Lost Rock n Roll Stories: The Kinks
“Everybody is excpecting from us to do wonderful things, and we mess it all up usually” — Ray Davies
This sentence is what Ray Davies, the leader of the band “The Kinks”, used as an intro before performing the song “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”, somewhere back in 1996. Although put on the B-side of their album “To the Bone”, this song is one of Ray’s favorites, since for him it captures the essence of the Kinks, a band different, bizarre, and even “kinky”, a group unlike everybody else.
When it comes to the big British rock bands of the 60s, everybody’s mind instantly goes to giants like the Rolling Stones, the Who, and of course, the Beatles. Nobody seems to remember the quartet who were among the pioneers of hard rock and have been seen as one of the most influential artists in rock history!
Things change if you visit a musical platform and play the song “You Really Got Me”. You will instantly recognize one of rock’s most famous tunes. This simple transition between an F and a G powerchord along with a raw, distorted sound, coming from the razor-sliced amp of Dave Davies — the handsome younger brother of Ray and the band’s lead guitarist — is one of rock’s most iconic guitar riffs, inspiring millions of young musicians up to this day! And while the heavy growl of Davies’ guitar might sound mild today, back then was like hearing a satanist chant, coming from a possessed amp! Back in 1964, when the song came out, the Kinks were experimenting with a sound almost ten years ahead of their time!
But the Kinks were not only rock pioneers. Diving into their discography feels like swimming in an endless ocean. There are tons of different musical styles, which the group has explored throughout their career. From acoustic anthems like “Victoria” and “Waterloo Sunset” to driving beats like “Destroyer” and emotional rock ballads such as “Mister Big Man”, the band offers a variety of songs for everyone to enjoy. As you listen to these, one question will pop into your mind:
“Why these guys were not as big as their compatriots the Yardbirds, the Stones, or the Who?”
The answer, as simple as it is, comes in a combination of a self-destructive relationship between the two brothers, Ray and Dave Davies, and a dose of really bad luck… One year after their debut album came out, the Kinks were banned for four years from touring and promoting their songs in the USA, on August 1965. This was a huge blow to their career since they missed major turns in music and events like the Summer of 69 and the Woodstock. When the band returned, they found an entirely different scene from what they left in 1965.
The official reason behind the ban was due to an on growing fear by the “American Musicians Union”, who saw the rise of British bands in the USA ripping off their own careers. In reality, the Kinks angered one TV producer when they appeared on his show late and drunk. After an exchange of insults, which included iconic epithets describing the band such as “mop-topped”, “spotty-faced”, and “limey” juvelines, one of the Davies brothers got into a fistfight with the producer, who swore to drive them out of America.
Being kicked out for five years from the world’s most profitable music market might seems like a big deal, but for the Kinks it was a regular Tuesday. After all, being kicked out from somewhere because of a fight was becoming a routine. For this, you can thank the two brothers, who always had a toxic relationship and never seemed to get along. Being two polar opposites, the always shy, sensitive, and more focused Ray would always collide with his outgoing, social, and egocentric brother ending up in catastrophic results.
From an on-stage pub fight between Dave and their drummer, Mick Avory, which ended up with the first in the hospital and the latter in jail to the constant fighting between the brothers before and after any gig, these brawls, and problematic behavior were the reason behind every major setback. This is why — after five years on the road — despite their pioneering music, inspiring lyrics, and great stage performance, the group was playing mostly in half-empty clubs!
After decades of successes, failures, a suicide attempt by Ray, theatrical performances (yes they also did this), and endless fights, the Kinks officially disbanded in 1996. On their last gig the two brothers, the only original remaining members, left the stage with a smile, delivering a powerful performance and leaving everyone with hopes for a reunion. A year later, in 1997, the duo met again on Dave’s birthday. By the end of the night, the two were caught in yet another fight, which resulted in Ray smashing his brother’s birthday cake with his foot…
The Kinks were one of the most bizarre and fascinating groups in Rock history, whose legacy unfortunately remains largely unknown. They are a group who by all means should not have lasted for too long. Every other band with a toxic relationship such as this would have broken up in a matter of months, or even days! The “I love you, I hate you” relationship between the two brothers was always there to ruin their chances for success, yet it was this that granted us their now-iconic songs. They are a magnificent musical paradox, a dysfunctional family which despite all of its problems, managed to become one of the most influential bands of the previous century. One can only imagine what the two brothers could have accomplished if they were not at each other’s throats so often…
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