|Single by The Kinks|
|from the album Muswell Hillbillies|
|B-side||"Oklahoma U.S.A." (Japan)|
|Released||March 1972 (Japanese Single), 24 Nov, 1971 (US LP), 26 Nov, 1971 (UK LP)|
|Recorded||Aug-Sep 1971 at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London|
|The Kinks singles chronology|
Lyrics and Music
The lyrics of the track "Muswell Hillbilly" see the singer being forced from his London home and into Muswell Hill, a sterilized suburban community. He says his farewells to his friends, including Rosie Rooke, who "wore her Sunday hat so she'd impress [the singer.]" The singer says that "they're gonna try and make [him] change [his] way of living, but they'll never make [him] something that [he's] not," likely referring to the government. He goes on to say, "I'm a Muswell Hillbilly boy, but my heart lies in old West Virginia. Never seen New Orleans, Oklahoma, Tennessee, [but I] still I dream of the Black Hills that I ain't never seen." He explains that "they're putting us in little boxes, No character, just uniformity. They're trying to build a computerised community," but vows that "they'll never make a zombie out of me."
The song, like most of the Muswell Hillbillies album, has a country rock flavor. It also has an antiquated style, mostly attributed to the fact that the entire album was recorded with ten year old equipment. Ray Davies handles the lead vocal.
Release and Reception
Prior to its release, Kinks member Ray Davies intended for the track to be the opening track of a possible film adaptation of the album. However, RCA refused to finance this project, and it was scrapped.
"Muswell Hillbilly" was first released on the Muswell Hillbillies album in 1971, where it was the twelfth and final track. The following year, "Muswell Hillbilly" was released as a single in Japan, backed with "Oklahoma U.S.A.". It has since appeared multiple times on other albums, including Picture Book. It also appeared in live format on Everybody's in Show-Biz (the follow-up to Muswell Hillbillies) and To the Bone.
"Muswell Hillbilly" has generally received positive reviews. Thomas Kitts wrote in his book, Ray Davies: Not Like Everybody Else, that "'Muswell Hillbilly' brings together [the Muswell Hillbillies album's] various musical and thematic motifs." AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine cited the track as a highlight from the Muswell Hillbillies album. However, in a more critical analysis of the song, Mike Saunders of Rolling Stone said, "The country stuff [on Muswell Hillbillies] is another matter. A portion of it is fine, but some of the songs are so positively uninspired and unenergetic it drives me up the wall. Such as things like the Kinks nasally whining 'I'm a Muswell hillbilly boy, But my heart lies in old West Virginia.'"