The real story behind The Kinks’ song ‘Dead End Street’

The Kinks’ song ‘Dead End Street’ contains the band’s effortlessly expressed and unique social commentary. The London band never shied away from telling things how they were, and with the 1966 track, The Kinks explored what it was like living in a run-down house in England’s capital.

Discussing the inspiration behind the song, Ray Davies once said (via Louder Sound), “When you’re writing at that speed, you just tend to pick up on everything around you. I was living in an old house that needed to be restored. And there really was a crack up in the ceiling because there was a leak in the bathroom.”

Davies noted that he had written the song with haste as the cold mood of English winter moved in. “It was that thing of living in England and having had a great summer, and now the light was closing in and the mood just shifts,” he said. “The music had that little jazz backbeat, but there were these dark edges.”

On the song’s composition, he added, “I thought I was writing a trad jazz vamp about hard times that were coming. My father had lived through the depression and talked about it, so the song had that 1920s/’30s feel to it – those stomping chords, the march of destiny coming to grab you. It was a very visual backdrop to the song.”

‘Dead End Street’ details a couple living through the “dead end” harsh realities of living in England. “The couple in the song – and I assume they are a couple – were planning to emigrate to Australia,” Davies noted. “But the assisted passage scheme was coming to an end; it was too late. They want to work, but they can’t get the work. So what are they living for?”

The song is a little piece of history. “It’s the way you tell ’em,” Davies said. “There’s not really any humour in it, but there’s a jovial way of singing bad news, delivering it in an enigmatic and exciting way. It’s like the new generation of newsreaders you see on satellite TV. They’ve got a smile on their face as they tell you the world’s coming to an end.”

The track became a fan favourite, and Davies admitted to loving the experience of playing it live. He said, “It’s good to play because it’s become quite a powerful piece of theatre. It resonates with an audience. Just getting them to shout out ‘dead end’ shows that they know what it means. Maybe that’s what folk music has always done.”

If you were hoping to find the root cause for the song, and the titular street in question, then you need only make your way to London. The road, called Little Green Street, just off Highgate Road in North London, is a pristinely preserved 18th-century street and was not just the setting for the song’s video but rumoured to be the kernel from which the entire track grew.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *