Preview - Ray solo, 26 October, 1997, Flynn Theater, Burlington, VT

Date: December 28, 1997 1:23 PM
From: Michael Mills

The Kinks' Ray Davies:
British To The Bone

by Michael Mills

Once upon a time, in a land across the sea, a bright English lad wandered onto the village green of Muswell Hill and sang a song. Soon he recorded and toured. This ordinary man became a star, but then he came unglued, undone. He was debauched and banned. He faded away and wound up back where he started. And then he started all over again. That's the story of The Kinks' singer-songwriter Raymond Douglas Davies.

Right now Davies is wandering the States telling his story with a laid back mix of music, stories and anecdotes. Twentieth Century Man" is the story of The Kinks, Ray and his brother-in-arms Dave told by one of music's most accomplished performers and storytellers. It's about the Rockers and the Mods, Swinging London, love and fisticuffs, the money and the music told with wit, charm, style and grace.

The Kinks were misfits in their own rite. They invented and experimented with their music. They were very good at working without a net. They were always one step beyond and long gone before the paparazzi arrived.

In '64 The Kinks invented heavy metal with "You Really Got Me" and then moved on. They knocked out a slew of pop hits, like "All Day and All of The Night," "Sunny Afternoon," "Tired Of Waiting," and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" and backed them up with sober ballads like "Waterloo Sunset," "Dead End Streets" and "God's Children."

The Kinks were blacklisted in the USA after the British Invasion of '64 and some of their best music was never heard in the States, including rock's first opera, "Arthur." Then when rock went psychedelic, The Kinks went Victorian, recording a rather English, blend of folk-rock with an eye toward preservation of the past.

When the ban was lifted, The Kinks infiltrated conservative, middle-class America, with "Lola," a transvestite's story cloaked in sexually ambiguous lyrics, and then promptly confused the already perplexed Yanks with "Muswell Hillbillies," a chummy musical memoir about their life in the north London neighborhood of Muswell Hill where the Davies boys grew up.

In the Disco Era, The Kinks staged feature length rock operas, costumed and choreographed like a Hollywood picture show. Of them, "Soap Opera" is an unheralded classic, and "Preservation" the most ambitious.

They were out of step again during the malaise of the Carter years and roared through the US playing an exuberant brand of solid pop rock. Their 1980 live album was a fast and brassy mix of '60's and '70's retro- pop-rock played loud.

The Eighties brought some modest chart successes with the release of "Better Things," "Come Dancing" and "Heart of Gold." Now, more recently The Kinks have been playing small US venues in the summers and scattered dates in Japan and Europe, but that, as they say, is history, and what the show is about.

Two years ago Raymond Douglas wrote his "unauthorized autobiography" about all that water under the bridge. He called it "X-Ray." He did a bookstore tour and did readings. He added a guitar to bring the stories to life, and the "20th Century Man" was born. With the success of Davies' one- man show, The Kinks released their sometimes unplugged, sometimes live, retrospective double CD "To The Bone" with two new Kink numbers "Animal," and the title track.

(A collection of Ray Davies short stories was published in Britain in September along with a companion CD of newly recorded old and new songs. The book is titled "Waterloo Sunset.")

The Kinks' guitarist is of course Ray's younger brother Dave Davies. They have gone a few rounds. They were tempers under pressure washed down with 86 proof. They fought off stage and on, physically and through the press. They are bookends, rivals and brothers, but when mixed and properly shaken they are The Kinks.

On the '64 recording of "You Really Got Me" Ray shouted encouragement to Dave just before Dave launched into his guitar solo. A startled, very tense, and touchy, young Dave spit out a quick, "Fuck off!" Ray was stunned by the word and desperately cried "Oh, no!!" Dave turned his back and then laid down one of rock's classic solos.

Ray Davies lived to tell the stories and wrote it out in a verse. "Animal," from the latest Kink CD, "To The Bone," sums up Davies' experience nicely:

"On reflection, it was not all wine on the wall.
It was not all cuts and bruises,
Or the pulling out of hair,
And the bloodying of nose,
And the tearing off of clothes,
It was really animal, truly animal."

So, nip on down to the local, grab a pint and listen as Raymond Douglas Davies weaves stories, passion, songs, and perspective about a life on the road.

Ray Davies, The Kinks' 20th century troubadour and proper English rocker, brings his one-man show to the Flynn Theater in downtown Burlington on October 26th at seven.