Despite the acclaim they receive today, the late 1960s releases by The Kinks met with haphazard success. It was also a prodigious period for group leader Ray Davies, and many tracks were recorded in the 67-68 period that ended up dribbling out on single B sides and eventually the US-only 1973 release The Great Lost Kinks Album.
Lavender Hill is one of these outtakes, dating from 1967. Like No. 2 hit Waterloo Sunset, Lavender Hill mythologises another part of London - this time a busy thoroughfare near Clapham Junction.
If anything, it's a southerner's counterpoint to the Beatles' Penny Lane. Opening with a harmonium drone, the song settles into a lysergic groove, like a more zonked out Lazy Old Sun or Big Sky, two of the trippiest original Kinks releases. The backing vocals are some of The Kinks' most atmospheric, sounding like an attempt to emulate the sound of backwards masking, while the instrumental break features rather uncharacteristic wah-wah guitar.
In the song, the protagonist views a walk down the street as an eternal trip into a fantasy world, feeling the sun, watching the clouds roll by and being dimly aware of people shining their shoes and eating biscuits with tea, but with a disassociative sound rarely heard on Kinks records.