John Gosling

Spotify playlist:

You probably don’t know who he is, or should I say was.

I’m reading this terrible book about the Stones’ girlfriends, “Parachute Women.” The writer said Chris Jagger was Mick’s older brother. I winced, everybody knows Chris is the younger brother. Then again, the author Elizabeth Winder was born in 1980, long after Chris’s eponymous solo album was released in 1973, and made a dent in the chart, however minimal. I bought it, there was actually a good track on it, but that’s what we did back then, we wanted more.

So, Winder makes the case that Mick and Keith were relative choirboys, and it’s Anita Pallenberg who corrupted them, who made them who they are. Interesting take, at least I thought so until the book became so gossipy that I wondered where the writer got her information, asked myself if she made it all up. And now I think I’m going to stop reading, after the Chris faux pas. As my old friend Tony Wilson said, how are they gonna trust you on the big things when you can’t even get the little things right?

And surfing on TikTok I saw a clip of Marc Maron on Howard Stern talking about revering Keith, patterning his look after him. And this reminded me of when we used to do this, back when we were impressionable. And we were all impressionable once, but we seem to have grown out of that. The older you get, the more you realize everybody is the same. And when you see old rockers holding on desperately to their fame it rubs you the wrong way. Getting plastic surgery, wearing a wig. Got to give Robert Plant credit for refusing to trade on his role in Led Zeppelin, he allows himself to look old and ragged, and he keeps exploring musically, testing limits, whereas so many of his contemporaries are locked in amber.

But the weird thing is the classic rockers are dropping on a regular basis these days. To the point where it’s barely news, a blip on the radar screen. As for Jerry Moss… Kudos to his achievements, a great effort, he deserves all the respect, but at this point I give him credit most for living for 88 years, that’s quite a milestone, a full life. And Moss got into horse-racing, he was not stuck in who he was. But many don’t have his money, and have fewer opportunities. Their fame burned bright for a limited period of time, and oftentimes it was someone else in the band who got all the press. And so many don’t live as long.

Ray Davies… For decades there was a mania of respect. But that’s mostly in the rearview mirror now, as his fans have aged. So many of the acts that made their bones in the sixties and seventies are rarely talked about these days, especially in an era where rock does not dominate.

And the interesting thing about Davies and his Kinks is that they had three distinct eras, all of interest and value. The original sixties hits, then the theme/story/play/concept albums, and then the comeback on Arista. All different, but with a through line.

John Gosling didn’t come along until 1970’s “Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One,” and lasted through 1978’s “Misfits,” the best of the Arista years. And Gosling wasn’t a writer, although he was an occasional backup singer, but he was an integral part of the Kinks back then. Mostly when the act was in the wilderness, in the RCA years, but the band’s fans kept him alive.

Now they recently remastered “Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One.” But it was a stiff then and it’s not like it’s garnered a whole new life. The album was the follow-up to 1969’s “Arthur,” a concept album lumped in with “Tommy,” that got attention and airplay. “Lola” was a semi-hit, it barely made it into the top ten, but it has survived more than those more commercially successful, based on its merit. But the album was a stiff. I know, because I bought it as a cut-out. The label expected more.

And then the Kinks decamped for RCA, a terrible outlet. And although there was a good amount of press, “Muswell Hillbillies” was commercially unsuccessful. If you’re a fan you remember “Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues,” “Holiday” and “Skin and Bone,” the latter a highlight of the live show, but the rest of the public is ignorant as to these cuts. But the opening track, “20th Century Man,” has survived.

“I was born in a welfare state

Ruled by bureaucracy

Controlled by civil servants

And people dressed in grey

Got no privacy, got no liberty

‘Cause the twentieth century people

Took it all away from me”

And shortly after this verse, at 3:30 in the song, John Gosling sits on the organ and it’s indelible, adds a texture, a meaning, a special sauce to the song. What started out as an acoustic number is now a rollicking rock track.

The following album, 1972’s “Everybody’s in Show-Biz” is not as good. It’s a double-album, and the second disc, which is live, is satisfying, but to say the studio LP is uneven is a bit charitable. However, its closing cut is a stone cold classic. You never heard it on AM radio, but you know it by heart, it became an FM standard.

“You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard

Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of

People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame

Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain”

John Gosling’s organ might have just been flavoring in “20th Century Man,” but his keyboards are integral in “Celluloid Heroes,” they’re the bed, they make the track legendary.

Gosling’s organ plays the same part in “Soap Opera”‘s closing track “You Can’t Stop the Music” as it does in “20th Century Man,” it adds flavoring. It’s there, with its added texture, the cut would not be as magical without it.

1977’s “Sleepwalker” was the comeback, the first on Clive Davis’s Arista, Clive did well by the Kinks, he got them back on track without compromise. Despite the airplay for the title cut and the opener “Life on the Road,” the best tracks are on side two, the opener “Juke Box Music” and the closer “Life Goes On.”

“Juke Box Music” is a complete surprise, kind of like “One of the Boys,” the second side opener on Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes.” It’s an in-your-face rocker, you didn’t think either band still had it in them.

“She sings along with all the saddest songs

And she believes the stories are real

She lets the music dictate the way that she feels”

That’s how it was. The music was not superfluous, it was not secondary, but primary, it rode shotgun, it influenced us.

