Loyal Pains: The Davies Boys Are Still at It
Read "Kink", Dave Davies' autobiography, before drifting off to sleep and in the morning you may very well wake up with a hangover.
Davies - the lead guitarist for the Kinks, one of the longest-lived and most respected bands in rock history - has written a book that pulls no punches, offers no apologies and gives the people exactly what they want: sex, drugs, booze, violence, laughs, petty feuds, juicy gossip and rock and roll - in amount copious enough for even the most jaded fan.
He spills it all, the men the women, famous and unknown, he slept with (or almost slept with); the binges of substance abuse that would kill most ordinary men; the wanton destruction of hotel rooms and public property; his fellow members of British rock royalty; and the notorious physical and psychological battles with his brother, Ray, who fronts the Kinks and has written most of the band's songs.
Dave Davies - who brings a band of his own to the Galaxy in Santa Ana tonight - was one of rock's original bad boys, even though the Kinks never feigned a tough-guy-bluesmen act as did such first-string British Invasion contemporaries as the Rolling Stones and the Animals. The Kinks were blatantly Anglo, sexually ambiguous, loud and snotty little brats with really, really long hair and outrageous tastes in fashion - proudly so.
With such early hits as "You Really Got Me" and "All of the Night," they pumped superheated hormones ferociously over the airwaves, hotter perhaps than any white boys had before. "Kink" captures the band - indeed, the entire era - with all of the subtlety of a good stiff kick between the legs.
"I tried to keep it straight ahead," Davies, 50, who now lives in Los Angeles, said from home last week. "I wanted to do it with a very honest approach. This was a very important exercise for me. There have been biographies about the Kinks, and they've pissed me off because they get things wrong....they really have nothing to do with the band or what was going on."
Not to mention "X-Ray", Ray's book on the Kinks, released stateside in 1995. It's typical of those battling Davies boys to have autobiographies out at the same time, competing for readers.
"I scanned through Ray's book," Davies said. "I found it a little bit flowery, as it were. It wasn't as upfront as my book. He got his book deal together about eight years ago or something, and then I never heard anymore about it. I figured he hadn't had time to do it, so I got a proposal together and I flew to London to meet with all these publishers. I get off the plane and I look up and there's an ad for Ray's book. I thought, 'This is gonna happen to me until the day I die.' I'd like to think there's room on this planet for both of us, but it's not easy."
It's one of rock's strange-but-true legends: the brothers Davies ripping at one another yet managing to remain in the same band for nearly 35 years. And a glorious third of a century it has been, even though the Kinks - despite their share of hits - never found the huge commercial success enjoyed by the Stones, the Beatles and the Who.
Certainly that wasn't for lack of quality material. Has there ever been a ballad as gorgeous as "Waterloo Sunset"? A concept album as satisfying and fully realized as "Muswell Hillbillies"? A rocker hotter than "Victoria"? As scathing a song as "David Watts" (which, according to Ray's book, stemmed from an attempt by Ray to "trade" his beloved brother to a gay concert promoter)?
"It's a little bit sad," Davies said of the Kink's relative lack of acceptance. "I think the problem the Kinks have had is that the music always has been so diverse. I think sometimes it's hurt us commercially. There'll be 12 or 15 songs on an album and they'll all be different, all have identities of their own. I think that's confused a lot of record companies. People find it hard to pigeonhole the Kinks."
Though Ray has overshadowed his younger brother, Dave has maintained a profile of his own since 1967, when his "Death of a Clown" was a British hit. He has recorded his own singles and albums ever since, though with limited commercial and critical success. In June, "Unfinished Business," a compilation of his work, will be released. Meanwhile, his is shopping a new album of original material.
(Though Dave and Ray are touring separately, and though the Kinks haven't released an album since "To The Bone" in 1994 (?), the band has not broken up and is planning a U.S. tour at the end of the year.)
Dave is quick to point his (middle?) finger at acts he feels ripped off the Kinks' music. One of his main pet peeves is the Door's "Hello, I Love You" which, melodically and structurally, does bear a similarity to "All Day and All of the Night."
