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  • Writer's pictureJumpin' Joe

Overshadowed by The White Album

Three British albums were released on November 22, 1968, but one overshadowed the others. The Beatles self-titled album, better known as The White Album, quickly became the #1 album in the US, the UK, and several other countries. Only on the album charts for a month in 1968, it was ranked the #2 album for the entire year in the UK. Only the Sound of Music soundtrack stood in its way at #1 for all of 1968. The White Album stood as the #1 selling album for 7 consecutive weeks before being dethroned by The Seekers and their "best of" album.

Overshadowed by the release of The White Album were albums by The Kinks and The Pretty Things.

The Pretty Things released their rock opera, S.F. Sorrow, telling the story of a man named Sebastian F. Sorrow from his birth through love, war tragedy and old age. Despite Pete Townshend's denials, members of The Pretty Things (along with some critics) strongly believe that this album was influential to Townshend in creating the rock opera Tommy.

That's debatable.

What's not debatable was the initial response to the album. EMI did little to promote the album. The project was underfunded to the point that Phil May and Dick Taylor became responsible for the album cover design and scrambled to complete it on time.

Released in both mono and stereo, the album wasn't released in the United States until the summer of 1969 when it was picked up by Motown(!) and released on their subsidiary label, Rare Earth. By then, Tommy had been released, and some Americans thought S.F. Sorrow was an imitator... the Americans that actually listened to the album.

The early albums released on Rare Earth had a rounded top album cover, which some claim hurt their sales because it was easy for potential buyers to skip over it while browsing. In addition to lack of promotion from Rare Earth, the mastering had an inferior sound quality. Though the album bombed, it has since risen to cult-classic status.

The other album released on November 22, 1968 is better known and faired much better in overall sales. Perhaps their finest work, The Kinks released The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. Considered a concept album because the songs collectively capture life in England from a nostalgic point of view, the Village Green album received positive reviews, but had poor sales. It didn't help that the Kinks didn't have a hit single from the album.

Going into 1969, the rise of underground FM radio stations in America gave the album a second chance, quickly becoming a cult-classic. The album ultimately reached gold status in the UK in 2018.

Today, the Village Green album is the all-time best selling Kinks album. It ranks #258 on Rolling Stone Magazine's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time." Ray Davies considers the album as "the most successful flop of all time." Pete Townshend said, "For Me, Village Green Preservation Society was Ray's masterwork. It's his Sgt. Pepper, it's what makes him the definitive pop poet laureate."

The album was released in a special box set commemorating it's 50th anniversary in 2018.

Here are my picks from the S.F. Sorrow Album:

"She Says Good Morning"

"Baron Saturday"

A single released a year earlier, "Defecting Grey" and "Mr. Evasion" hinted at what was to come. The songs, though not appearing on the album, are included in reissues as bonus tracks. Both songs are killer! "Talkin' About The Good Times" and "Walking Through My Dreams" were considered for the album, but released only as singles. Personally, I think they should have been included.

Here are my picks from the Village Green album:

"The Village Green Preservation Society"

"Picture Book"

"Johnny Thunder"

"Big Sky"

"Animal Farm"

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