|Single by the Kinks|
|from the album Face to Face|
|B-side||"I'm Not Like Everybody Else"|
|Released||3 June 1966|
|Recorded||13 May 1966|
|The Kinks singles chronology|
"Sunny Afternoon" is a song by the Kinks, written by chief songwriter Ray Davies. The track later featured on the Face to Face album as well as being the title track for their 1967 compilation album. Like its contemporary "Taxman" by the Beatles, the song references the high levels of progressive tax taken by the British Labour government of Harold Wilson. Its strong music hall flavour and lyrical focus was part of a stylistic departure for the band (begun with 1965's "A Well Respected Man"), which had risen to fame in 1964–65 with a series of hard-driving, power-chord rock hits.
"Sunny Afternoon" was written in Ray Davies' house when he was ill. He recalled:
I'd bought a white upright piano. I hadn't written for a time. I'd been ill. I was living in a very 1960s-decorated house. It had orange walls and green furniture. My one-year-old daughter was crawling on the floor and I wrote the opening riff. I remember it vividly. I was wearing a polo-neck sweater.
Davies used the song's narrator to reflect on his own situation in the song's lyrics: "The only way I could interpret how I felt was through a dusty, fallen aristocrat who had come from old money as opposed to the wealth I had created for myself." In order to prevent the listener from sympathizing with the song's protagonist, Davies said, "I turned him into a scoundrel who fought with his girlfriend after a night of drunkenness and cruelty."
Davies explained of the circumstances in which the song was written and recorded:
"Sunny Afternoon" was made very quickly, in the morning, it was one of our most atmospheric sessions. I still like to keep tapes of the few minutes before the final take, things that happen before the session. Maybe it's superstitious, but I believe if I had done things differently—if I had walked around the studio or gone out—it wouldn't have turned out that way. The bass player went off and started playing funny little classical things on the bass, more like a lead guitar: and Nicky Hopkins, who was playing piano on that session, was playing "Liza"—we always used to play that song—little things like that helped us get into the feeling of the song. At the time I wrote "Sunny Afternoon" I couldn't listen to anything. I was only playing the greatest hits of Frank Sinatra and Dylan's "Maggie's Farm"—I just liked its whole presence, I was playing the Bringing It All Back Home LP along with my Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller and Bach—it was a strange time. I thought they all helped one another, they went into the chromatic part that's in the back of the song. I once made a drawing of my voice on "Sunny Afternoon". It was a leaf with a very thick outline—a big blob in the background—the leaf just cutting through it.
Release and reception
Released as a single on 3 June 1966, "Sunny Afternoon" went to number one on the UK Singles Chart on 7 July 1966, remaining there for two weeks. The track also went to number one in Ireland on 14 July 1966. In America, it peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart early autumn 1966. The promotional video for the single featured the band performing in a cold, snowy environment.
In a 1995 interview, Ray Davies recalled being surprised at the song's broad appeal, stating, "'Sunny Afternoon', I remember the record coming out and I walked into a British Legion or a pub. I thought I was in a British Legion. All these people, old soldiers and things, singing it. I was 23 years old. I said, 'Wow, all these old people really like it.' And this old guy came up and said, 'You young guys... this is the sort of music we can relate to!' I thought, Wow, this is it, it's the end (laughs)."
Billboard praised the single's "off-beat music hall melody and up-to-date lyrics." Cash Box said that it is a "slow-moving, blues-drenched, seasonal affair with a catchy, low-key repeating riff." "Sunny Afternoon" was placed at No. 200 on Pitchfork Media's list of The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s. The song was featured in and was the title song of West End musical Sunny Afternoon. It has been covered by artists including Jimmy Buffett, Stereophonics, Michael McDonald, and Michael Caruso.
Charts and certifications
According to band researcher Doug Hinman, except where noted:
- Ray Davies – lead and backing vocals, twelve-string acoustic rhythm guitar
- Dave Davies – backing vocal, electric guitar
- Pete Quaife – bass
- Mick Avory – drums
- Hinman 2004, p. 83.
- Goldsmith 2019, p. 254; Paytress 2022.
- Gelbart 2003, pp. 222–223.
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- Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.
- "British single certifications – Kinks – Sunny Afternoon". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
- Hinman 2004, pp. 83–84.
- Everett 2009, p. 60: (twelve-string, acoustic rhythm); Hinman 2004, p. 84: (Ray Davies, acoustic guitar).
- Everett, Walter (2009). The Foundations of Rock: From "Blue Suede Shoes" to "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes". Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-531024-5.
- Gelbart, Matthew (2003). "Persona and Voice in the Kinks' Songs of the Late 1960s". Journal of the Royal Musical Association. 128 (2): 200–241. doi:10.1093/jrma/128.2.200. ISSN 0269-0403. JSTOR 3557496.
- Goldsmith, Melissa Ursula Dawn (2019). Listen to Classic Rock! Exploring a Musical Genre. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 254. ISBN 978-1-4408-6579-4.
- Hinman, Doug (2004). The Kinks: All Day and All of the Night: Day by Day Concerts, Recordings, and Broadcasts, 1961–1996. San Francisco, California: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-765-3.
- Paytress, Mark (5 May 2022). "Too Much on My Mind". Mojo. Mojo: The Collectors' Series: Mod Icons – Part Two: The Kinks – via Apple News+.