Ray Davies • Americana

The Kinks, The Riff, The Road: The Story

    icon Aug 11, 2016
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Ray Davies has fashioned an autobiography that brings to light the vagaries of being a successful musician. His status as a rock & roll hero is certainly secure, despite a catalog of music that had drifted toward the mundane in the later part of the eighties and nineties. He was co-opting his own music and replaying that famous riff from You Really Got Me and its follow up clone All Day & All of the Night.

Not to be undone by other scrappy British Invasion Bands, The Kinks did a one-two knockout punch by delivering the same rock ballad twice with Tired of Waiting and Set Me Free.  Davies spares no one in telling about the savage brutalities inflicted on Mick Avory and Dave Davies despite their own their own vicious proclivities. Avory even tried to behead Dave with part of his drum kit. Alas, boys will be boys.

They went on to complete the 1965 tour despite all the chaos. At one-point security guards forced them off stage and their manager Larry Page had disappeared, having left back to Great Britain. The Kinks soldiered on but Davies was clearly upset as there were divergent cultural attitudes, lack of business compatibility and total misunderstanding on all sides. The result was an indefinite ban from working in the United States and the Kinks were left in a musical wilderness. Drummer Mick Avory summed it up; it was a mixture of bad management, bad luck, and bad behavior.

The Kinks did return to America in 1969. They had new management with Grenville Collins and Robert Wace and Mo Ostin (the head of Reprise) was determined to rebuild the Kinks career with the incredible one-two punch of Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.

Instead of winning accolades for the two musical masterpieces, the Kinks were welcomed by a well heeled indifference. The Kinks didn’t sound like they did before. The music and the lyrics were quite British and the Americans never knew what they were missing. Reprise even released a promotional LP entitled Then, Now and In-Between as a single LP or a more elaborate box set. So as not to push the new music too far, the Reprise folks also added a few of the early rockin’ Kinks masterpieces so we might not forget.

In 1969, The Kinks performed at the Fillmore East on their “Arthur” Tour. They played a few songs from that album as well as their British Invasion Hits. The crowd was ecstatic. Promoters were playing it safe with smaller venues or large auditoriums. Davies knew he needed an audience as they toured incessantly, but then Lola came in 1970. It was an incredible achievement and it saved the Kinks career.

This writer attended two Kinks’ shows at the Eastown in Detroit in late December and again in January. The band was sloppy, the singers sang off key and the brothers were cursing each other onstage and though some songs did well - Harry Rag, Big Sky, Last of the Steam Powered Trains, You Really Got Me, Tired of Waiting, Top of the Pops, Strangers (Dave Davies) – Ray Davies British humor and likeability saved the day.

Davies writes well and has a wry cogent style that keeps the reader interested. He drops a few names, mostly girlfriends though Alex Chilton’s presence is laced throughout the narrative. It’s obvious that Ray saw Chilton as a kindred spirit. They both loved the vibe in New Orleans, the freedom of expression and from fandom. They could sit-in, jam or just listen to the cool vibes. Davies and Chilton became friends and remained close until Chilton’s death on March 17th, 2010.

Davies continued his journey as a songwriter and musician. In 1971 he released Muswell Hillbillies, inspired by London with a tip of the hat to the Beverly Hillbillies television show. The album got good reviews especially after the BBC developed a television show based on the album. It also prompted another successful tour for the Kinks.

The seventies were a fertile time for the Kinks; They released Muswell Hillbillies, Everybody’s in Show Biz, Soap Opera, School Boys in Disgrace, Preservation Act 1 and 2 and The Kinks Celluloid Heroes- The Greatest Hits, Low Budget, and Sleepwalker.

There are two Chapters in the book that reveals Davies’ mugging at the hands of a couple of New Orleans thugs and just how desperate were his wounds. Davies suffered serious, life threatening injuries. It left him incapacitated for several months at various stages of recovery. Chapter 16 begins with the title, Charity Hospital January 5th, 2004. It forever changed his life and, in effect, made Davies stronger.

On the second page of the book Davies recalls a sense “that it only happens to other people” despite the somewhat blasé’ claim that New Orleans was the murder capital of America. Now it was his turn, Davies became a shooting victim at Charity Hospital. The wounds were serious, very serious.

The book ends on a positive note. Davies had recorded Sidewalk Café and his incredibly successful Storyteller series. Davies’ English perspective is a sumptuous five course meal that brings real life humor and drama to the banquet.

Davies is a natural and gifted writer and performer. This 300-page volume of remembrances is worth every penny to a farthing.  We need him and we need the Kinks. Buy it Now. Barnes & Noble or Amazon may have a copy or two left!

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