Songbook: Victoria

Nick Hornby published the essay book “Songbook” in 2002. He picked his favorite songs and described in an essay why he loved it so much. I can’t help but do the same.

“Victoria” by The Kinks


This is my victory song (VICTOR-IA, get it?). I HAVE TO listen to it when something goes really right in my life. Like something out of the ordinary that doesn’t quite validate spending money because it’s so priceless. I dance around, I sing until I start coughing. I do that thing Orlando Bloom does in the movie Elizabethtown where he dances on one foot in the middle of a barren field. This ritual was first initiated when I had been pining over a patron who often visited the public library where I worked. He didn’t have a schedule when he came by, unlike many other people who flooded into the building when it opened (grab a session on the free computers, check out the same book they returned the day before only to place it in the book deposit at the end of the night and then repeating the process the next day), and he mostly wandered around the different non-fiction sections searching for anything that caught his eye before leaving twenty minutes after stepping foot in the door.

A wild snowstorm appeared one morning, some would call it a blizzard, and a rare announcement was made over the speakers that the library was going to close at noon for safety reasons. The guy (I still didn’t know his name) came in at 11:40 a.m. After making me blush a few times as he walked past, he came up to me and asked where he could find the Gabriel Garcia Marquez section. I didn’t know if One Hundred Years of Solitude would be under Garcia or Marquez, so I took him to both spots, chatting his ear off all the while. He eventually got the asking for my number out of him.

I grinned loudly on the walk home, trudging through the dangerous blizzard four blocks to my apartment. I blasted “Victoria” on repeat from the stereo in my bathroom as I stripped myself of wet clothes and raised my hands high in triumph. I felt exhilarated. Death proof. Like winter would eventually end and Michigan would live to reach the spring. And holy cow that bass line.

I really can’t get enough of the Davies brothers, and often go in fits of listening to nothing but The Kinks for days. This is often when my family hates me. My sister once inadvertently memorized “Do You Remember Walter?” based solely on my singing it while we strung up Christmas lights to our parents roof the day after Thanksgiving one year. It took us a good ten minutes longer for the job since I kept fiddling with the stereo, making sure it was loud enough to be heard in the far reaches of the roof.

“Victoria,” for a song written for the downtrodden, its satire makes it a happy song, a love song for the reign of Victoria in the British Empire.


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