Ray Davies: Man With a Message
Ray Davies of the Kinks doesn't just write songs, he writes anthems. Take 'Skin and Bones' which he does on stage with a deliciously chubby teenaged boy touching his toes beside him.
It's about a 224-pound lady who diets her way to fashionable slenderness, and it's exactly the kind of catchy 'message' song I can hear the 20,000 fatties attending the upcoming Weight Watchers Convention at the Garden singing in joyous unison. "Don't eat no mashed potatoes! Don't eat no buttered scones." I mean, doesn't it sound like Jean Nidetch's set to music?
Similarly, if you are inclined to tipple and regret, you can get your message from Ray in a sort of tango rhythm from a song called 'Alcohol'. When he performed this at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum, he threw great fountains of beer into the audience much the same God-like way Mick Jagger threw rose petals. "Oh! Demon alcohol," he sang, sounding like Lotte Lenya did in the original "Threepenny Opera." It's very inspirational.
If you're not familiar with these songs and think they could help you, they're about to come out in a Kink's double album called 'Everybody's in Showbiz', one half of which feature the Kinks in live performance. always the best way to hear them.
The album also features that international anthem of people who don't like to work, called, quite naturally, 'Holiday'.
For this, out on the Island, Ray did his I'm-the-laziest-gal-in-town routine, reclining on an inflatable guitar, throwing his head back, just like Marlene, blowing kisses and running his foot sensuously up and down the shaft of the microphone stand. When a technician rushed on to the stage to save the stand from a fate worse than death, Ray saucily pinched his bottom.
Lyrics for the LazyNot on the new album but on the LP of he Kinks' haunting rock opera 'Arthur' are several marvelous anthems. One is called 'Australia'.
This is a man who is such a victim himself, so vulnerable and so without defenses, that he doesn't even know how to be vicious, though he likes to see what will happen when he tries.
Probably the most vicious of his anthems, also on 'Arthur', is an unforgettable song about death on the battlefield.
As for 'Lola', which is the one big popular hit the group has had in some time, no song lends itself more easily to those audience sing-alongs and clap-alongs rock groups like to get going (mainly to give themselves a rest). Little did I know when I first heard the Beatles sing 'I Want to Hold Your ha-and' that I would one day sit in the Nassau Coliseum listening to 18,000 Long Island kids singing the song about a female impersonator.
The two things I continue not to be able to understand about the Kinks, the group which most closely contains what I personally find most rewarding in the so-called new music, is why they have so few out-and-out hits and why so few 'straight' entertainers pick up on their songs.
Of course, Dean Martin could do 'Alcohol'. Of course, Tom Jones could do 'Lola' who is not that far removed from 'Delilah'. If Nina Simone can do a Bee Gees song, then Aretha could certainly do 'Skin and Bones' when she wants a change of pace, and I'd love to hear Peggy Lee do 'Holiday'. I'm not trying to take these songs away from the man who performs them and who embodies the tragedy of comedy or the comedy of tragedy which pervades them.
I just love the characters who people them - everyone from the archetypal Mod in 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion' to the hyperkinetic love insomniac of that classic early Kink's hit, 'You Really Got Me So I Can't Sleep At Night.'
Other people's creations - Dr. Feelgood, Suzanne by the River, Judy Blue Eyes and Eleanor Rigby - seem to have d fame and fortune out in the 'real' world. It's time for Ray Davie's boozers and fat ladies and aspiring stars, the schizophrenics, paranoiacs, urban supermen and mousy Englishmen to step out a little, too.
Lillian Roxon, Sunday News, August 27, 1972