And ‘Life Goes On” is quieter and more meaningful, but in both John Gosling is a member of the band, he’s in there, this is not a solo effort, Gosling is there adding flavor once again.

And then there’s the highlight of “Misfits,” “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy.”

“There’s a guy in my block, he lives for rock

He plays records day and night

And when he feels down he puts some rock ‘n’ roll on

And it makes him feel all right

And when he feels the world is closing in

He turns his stereo way up high”

This is the best song about the experience of being a rock fan extant. The music was both our leader and our escape, it got us through. John Gosling is all over this.

And, of course, Gosling lays the bed for the great second side opener, “Permanent Waves,” back in an era when perms were prevalent, when they peaked.

And then Gosling was gone. He was replaced on the follow-up, 1979’s “Low Budget,” which cemented the Kinks’ status as an arena act. Yes, the Kinks were back on top. However, some thought they were starting to play to a lowest common denominator.

As for Gosling… He ultimately opened a music shop and then became a music teacher. And ultimately he formed the band the Kast Off Kinks made up of former Kinks playing the band’s repertoire. And then he died, just the other day, at 75.

Gone. Kaput. More than a decade younger than Jerry Moss. A footnote. But not a loser. After all, Gosling was trained at the Royal Academy of Music.

But none of the above songs was the one that went through my brain when I heard Gosling passed, that was “Money Talks.”

After “Everybody’s in Show-Biz” came “Preservation Act 1,” which was even worse, it seemed mostly superfluous. There was “Sitting in the Midday Sun,” but not much more. And then, half a year later came “Preservation Act 2,” an unnecessary purchase if there ever was one. I mean who needed more? But the reviews were exceptionally good. In some cases raves. Not that there were any significant sales, there was no airplay, but I decided to buy it and dive in. It’s the best of the concept/play albums. The highlights are legion, the story is comprehensible, there’s constant magic, I drove cross-country listening to the four sides, I own “Preservation Act 2” in my heart.

And there are so many great cuts, I especially love the closer “Salvation Road,” which is akin to the aforementioned closer of “Soap Opera,” “You Can’t Stop the Music.”

And then there’s “Scrapheap City” and “Nobody Gives” and “Second-Hand Car Spiv,” not that I knew what a spiv was when I purchased the LP, Ray Davies was never afraid of employing British colloquialisms.

There’s the killer “He’s Evil” followed by “Mirror of Love” on the second side, a one-two punch.

And on the first side, there’s “When a Solution Comes” and “Shepherds of the Nation.”

But in between them could be my favorite Kinks song ever, “Money Talks.”

“Show me a man who says he can live without bread

And I’ll show you a man who’s a liar and in debt

There’s no one alive who can’t be purchased or enticed

There’s no man alive who wouldn’t sell for a price

Money talks and we’re the living proof

There ain’t no limit to what money can do

Money talks, money talks”

And that’s only the beginning, the song continues to drop wisdom and insight. It’s a marvel. It’s an encapsulation of life on this lonely planet, from the outside, from an artist, that’s the artist’s responsibility, to reflect truth back upon society so it sees itself, can possibly understand itself.

“Show me an upright respected man

And I’ll have him licking my boots when I put money in his hand”

Money rules the world, even more than it did in ’74, today people are slaves to the green gold.

“Money buys you time and people listen

Money can buy a smile and make life worth living

If you’re ugly money can improve you

I just couldn’t face the world without mazuma

Money talks, money talks”

It most certainly does. And if you’ve got it you can parade your name all over the news, show up in social media. Be a whore, um, influencer, selling your soul on social media. Money trumps everything these days. People admit it. That’s how sick our society is.

But at least there used to be a contrary opinion. Appealing to people’s better instincts, through their brains. Yes, the Kinks wanted you to think, not that hard, but if you were mindless you didn’t get it.

And most people didn’t get “Money Talks.” Almost nobody even heard it. The only time I heard it on the radio was decades later, on SiriusXM. “Money Talks” is not a standard. It’s a lost classic. But I don’t think it will resurface, the song is too rough, too edgy, anything but easily palatable. “Money Talks” is closer to Nirvana than its corporate rock brethren back in the seventies.

I not only know “Money Talks,” I sing it to myself on a regular basis. I quote it all the time. And…

“Money Talks” starts with an indelible waterfall John Gosling piano part, it sets the stage. And then continues as part of the assembled multitude.

I’m sure “Preservation,” both “Acts 1&2,” is still in the red. “He’s Evil” has 240,450 streams on Spotify, but nothing else on “Act 2” breaks 100,000. And although cuts from “Act 1” have more streams, confoundingly, none breaks a million.

But the cuts are all there, they live on. To be sampled, to be discovered, there to enrich you when you’re ready. Pay might be low, but if the old days persisted this music would be lost to the sands of time, no store would stock such poor-selling product.

So, unlike the business titans of the past, John Gosling’s legacy lives on. His playing is positively alive in recordings. And he doesn’t need the money anyway, he’s dead. And when it all ends, what are you going to be remembered for? Probably nothing. But artists march into the wilderness, hone their chops and try to lay down their truth.

The Kinks did this.

And John Gosling was part of the band. A group’s power depends on the skills and attitudes of its members.

So John Gosling reached me. And others who don’t even know who he was. But to me…

He’s the guy banging the keys at the beginning of “Money Talks.”

And more.

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