THE KINKS' ARTHUR album of 1969 was a smashing success with the critics and the few fans that the once popular group still had at the time. It sold better than any Kinks album had in recent memory, but barely graced the best-selling charts. ARTHUR has grown in prestige through the years and now both original pressings and even reissues are sought after by collectors.
There were three singles pulled from the album sessions; none were major hits in the UK or the US. All are rather difficult to find—especially in top condition. This article is a discography of those singles that focuses on the various picture sleeves issued with the single in countries around the world.
I have assigned suggested values for each item in near mint (NM) condition. Each sells for considerably less in less that tip-top condition. Note that there are reissues of the album on Pye that are considered superior sonically and can command higher prices than the original pressing.
This discography is intended as a companion piece to the article "The Kinks On Arthur And Finding Shangri-La."
Take a drive with me
The first single was released in June 1969. Drivin' (Pye 7N 17776) was an unbelievably stupid choice for a single in that heady year. Was it Ray Davies's obstinate personality telling the times in which he lived to bugger off? Or was it reflective of some functionary at Pye who thought a piece about the joys of automobiling was exactly what young British record-buyers were in the mood for?
It sold few copies and failed to make any major chart in any major market where it was released. Reprise didn't even release Drivin' in the US.
Note that Shangri-La is properly two words with a hyphen, although none of the European graphic artists, typesetters, or editors seem to have known that. Oddly, the same people got the title of the previous single correct (Drivin'), even though dropping a "g" from the end of a word is a distinctly American habit.
Promotional copies of Pye 7N-17776, Drivin’ / Mindless Child Of Motherhood, with yellow labels have a suggested NM value of $100–150. Stock copies with blue labels can be found with a big hole and the traditional knockout center or with a small, LP-sized hole (called 'solid center' and pictured above). Both pressings have a suggested NM value of $30–50.
Note that the promo has the traditional 'knock-out center" associated with UK pressings of 45s, while the stock copy has the 'solid center' that were in vogue at the time. The latter can also be found with the knock-out center.
This picture sleeve is so unexceptional with lettering so dreadful that it could be argued ugly. Hard to believe professional graphics people were involved. Suggested NM value of $30–40.
Fairly drab picture sleeve with a photo of the group several years old. Suggested NM value of $30–40.
Nicely designed picture sleeve: the red border sets off the black and white photo, and the enlarged image of Ray gazing upon his band is a very neat touch. My fave of the Drivin' sleeves. Suggested NM value of $40–60.
Not bad design: the black and white photo tinted blue looks good, but the slanted, red print bothers me. And Ray's hair looks like it in curlers and what's-his-name looks a bit too much like Tiny Tim. Suggested NM value of $50–75.
japanese picture sleeves tend to be tasteful, well-designed, and bloody well made. This appears no exception. Suggested NM value of $150–200.
Very tasteful. Idyllic. Although it does appear the village green is need of a mowing. Suggested NM value of $30–50.
This picture sleeve's black and white photo makes the Kinks look like the Village Gray Society! Incredibly rare sleeve in any condition with a suggested NM value of $200–300.
You can't go anywhere
The second single was Shangri-La, another baffling selection: while Shangri-La is a great track—it can be argued to be the highlight of the album—it is not structured for AM radio play. This should have been shipped as a promo-only to the still-new 'underground' FM radio stations popping up around the US.
It sold few copies and failed to make any major chart in any major market where it was released. Reprise didn't even release Shangri-La in the US.
Promotional copies of Pye 7N-17812, Shangri-La / This Man He Weeps Tonight, with yellow labels have a suggested NM value of $100–150. Stock copies with blue labels have a suggested NM value of $50–60.
Unexceptional. Suggested NM value of $30–50.
Most sleeves have the same image on both sides; here Pye of Germany went out of their way with two very different images. The front is taken from the VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY album photo sessions while the back from a recent television appearance. My fave of the Shangri-La sleeves. Suggested NM value of $40–60.
Interesting design: is this record a piece in a bigger puzzle, or are the Kinks themselves the puzzle piece? Suggested NM value of $30–50.
Typical Japanese design: tasteful if less than exciting. Suggested NM value of $75–150.
Unexceptional design and the green is icky, but I kind of like it anyway. Suggested NM value of $30–50.
I don't like the brown tint but I do like the overall design—even the stamped-on type. Suggested NM value of $30–50.
The rich were so mean
The third and final single was Victoria, which should have been the first single. Victoria opened the album and would have been a brilliant selection as the first single. Alas, by the time Pye got around to it, any impetus it may have had from being the initial glimpse of the Kinks' new album was lost.
Promotional copies of Pye 7N-17865, Victoria / Mr. Churchill Said with yellow labels have a suggested NM value of $50–100. Stock copies with blue labels have a suggested NM value of $25–35.
