The Kinks’ Dave Davies ready to bring rock home
- Credit: Archant
In his 2002 chronicle Sonic Cool: The Life & Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll, musicologist Joe Harrington writes of the moment Dave Davies decided to not so much step outside the box as take a knife to it.
“You Really Got Me and All Day and All of the Night were predecessors of the whole three-chord genre. The Kinks did a lot to help turn rock ‘n’ roll into rock.”
It is amazing to think that a whole 50 years have gone by since those two songs thrust the Kinks to unprecedented levels of fame. Formed originally by Dave and his brother Ray, they were, like other bands of their generation, initially just an aspiring rock’n’roll outfit with roots in skiffle and jazz.
After their second single You Still Want Me failed to chart, they were also a bamd on the verge of collapse, with Pye Records threatening to pull the plug if their next effort wasn’t a hit.
The four-piece were almost out of ideas, until one practice a frustrated Dave sliced through the sound cone of his little green amp with a knife and unwittingly invented distortion.
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“I don’t know what I expected, I just wanted something different,” says the 67-year-old. “Listening to people like John Lee Hooker, I had started to value these rough, blues sounds and I got so frustrated that I just cut the thing up. I didn’t even expect it to work.
“Ray had come up with the riff for You Really Got Me – until then it had been this real jazz thing on piano. So we put the two together and out of a moment of frustration and rage came something good.”
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Next Friday (April 11), Dave Davies returns to the UK to perform for the first time in 13 years to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the revolutionary guitar tone he created.
The Barbican show represents a significant milestone for the musician. Looking back to the band’s early days, he recalls how music was never far away from the brothers’ Muswell Hill home.
“As kids there were always parties in the Davies house, so me and Ray would sit round watching. We had a house in Fortis Green, just opposite the Crysal Arms, and my dad would come in with a crate of beer and his cronies and start playing the banjo.
“That’s where we used to listen to everything – Elvis, Lonnie Donegan – it was a rich musical range. I think the Kinks’ music generally was sourced from friends, family and extended family and we certainly played heavily on that.”
Famously, their path to the top wasn’t always plain sailing. A ban from touring America at the height of the British Invasion - attributed often to their volatile onstage behaviour - saw the band miss out on the opportunities afforded to other stars of their generation, while the infamous bad blood between the Ray and Dave eventually boiled over.
The Kinks’ split in 1996 saw Davies establish himself as a successful solo artist, but a serious stroke in 2004 almost left him unable to play guitar again. “A lot of patience and hard work” saw him defy the odds, and after spending time living and performing in America, he is now ready to come home.
“I’m really excited about it,” Dave says of the show, which features support from Laura&Pixi - two New York buskers Dave humourlessly stumbled upon while “a bit drunk”. “The Barbican’s not far from where I grew up and it’s near Kings Cross, where my mother’s family grew up. I’ll do Death of a Clown, old songs, some songs from my new album. it should be good fun, there’ll be some slower numbers but really it’s going to be a rock’n’roll show. I hope there’ll be some surprises too, but we’ll see.”
Might one of them be a Kinks re-union? In recent interviews both brothers have seemed open to the idea, but both always seem to insist the ball is in the others court. So what is the situation? Is there even a court?
“There is a court, but he keeps changing the rules of the game,” Dave laughs. “But no, we spoke a few weeks ago and talked about doing something – we’re still not quite sure how to approach it. We’ll work on something, but I’m not trying to give it away.”
An exciting proposition, but in the meantime, Kinks fans will no doubt be chomping at the bit for a chance to see the ‘inventor of rock’ back in Britain.
“It’s funny because that sound’s affected so many people,” Dave continues. “A year after us, some clever folks captured it with the invention of the fuzzbox and the Stones used it on a song called Satisfaction. It influenced a generation.”
Dave Davies plays his first UK concert in 13 years at the Barbican on April 11th, visit www.davedavies.com