Where Are They Now? written by Ray Davies and performed by the Kinks, is from Preservation Act 1, one element of a ‘rock musical’ comprising Acts 1 and 2, released in 1973/4 on the RCA label.

The stage version of this, performed by the Kinks + other cast members, was well received at the time. This song was sung by the Tramp, reminiscing about life just a few years before and soon forgotten, but ‘rock and roll still lives on’.

As you listen, what can you remember about:-

Swinging Londoners – London was at the centre of the Swinging Sixties, the cultural revolution driven by the young people of the time, embracing art, music, fashion – and the complete antithesis of the austerity of the 50s, and post-war Britain in general.  It was a time of sexual liberation and experimentation (for some reason sex was only invented in the ’60s).  Two of the fashion industry’s leading lights of the time were…..

Ossie Clark and Mary Quant – Mary famous for the invention of the mini skirt and the high hemline, together with her trademark page-boy short hairstyle.

Christine Keeler – whose main ‘claim to fame’ as a dancer/showgirl, was involvement in sexual liaisons with John Profumo and other prominent men of the time, which nearly toppled Harold Macmillan’s Tory Government in 1963.  The ‘social circle’ in which she moved with Profumo included a Soviet naval attaché, and there were serious concerns about spying and selling secrets as this was at the height of the Cold War with the USSR. 

John Stephen – aka ‘The King of Carnaby Street’ due the number of shops he owned there, created the mass menswear clothing market. Alvaro was another fashion design mainstay of the ‘60s.

Mr Fish – full name Michael Fish (and not the weatherman) was another ’60s designer, famous for designing the kipper tie, and Mr Chow was Michael Chow, founder of the Mr Chow restaurant chain, opened in Knightsbridge.  Famous for attracting celebs and being pricey – but it was the place to be seen if you wanted to be seen.

Teddy Boys – named after their love of Edwardian style clothing, were predominantly disaffected working class youths, synonymous with spivs and flick-knives, and violence.  Their music style was early rock and roll of the ’50s and ’60s, and many singers – Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde etc emulated their style.  They sported a greased quiff at the front (Brylcreem boys) and a DA (duck’s arse) cut at the back. Drainpipes (trousers) and blue suedes (shoes) were part of the standard dress code.

Beatniks – the non-conformist pseudo-intellectual youth culture started in N America, synonymous with coffee bar culture of the time, whose favoured dress included horn-rimmed glasses and long, black turtleneck pullovers.  This Beat generation morphed into the Hippie culture of the late ’60s, and thus from being arty to being more overtly political.

Ban the Bomb – the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and its Ban the Bomb slogan was a non-political movement to ban the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.  There was an annual march in the ’60s from Aldermaston to Trafalgar Square in London to publicise its activities.

Arthur Seaton – played in the film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Albert Finney, who works his way through various affairs of the heart

Charlie Bubbles – another part played in the eponymous film by Albert Finney in 1968, about a successful writer returning to his roots in Manchester. Finney also directed this film.

Jimmy Porter – played by Richard Burton in the film Look Back in Anger, he was the ‘angry young man’, written by John Osborne

Joe Lampton – the hero of John Braine’s novel Room At The Top, about a working class boy trying to make it to the top

Angry Young Men – a group of British playwrights whose works railed against the establishment.  They included:

Stan Barstow (A Kind of Loving) and John Osborne (Look Back in Anger), Keith Waterhouse (Billy Liar) and Alan Sillitoe (Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner)

Protest songs – in the ’60s songs typically by Bob Dylan (Blowin’ In The Wind), Donovan (The War Drags On), Barry Maguire (Eve of Destruction), and a long list by other entertainers both black and white, railing against social/racial injustice and war.

Rockers and the Mods – two conflicting youth sub-cultures of the ’60s – mods on scooters wearing parkas loving ’60s music like the Small Faces and the Who, rockers on motor bikes in leather loving their ’50s music from Gene Vincent, Billy Fury etc.  Many fights ensued, particularly in southern English seaside resorts

Some of these I remember, some I’d forgotten. Only Mary Quant and Michael Fish are still alive as at May 2021.

Maybe if Ray Davies was composing this in 2021, he might have included a verse something like:

Where have all the Brexiteers gone?

Where have all the Brexiteers gone?

Francois and Cleverley, Rees-Mogg and Duncan Smith

Where on earth have they all gone?

Slipping back under their stones,

Yeh, where have all the Brexiteers gone?

That’s my input, as I’m unable to resist the parallel and the temptation.

Where Are They Now? is a great song anyway, and enjoy it for what it is…