The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society was both ahead of and behind the times when it arrived on Nov. 22, 1968.

A critical success but commercial disappointment at the time, the LP eventually became the Kinks’ best-selling studio album – prompting frontman Ray Davies to refer to it as “the most successful flop of all time.”

Davies got the idea for a concept record about small-town life when the Kinks recorded the song "Village Green" in 1967 during the sessions for Something Else by the Kinks. The rural snapshots seemed to capture his imagination. He wrote insightful and engaging songs about memories, nostalgia, eccentric village characters and acceptance (or rejection) of the changing times. The result was the audio equivalent to the scrapbook Davies sings about in "Picture Book."

READ MORE: Dave Davies Very Best Riffs

The sounds of the Village Green album matched its subject matter: folksy and baroque, with an emphasis on acoustic strumming and symphonic arrangements. Most of the orchestral sounds heard on the LP were courtesy of legendary session man Nicky Hopkins appearance on the Mellotron.

The Kinks’ approach was an extension of recent hits like the No. 3 U.K. single "Autumn Almanac." The No. 12 stand-alone single "Days" was also recorded during the Village Green sessions. But when all of these songs were placed together, the album suggested a band that was out of step with the late ’60s.

Listen to the Kinks' 'Picture Book'

Surprising Failure Marked End of an Era

Even reviewers who heaped praise on Village Green Preservation Society couldn’t help but shake their heads at a group that was looking backward while war protesters were obsessed with the present and hippies were dreaming of a future. But is this why Village Green Preservation Society failed to connect with rock fans at first?

Didn’t the back-to-basic approach of the Band and Paul McCartney’s dance hall obsessions sound just as antiquated in 1968? Maybe the album’s initial failure also can be blamed on the lack of a strong single. "Starstruck" was the only one released, while the title track or "Picture Book" may have been a better choice.

Davies actually wanted to turn this into a double LP, but settled on a 15-track single record. Those ambitions had turned to dust, as Village Green Preservation Society marked the end of an era for the Kinks. This was the first time the Kinks didn't make the U.K. album charts, and that appeared to slam the door on any future commercial ambitions in their home country.

The U.S. release followed in January 1969, and Village Green remains the only original Kinks album that failed to graze the U.S. charts. This was also the last time the founding Kinks members recorded together, as bassist Pete Quaife left the band in early 1969.

Yet Village Green Preservation Society would live on in many ways. Pleased with the results if not the public’s reaction, Davies would continue his efforts with two more Preservation albums, and he considers them a trilogy. The LP became well respected as time passed, landing spots on best-album lists and inspiring hordes of indie rockers.

Legends Who Never Had a No. 1 Single

It's all the more surprising when you consider the success so many of them had by any other measure. 

Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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