Ray Davies gets some Kinks out
On the eve of a new Kinks album and tour, Ray Davies debated being polite about the other 1960s British Invasion bands that flooded American shores again this year, But not for long;
"I write, I work hard" he says. "Putting out a record involves a thought process. It's not a gift from heaven."
"For 25 years, the Kinks have done that work and consistently supported our records with tours. Then I realize the Who are touring without a record - and the Rolling Stones only have one because they'd lose millions without it.
"To me, these aren't really bands at all anymore. The essence of the Who died with Keith Moon. But I listened to the tape of our new record and I thought, 'This is [expletive] great' To my mind, the Who are a support act to us, like, they were 25 years ago when they were still called the High Numbers.
"I have to think that It's the only way I can motivate myself to keep going."
The Kinks' endurance is particularly remarkable given their fractious history. Ray and brother Dave, the guitarist whose "All Day and All of the Night" chords are considered seminal hard rock, are rock 'a' roll's Cain and Abel; for a month before the current tour (the Kinks play the Garden State Arts Center tomorrow and Jones Beach Friday) began, they haven't been speaking. Again.
Whatever the hardship of writing songs and maintaining a band, though, Ray doesit He's like a rock 'n' roll Ancient Manriner, compelled to tell his stories. "I've developed ongoing characters in my songs over the years. 'Aggravation' on the new album]is written for the same character as 'Low Budget.' 'War Is Over" comes from 'The Village Green Presei'vation Society.' 'UK Jive' is from 'Come Dancing.' I'm working on new characters, too. 'How Do I Get Close" is a new character, because I never wanted to write a relationship song'per se. So this is embryonic.
"On stage I'm the one singer who is several characters. Mick Jagger is always 'Jumping Jack Flash'. I change, and I change the band, too. In'Preservation Society,' I played a corrupt prime minister, [organist] John Gosling played an alcoholic, [drummer] Mick Avory was an English gangster, and Dave was the minister of the interior. He'd have people shot"
That is to say, Davies likes unpredictability - something he thinks the entertainment field today could use.
"I hate every film on release at the moment bar Spike Lee. I hate fomula films, same thing about records.They're a sign of the world we live in. It's what 10 years of Reagan and Thatcher have produced. It's not fashionable to have a flaw."
But then, too, he suggests, there has always been reward in formula.
"We did 'Village Green Preservation Society' the same year the Who did 'Tommy.' We sold 25,000 copies and the Who sold millions. We were banned from touring, so we could never promote it, whereas the Who could. They got the formula right the first time."
If Davies' words sound sharp, his tone does not. He speaks in a slightly sad, almost wistful tone, as if he's not sure he wants the weight he feels, and knows only that he can't do anything about it. "I try not to think about how I do things," he says. "For instance, I still sometimes wonder who wrote "You Really Got Me.'"
But wherever Davies' muse resides - and it ranges from the lovely "Sunny Afternoon" to the rocking "Alcohol" to "Lola" - he does feel the band deserves a bit more credit. "I don't think we were taken very seriously from the start. We were rushed in and out of the studio, because they thought we wouldn't last, and as a result, some of our early records sound horrible. And when we had our first hits, I think other musicians, the Claptons, were stunned: How could we make this blues-rock song and get a number one? I don't think they've ever forgiven us." On the other hand, Davies also won't let them forget.
By Dave Hinkley
New York Daily News, September 13, 1989