The Kinks, one of the most prolific and influential groups in rock history, are the product of a rich but troubled creative exchange between two musically gifted brothers, Ray and Dave Davies.
Ray, the older of the two, has fronted the band over the years with a combination of his outgoing showmanship and brilliant wit. Dave was always content to stand to the side of the stage, running the band's sound with his outstanding guitar work, and taking the spotlight to sing an occasional song.
The tension between the two brothers has been a source of creative energy over the years, but it has also been an impediment to the group's success.
The Kinks appeared to go on hiatus when Ray Davies wrote a revealing autobiography, "X-Ray," in 1995, then went on a solo tour where he mixed acoustic performances of some of his songs with readings from the book.
Dave countered with his own book, "Kink," in 1997, a lurid and excruciatingly self-revelatory history laced with bitterness about the way the band's affairs were handled. In the book, Dave accuses Ray of stealing songwriting credit to many songs he contributed to and thus robbing him of royalty payments.
In this rancorous atmosphere it appears unlikely that the Kinks will be making a comeback any time soon, but fans of the group in New York were heartened by a recent performance at the Bottom Line by Dave Davies and a hard rocking backing quartet.
Dave can offer no better proof of his claims to authorship of the Kinks sound than his own extraordinary renditions of the classics from the group's extensive catalog.
The Bottom Line stage was outfitted with a dozen guitars before the show, a dead giveaway that Dave intended on rocking out. When the band opened withthe crunching riff rock of "I Need You," from the early Kinks release "Kinkdom," followed by the first track on the first Kinks album, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Beautiful Delilah," Dave's assertion of ownership of the Kinks sound was undisputable.
"Before we even had a band, me and Ray used to play together," explained Dave. "Ray was very much the instrumentalist and I was the rhythm guitarist, but when we formed a band it changed. My playing was more aggressive, and it seemed to fit better when we had drums in the band."
Dave recalled that the creative tensions with his older brother began early. "Ray and I have a special relationship; it's been terrible at times, and yet we are still trying for something. We have the same goal but different methods of getting there. We're both fighting against each other and with each other. It's a fusion of tension that makes something real. Ray is an intellectual person, whereas I'm not, and I've gotten into a lot of emotional difficulties with people because of that. He's stimulated my intellectual part and I've stimulated his feeling part."
Dave arrived at his distinctive instrumental voice during jam sessions in the family sitting room. He had a little green 10-watt Elpico amplifier whose tinny sound the brothers hated.
He ran the Elpico amplifier's speaker output leads through a Vox AC30 speaker, then slashed the speaker cone of the Elpico to produce the buzzing, distorted sound of "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night," the two hits that launched the band's career.
The sound evolved into what became known as heavy metal and kicked off a catalog that is one of the deepest, quirkiest and most-covered in rock & roll history.
Dave mined a number of the band's most esoteric early recordings during the Bottom Line show, including the rare singles "She's Got Everything" and "Susannah's Still Alive," anthologized on "The Kink Kronikles," "Wicked Annabella" and "Picture Book" from "The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society," and several of his best- known compositions for the band --"Death of a Clown," from "Something Else," the opening track on "Lola Vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround," "Strangers," and "Livin' On a Thin Line" from "Word Of Mouth."
"I chose Kinks songs that were favorites of mine," Dave told the appreciative crowd, which also knew the even more obscure pieces from Dave's solo albums, including "Imagination's Real" and the title track from his latest release, "Unfinished Business."
Dave took time out during the show to mock his older brother, turning "Lola" into a mishmash of a medley with "The Girl From Ipanema," "Waterloo Sunset," "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Apeman," then brandishing "Kink" and making as if he was going to read from the book.
"It's not as long as some books," he quipped.
Or as the relationship between a pair of gifted brothers whose work has done much to make rock & roll what it is today. -
By JOHN SWENSON, 1997, United Press International