‘Ray and Dave were very volatile,’ Pete Quaife, who died in 2010, once said. ‘They could start a fight over absolutely nothing.’
I hope eventually to be sufficiently capable of expressing people’s everyday moods, thoughts, and emotions in music.” Ray Davies to NME in 1964.
Interview with Ray Davies in The Guardian: Dave has described your brotherly relationship as “like Cain and Abel.” Ray – It’s more like Satan and Jesus.
For all you hear about Dave and Ray fighting, it seems less to have been physical and more psychological. Sibling rivalry. Control. You know how you can push your sibling’s buttons when you want? Like that.
One time late in their career, Ray was editing out Dave’s guitar parts. “I can do what I like,” said Ray. “I’m a genius.” Dave: “You’re not a genius. You’re a fucking arsehole.” Dave goes on to enlighten thusly: “We’re just very, very different people. He’d probably say ‘I love Dave’ but I reserve the right to hate him.”
In early 1965, The Kinks went off on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, among other countries. This was fortuitous as their sister Rosie along with her son and husband Arthur had emigrated to Adelaide in 1963. Arthur was much of the inspiration for the same-named album that I posted about a while back. (Rosie inspired several of their songs.)
The Kinks started to become known for their partying and inter-band fighting. (If you want to read about a heavy-duty partying rock ‘n roller, look no further than Dave Davies’ autobiography Kink. There was no drink or drug he wouldn’t take to excess, no woman (or man) he wouldn’t have sex with. A world-class hotel room smasher, by his own admission, he was completely out of control for a number of years. This would eventually catch up with him.)
Dave and Mick Avory didn’t always get along, to say the least. Dave says that Mick was always non-committal, not knowing how to behave, what with Ray and Dave making all the decisions. (Mick believes he was supposed to be the buffer between the brothers. “Well, they used me in that sense. Even if it wasn’t intended in the first place, it worked out that way.”)
One encounter in Cardiff, in particular, is worth quoting verbatim from Dave’s book (this after a “punch-up” the night before):
“Our feelings were running very high as we took to the stage. A couple of songs into the show I looked at Mick and shouted at him, calling him a useless cunt. I said his drumming was shit and that they’d sound better if he played them with his cock. I sneered at him and kicked his drums all over the stage.”
With hindsight, it probably would have been a lot better if Dave had just said, “Hey, man. Can you pick up the beat a little?” Because by all accounts, Avory reportedly hit him over the head with either a) a cymbal or b) his hi-hat stand. (Avory later said it was actually a drum foot pedal and admitted he was glad it wasn’t a cymbal as Dave might well have been decapitated. Which, frankly, would have put a big damper on the show.)
Dave was bleeding pretty badly and Avory ran out thinking he’d killed his bandmate. Not only ran out but actually jumped on a train back to London. Fortunately, after a half-dozen stitches in his head, Dave was back in action. The lads made up and in true stiff upper lip fashion, were back on the road again in no time.
The Kinks started a long-anticipated tour of the US in mid-1965. By this time they’d released a second album and their song, “Tired of Waiting For You,” had been a hit earlier in the year:
In true Kinks self-sabotaging fashion, the boys managed to fuck up their entry into the lucrative American market. The band wound up getting, well, banned by the union known as the American Federation of Musicians. (Other Brit bands had warned them of union problems in America.)
In his book, Dave attributes this to management problems. But Ray clears this up and the by-now generally accepted reason is that in addition to their rowdy behavior, there was a bit of a dust-up at DJ Dick Clark’s TV show Where the Action Is. Another story worth quoting verbatim:
“Some guy who said he worked for the TV company walked up and accused us of being late,” Ray wrote in his autobiography X-Ray. “Then he started making anti-British comments. Things like ‘Just because the Beatles did it, every mop-topped, spotty-faced limey juvenile thinks he can come over here and make a career for himself. You’re just a bunch of Commie wimps.
“When the Russians take over Britain,” this genius continues, “don’t expect us to come over and save you this time. The Kinks, huh? Well, once I file my report on you guys, you’ll never work in the U.S.A. again. You’re gonna find out just how powerful America is, you limey bastard!’” (Note – Was this actually Donald Trump one wonders?)
The rest, Ray says, is a blur. However, he does recall being pushed and swinging a punch and being punched back. (And all this time you thought the Stones were the bad boys.)
In July of 1965, the Kinks released a song called “See My Friends,” that was fairly popular in the UK but absolutely tanked in the US. In fact, I never even heard of it till years later. However, it was a fairly influential song with British musicians due to its Indian influences. (The band had done a stopover in Bombay/Mumbai and Ray had heard fishermen chanting.)
