[16 July 2014]
Actually, it does reside in that rarefied space—just not according to your average listicle on the subject or the band’s “greatest hits”. “The Way Love Used to Be” is a ghost classic mainly due to its undistinguished release history, appearing first on the soundtrack to Percy, a 1971 British comedy about “the world’s first penis transplant”, and then two years later on The Great Lost Kinks Album, an odds-and-ends collection that was discontinued in 1975 after Ray Davies initiated legal measures against Reprise Records.
What circumstance (or otherwise) has cheated listeners of is a gorgeous chrome-hued elegy from one of pop music’s high priests of nostalgia. Against a plaintive guitar, downcast piano, and swelling strings, Davies delicately articulates a vision of innocence: escaping the bustle of modern city life (“the mad rushing crowd”) to a misty locale where he and his companion can merely discuss how love was once understood and practiced. The whole affair is steeped in dignified melancholy and romanticism. In other words, “The Way Love Used to Be” is a very British creation, but it ain’t rock ‘n’ roll. It ain’t *the ‘60s* (or early ‘70s, as it were). Here and elsewhere, the Kinks defied the tastes and tendencies of the counterculture and the mainstream orthodoxy that followed. They forged their own path.