heart lies in old West Virginia.”

Muswell Hill, in the north of London, was the home of Ray and Dave Davies and is where The Kinks were formed. While the song mentions New Orleans, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, it is inextricably linked to West Virginia . . . and of course Muswell Hill.

Although not released as a single, “Muswell Hillbilly” ended up being one of the more popular tunes on this unlikely and poor performing album. While in the US it only made it to #100 on the Top 200 Albums Chart, it failed to register on the British charts. It was the first in a series of concept albums by the band. While these LPs, released in the US on RCA, provided some of Ray Davies’ best writing, they were largely ignored by the public.

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