Like its fellow former colonists, Canadian record buyers preferred their 45s without the knockout centers, so Pye pressed them with a clean hole, like American singles. Canadian stock copies with blue labels have a suggested NM value of $15–20.
Never cared for the dated period look. This may have turned Ray Davies on, but I wonder how the other three Kinks saw it. Suggested NM value of $30–40.
Too goofy for my taste but both colorful and eye-catching. Suggested NM value of $30–40.
This is somewhat better than the French sleeve because it has the Kinks on it. Suggested NM value of $30–40.
Even more colorful and eye-catching than the German sleeve but still too goofy for my taste. Suggested NM value of $30–40.
Unexceptional except for the ornate letters. The sleeve was issued as both pink and red, apparently both being about equal, with a suggested NM value of $30–40. I don't really care for any of the Victoria sleeves, but if I had to pick one then it would be this for not being a period piece or being goofy.
The Arthur album as EP and LP
Arthur as EP album
By the end of the '60s, the extended-play album (EP) was a dead medium in most of the world. Still, I found two EPs for this album:
This is an EP (Columbia/Pye YSS-147-Y) with Victoria, Drivin', Shangri-La, and Village Green. Attractive sleeve with nice if unremarkable cover design. Suggested NM value of $40–60.
This is an EP with Drivin' (Manejando), Victoria, Shangri-La, and Mr Churchill Says (Churchill Dice). Attractive sleeve with nice if unremarkable cover design. Suggested NM value of $40–60.
Arthur as LP album
I have included entries for entries of the original editions of the LP for the country of origin (UK) and the US. As the packaging of the album seems to have been the same everywhere, I have only included one true rarity . . .
Original 1969 editions of ARTHUR (NPL-18317, mono, and NSPL-18317, stereo) featured a gatefold jacket with a record with blue labels and included a lyric sheet in the shape of Queen Victoria. Complete mono copies have a suggested NM value of $75–150; complete stereo copies have a suggested NM value of $150–200.
A second edition of NSPL-18317 from 1971 had the same blue-label record but was issued in a regular (non-gatefold) jacket without the lyric sheet. This has a suggested NM value of $30–50.
This was the last Kinks album issued in both mono and stereo in the UK. For a few words on that, I recommend this review by Monolover.
Subsequent UK pressings of NSPL-18317 with gray labels are gathering worth as collectables, especially as certain pressings are considered audibly superior to the original.
SR International, a mail-order music club in Holland, issued ARTHUR with this unique cover. It was available only to club members and has a suggested NM value of $300–400.
Arthur in America
Reprise finally (finally!) released a single from the Kinks' new album, and guess what? They had there first hit with a Kinks single in two years! Although it wasn't much of a hit: it peaked at #54 on Cash Box but only reaching #62 on Billboard.
Promotional copies of Reprise 0863, Victoria / Brainwashed, with white labels have a suggested NM value of $25–35; stock copies with brown labels have a suggested NM value of $40–60.
Reprise RS-6366 as a white label promo record in a stock jacket with a DJ title and timing strip (above) has a suggested NM value of $150–200. A white label promo record in a stock jacket without the a DJ strip has a suggested NM value of $50–75.
Stock copies of Reprise RS-6366 with red-and-orange 'steamboat' labels. These were issued in a gatefold jacket with the Victoria lyric sheet. Suggested NM value of $30–40 for the complete album.
Copies of ARTHUR were manufactured by Capitol for sale to their record club members and issued as ST-93034. These have a suggested NM value of $30–50.
Subsequent pressings of RS-6366 with brown labels and the red logo box have little collectors value at this time with a suggested NM value of $10–15.
Finally, in 1969 Reprise sent out a special press kit to select radio stations. It consisted of a sleeve (front cover pictured above) with a copy of the promotional album (above) and the following inserts:
• a 1-page letter from Warner/Reprise;
• a 5-page bio
• a 1-page review from Rolling Stone
• a 1-page excerpt from Nik Cohn's book Rock From The Beginning
• a 1-page review by Robert Christgau from The Village Voice
• two 8 x 10" black and white photos
This complete package is rather rare with a suggested NM value of $250–350.
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is of the Kinks in 1969. As you must have guessed by now, I like this photo. As for the Kinks: they came roaring back into prominence with Lola, one of the most memorable hits of 1970 ("Well I'm not the world's most masculine man, but I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man and so is Lola!")
Raymond Douglas Davies then decided the Kinks were not only an album-oriented group, but a concept album-oriented group with a thing for rock-soap-operas. He wrote and they recorded a series of increasingly flimsy albums and lost their mass audience. Again. But that's another story . . .