"That one is the most irritating of all of all of them," he fumed. "The other night I did a show where I played "All Day and All of the Night" and stuck in a piece of 'Hello, I Love You.' There was some response, there were a few smiles. But I've never understood why nobody's ever said anything about it. You can't say anything about the Doors. You're not allowed to."
Another thing that has galled Davies for years is Jimmy Page's claim that he, not Dave, played the guitar solo on 'You Really Got Me'. "He must have said that when Led Zeppelin were riding high and there was a lot of dope being taken," Davies said. "You start to think you are invincible or something. You think you invented the guitar itself. He must have said it in a moment of ego madness. Who'd want to play a solo that crazy anyway? Only Dave Davies could do that."
Still, the foremost thorn in Dave's side is his brother. He alternately laughs and snarls when the subject comes up. "I saw something very interesting on the Kink's web site the other day," he said. "There was an interview with Ray and he was talking about me in the past tense. Now there's no reason for this guy to pretend I don't exist. This had been going on since the second I was born. I just ride with it and get on with what I have to do."
Hasn't there ever been a time when Dave just tried to let down his guard, lose the baggage, embrace his brother and tell him he loves him after all?
"I've tried that, sure, but he's always run away," he answered with a sigh. "On my 50th birthday, I was up in London, and Ray threw a surprise party for me. It was really nice of him to do that. So I went up to him and grabbed hold of him and kissed him on the cheek and his body just stiffened as if I were going to try to eat him or something."
"Then he trod out my birthday cake. It was like he really wanted to do something for me, but it irritated him to do it."
On the Legends of British Rock
John Lennon: "I think he was probably a very pained guy. I think he would have thrived in the '90s. I'm sure there's a lot of unfinished business he'd like to be involved in now"
Mick Jagger: "I don't know what to say about him....I'm always wondering with Keith and the others are doing. Brian was the heart of the band, him and Keith. Mick was great because he was a showoff and you have to have a showoff in a great rock and roll band. He's like Ray - 'Me, me, me and me and nobody else is invited."
Pete Townshend: "I've always had a lot of respect for Pete because he was one of the few professional rock and roll people who have openly acknowledged that his work was influenced by the Kinks. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for him."
Eric Clapton: "He was always very quiet and I never got to know him too well. He's always been one of the very finest white blues guitar players. But I wouldn't go so far as when people said he was God. That was crap."
Jeff Beck: "A crazy guy, a wild man. What would he have done if he'd never picked up a guitar? I hate to even think about it. I really do love his playing."
Buddy Seigel, L.A. Times, April 39, 1997
Dave Davies Enjoys Lead - and Id Shows
In the Kinks' heyday, guitarist Dave Davies seemed to be the band's barely contained, hard-rocking id, cast against his brother Ray's pop-philosopher superego. The old id was fully unleashed last week when Dave turned up for a club gig as leader of his own band. With a mischievous grin that never faded and guitar firmly in hand, the younger Davies was a happily crazed master showman, blasting through R&B standards, some new songs and, of course, a variety of Kinks klassics.
Backed by an exceptionally solid quartet, he made the most of his chance to sing lead. His distinctively high-pitched, about-to-pop vocal approach added appropriate grit and drama to such tunes as "Milk Cow Blues" and "Death of a Clown." And his skills as a guitarist are undiminished. His spare, bluesy approach to solos made every note count sweetly, and when he careened into fast-fingered exclamations, it was a garage-rock epiphany.
The set proved to be a great opportunity to hear some wonderful Kinks tunes long left out of the band's own concerts. Instead of pawing at "Lola" one more time, Davies aced versions of "Get Back In the Line," "Strangers" and "Susannah's Still Alive."
Of course, there's good reason some favorites are favorites, and Davies wasn't about to deny his crowd its fun.: The show ended with satisfyingly frenzied charges at "All Day and All of the Night," "You Really Got Me" and "David Watts."
Chuck Crisafulli, L.A. Times, April 39, 1997