A sad song that masks an ever sadder syory about how it came to be written.
THE STORY IN THE SONG THE KINKS COME DANCING 1983
Album – State Of Confusion
A very sad lament for the decline of the dance halls of the 1950’s and 60’s which was inspired by a deeper, more personal tragedy in the life of composer, Ray Davies.
Initially this seems a typical lament for the loss of a favourite place, in this case, the Hammersmith Palais, a popular dance hall remembered by Davies as a favourite haunt for his sister, Rene.
Davies himself was too young to go to the Palais (Palace_0 when his older sister went each weekend. He watched through the window when she returned with different boys escorting her home each time she went. He tells us, in spoken lines, that she only let each boy kiss her goodnight before coming into the house alone, depriving each boy of any opportunity for more intimate contact with her.
The demolition of the Palais and how it upsets Rene is vividly captured and the song charts her later migration to Canada, where her own daughters go off dancing at weekends as the spirit of the British dance halls lives on overseas.
It is what the song doesn’t state that makes this doubly sorrowful. Rene Davies did not live to see the Palais being pulled down. In fact she did not see Ray Davies go on to musical success with the Kinks, though she was responsible for his fame. She bought him his first guitar as a birthday present. That same night, she died at the Palais of a heart attack.
Knowing such a fact from beyond the lyrics makes them all the more poignant. Rene is not lamenting the dance hall closure – he is, as it reminds him of her. It binds the spirit of real place and person together to make the song truly heart breaking.