See, my friends

At the age of 21, I was stacking shelves in a Liverpool branch of Kwik Save, and beginning to figure out a way of basing a 20,000-word dissertation on the global football transfer system.

Three and a half decades earlier, at the age of 21 a near-permanently jet-lagged Raymond Douglas Davies found inspiration in the songs of Indian fishermen to write See My Friends, a woozy, dreamy loop of a song.

For a long time I half-dismissed this song, or at least didn’t think about it properly. I was also lazy (and young) enough to automatically classify it as one of those Indian-influenced songs they were all doing in the 1960s. And then, over time, the same things that made me look past it began to make me look into it – the hypnotic quality of the repeated melody, the apparently typical Indian influence (achieved by Dave Davies without even using a sitar), the indistinct meaning of the lyrics – the one constant in the interpretation of these seems to be the death of one of Davies’ sisters, soon after she gave him his first guitar for his 13th birthday.

Then I realised (or, more likely, read somewhere) that it pre-dated Norwegian Wood by a few months, in effect sparking the Beatles’ obsession with sitars, and the penny dropped. This helpfully fitted my already-resolute belief that Ray Davies is a superior songwriter to Lennon and/or McCartney.

It’s fair to say that, beyond the age of 21, I’ve not got any closer to the trajectory of Raymond Douglas Davies. But my dissertation was surprisingly well received.

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