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*1.08-SEE MY FRIENDS (Kinks)

Kinks

LISTEN

See my friends
See my friends
Playin' 'cross the river.
(2x)

     She is gone,
     She is gone and now there's no one left
     'Cept my friends
     Playin' 'cross the river.

She just went (2x)
Went across the river.

Now she's gone (2x)
Wish that I'd gone with her.

     [Chorus]

           She is gone and now there's no one else to take her place.
           She is gone and now there's no one else to love
           'Cept my friends
           Playin' 'cross the river.

[Repeat 1st verse (2x)]

[Coda]


The majority of internet sites give the lyric as See my friends / Layin' 'cross the river. However, at least one site (Kinda Kinks) writes it as See my friends / Playin' 'cross the river. It sounds like playin' to me when I listen to it, and it makes more sense. A loved female has disappeared in the song, and playin' cross the river suggests that the voice is that of a child speaking. Perhaps to a child’s imagination the girl who had been his playmate has “gone to a better place”, which he conceives as being across a river he cannot cross.

Ray Davies has been heard to say that See My Friends is about the loss of his sister, who lived for a time in Ontario, Canada. Upon her return to England she developed an illness and collapsed while dancing at a night club. Just before she died she gave Davies his first guitar for his 13th birthday. Inspiration for the song came after a stopover in Bombay, where, finding himself jetlagged on a beach, Davies encountered two fishermen chanting on their way to their morning work. He wrote the song while traveling in India years later when he heard about the significance of the Ganges River in the Indian death ritual. [The Exotic in Western Music, Jonathan Bellman ed., p. 294]

The tone of the lyric is much like the Kinks’ celebrated Waterloo Sunset, in which a reclusive person looks out a window with fondness at people in the distance. The child in the Friends lyric loves his playmates and knows that they will help him keep living even with his loss, but he is still in grief (wish that I'd gone with her), and can't yet relate to them; his separation from joy is given shape by being across a river. No bridge by which to reach his playmates is mentioned.

As in the Yardbirds’ Heart Full of Soul, the sitar-like theme, imitating scales of India on a slide 12-string guitar, seems to serve the purpose of giving the song a bit of psychedelic flavor. The music suggests that we are not looking across to the Thames (as in Waterloo Sunset), but across a divide between the living and the dead. The drone of the majority of the work is broken by a C section which runs along the scales in Western fashion for a couple of lines that establish there's no one else to love / 'cept my friends, at which point the Kinks return the listener to the droning pattern. See My Friends has often been cited as the beginning of raga rock.

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