Raymond Douglas Davies
"Some People Like To Live With Dreams"
Ray Davies leaned against the wall outside his dressing room at New York's Felt Forum. Even as he took large swigs out of a half-empty gin bottle, he looked elegant - dressed in white trousers, a wildly patterned shirt and the ever-present bow-tie. "Your're looking well," he said with a smile, "which is more than I can say for myself." Not true - Ray always looks divine.
Of course he has had a difficult year, there was the publicized "retirement", when Ray announced at the Rainbow that he was packing it in and wouldn't perform anymore. And the rumored personal problems Ray was having with his wife led to a mysterious disappearance and uncertainty about his future plans. But those who know and love Ray may worry about him, but they'll always be out in full force when he decides he wants to perform again, as he did recently.
"The thing I'm conscious of in America," Ray told me once, "is that people want me to be happy. They know I like to be happy and they don't deter me. In England many fans don't really believe the Kinks will show up for a performance. And always my lifestyle....well, occasionally Mick or Dave or I will have fights with promoters of shows but that doesn't mean it's an excuse for believing that we won't show up. Initially people distrust us. And it's not because we'd be playing in a small hall, or somewhere that only held two thousand people. I think people think I should be standing on a golden stage all the time, with fantastic lighting."
Kinks fans here are unbelievable; at the Felt Forum they received the beer that Ray tossed out to the front rows during "Alcohol", and then proceeded to thoroughly douse him in return. So much so that he had to run for cover to the back of the stage. But then - Kinks concerts really are like celebrations - Ray celebrates every song that he has written and that he sings, and the audience responds by cheering, throwing paper plates and confetti at him, singing along to all the lyrics - and it's really like a big party.
There aren't too many rockstars who could come onstage dressed in their bathrobes, sing "If I were a rich man", and "Mr. Wonderful" in between some of the greatest rock and roll songs that have ever been on record. "A Dedicated Follower of Fashion", "Sunny Afternoon", "You Really Got Me", "A Well Respected Man", "Waterloo Sunset", "Lola", "Alcohol", "Celluloid Heroes", and many more are only some of the offerings from Ray Davies when he's onstage. And his records only get grander with the years.
This past year he released "Preservation Act I", and along with "Preservation Act II" which will be out "momentarily" - Ray plans to create a play. "It was written that way," he said, "and I really do want to do them both as a show in the fall, perhaps on Broadway. Maybe one week there, one week somewhere else. I did a version of it on Drury Lane in London last year, it was part of the celebration of England entering the Common Market."
"I really wrote the songs so that they could stand on their own as rock songs, or they could fit quite nicely into a conceptual piece.
Of course Ray Davies would be a natural for a Broadway show. A combination chanteuse, master of ceremonies, stripper and crooner when he's onstage, those who have watched him carefully through the years have always felt that the rock arena was too limited for his talents. In commenting on his scope after the Felt Forum concert promoter Ron Delsener likened him to Dietrich, Piaf, Sinatra and Garland. "There's not another like him."
As far as his own performance is concerned, Ray told me "I don't feel that I'm performing all the time, but I am. There is a difference in what you see onstage and me. What you see onstage is weakness. I'm not unfriendly, I don't come over unfriendly onstage or anytime, really . I can be nasty - but then I'm acting. I have to act - I like it as much as anybody I guess, but I do it for protection."
"As far as carrying on onstage is concerned, I don't know what I'm doing, you see. I'm not necessarily drunk onstage, I drink very little. I'm not a great drinker - that's why I get drunk. I have one drink and then I get tipsy...."
What about the reputation?...."Well, I like publs, but that doesn't mean to say I'm a drinker. I like pubs because of the people who go to them. People go to pubs to unwind, and to forget....They're going from A to B and they stop there to pick up some courage, to do what they have to do. I guess you could say that the stage is my kind of pub."
A few years ago Ray started to bring a brass section onstage with him, and now he's got back-up singers as well. One can easily forsee the day when he'll have a full orchestra and sets...the whole bit. What's he been doing for almost ten years suddenly seems like the framework and the concept for the eventual theatrical production. "Eventually I'd like to tour with an opera singer to do some of our numbers," Ray told me, and it didn't sound at all preposterous. "I'd love to record while performing live, even if it means traveling with 50 musicians. It's the only way I see myself surviving, being kind of true to what I'm doing."
"You know," he continued, "I'm in a business where I think up something in my dream world, I think up something fabulous. And in my little dream world I put it down on paper, or tape, and I play it for people who are outside that world, and they judge it by the world they live in. And the whole thing gets destroyed for me. It means a lot when somebody can come in my world and say that they like it. It's really down to that. One consolation I have though," he smiled, "is that I saw a documentary on Rembrandt, and a guy came up to him and said "Rembrandt, I don't like your pictures, they're not very commercial.' And, as a result - he didn't get any advances, he didn't get any money."
"I like playing, you see - and as soon as the music starts and I know that I'm connected to it, I just have to do it and be it. Because I've lived with it - and well, I made it in the first place. Music - as with painting or books, well - it's really a dream first, and then can become a reality. Some people like to live with dreams...I know that I do, it's the only way we can sort of get by."
What I'd like to know is when the dream of Raymond Douglas Davies' Broadway show becomes a reality, how's he going to play all the parts?
Lisa Robinson NY Daily News 1973