This song predates the Beatles’ sitar-flavored “Norwegian Wood” by several months and the Fab Four by all accounts were quite taken with it. (Ironically, Ray says that Lennon practically accused the Kinks of ripping the Beatles sound off and said some not-so-kind things to him at shows. So, friends they were not.)
So while The Beatles in general and Harrison, in particular, get a lot of credit for incorporating Eastern sounds, let us give credit where credit is due:
One of the side effects – or even direct effects – of the Kinks being banned from the US for four years (!) is that they were not able to reap the benefits that bands like the Stones and later, Cream, etc. did. I can say that in the US while they were not entirely forgotten, they did slip into a bizarre situation wherein they became almost a cult band.
But of course, they continued touring the rest of the world and recording. These years were still very productive for the band as a whole. (Ray was the primary songwriter but has repeatedly given the band much credit for its overall sound. Although that said, Dave has been known to say ‘Why can’t he just admit he couldn’t do it without me?’ Ray later tried to claim credit for the ‘You Really Got Me’ guitar sound.’ Dave took to Facebook and called Ray a liar. So it goes.)
BTW, If you want a great compilation from this time period, look no further than The Kink Kronikles. I used to listen to this fucking thing relentlessly. If you don’t dig this album (#232 on Rolling Stone’s greatest albums of all time), you will probably never “get” the Kinks.
Wikipedia summarizes the shift in the band’s tone and Davies songwriting quite well I think: “A significant stylistic shift in the Kinks’ music became evident in late 1965, with the appearance of singles like “A Well Respected Man” and “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” as well as the band’s third album, The Kink Kontroversy on which session musician Nicky Hopkins* made his first appearance with the group on keyboards.
These recordings exemplified the development of Davies’ songwriting style, from hard-driving rock numbers toward songs rich in social commentary, observation and idiosyncratic character study, all with a uniquely English flavor.”
This song grew out of Ray’s encounter with some upper-class twit who wanted him to go golfing. (Ray figured the guy wanted him to carry his clubs.) You cannot read a book on British rock without class coming up and often being used almost insultingly. I now know, for instance, that Mick Jagger is “lower middle class” but I don’t understand why it matters. Naively I figured rockers would be cool enough to escape the British class thing.
Before this song, “everything came from boy-girl teenage angst,” says Ray. ‘Well Respected Man’, that’s a watershed because I started singing about other people. Something is turning, evolving:”
In 1966, prior to the release of the Kink Kontroversy album, Ray had an emotional and physical breakdown. “I was a zombie,” says Davies. “I’d been on the go all the time from when we first made it till then, and I was completely out of my mind. I don’t know what happened to me. I’d run into the West End with my money stuffed in my socks; I’d tried to punch my press agent; I was chased down Denmark Street by the police, hustled into a taxi by a psychiatrist and driven off somewhere.”
According to an article in the Daily Mail, “Davies’ physician prescribed plenty of rest, supplemented by a salad diet and the suggestion, never taken up, that he should join a golf club. A musical diet of Frank Sinatra, Bach, Bob Dylan and classical guitar also helped restore his momentum.” Ray advised that “it sort of cleaned my mind out and started fresh ideas.”
While Kink Kontroversy contains, among other songs, the great “Where Have All the Good Times Gone,”** it would be dereliction of duty for me not to post one of the Kinks best songs of this or any era, “Sunny Afternoon.”
Released in June of 1966 as Ray’s reaction to the heavy progressive British tax, it went Number One several places worldwide. And while it was a hit in the US, the highest it went was number 14 because we are sometimes incredibly stupid over here. As she had been doing from the early days, Ray’s then-wife Rasa sang background harmonies.
The tax man’s taken all my dough
And left me in my stately home
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
And I can’t sail my yacht
He’s taken everything I got
All I’ve got’s this sunny afternoon
Around this time, Pete Quaife – who frequently traveled apart from the band – got into a bad car accident with their equipment roadie. He spent a period of reflective time in the hospital, wondering what he was doing in this volatile band that he couldn’t even stand to spend road time with. His days in the band would be numbered.
Next post – The Kinks record some of their best stuff and return to a significantly changed America. And have their greatest touring successes.
*Hopkins went on to play with many others most notably, Jeff Beck and the Stones.
**Van Halen covered both “You Really Got Me” and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone.” When asked if he was a big Kinks fan, Eddie Van Halen said something like, not really. The Kinks weren’t very complimentary and there seems to be some weird competition between the bands.
Sources: You Really Got Me: The Story of the Kinks, Nick Hasted; Kink, Dave Davies; The Komplete Story of the Kinks, Uncut Magazine; Wikipedia, various and sundry websites.