Who Let the Kinks In?
After four years on the other side of the Atlantic, the Kinks have returned to America. Despite their absence from live here, the British group has built up a following who appreciate leader Ray Davies' brilliant satiric lyrics.
"It wasn't that we didn't want to come back," said Ray Davies. "We weren't allowed to come back. There were permit problems. We did want to come back a few months after the last tour.
Ray didn't want to discuss what the problems were. It wasn't because of drugs. In England the Kinks are known as hard drinking bunch. At one press reception they were seen chasing a journalist down Fifth Street after they had gotten into a fight with him at a press reception. The Kinks maintained their reputation of boozing and brawling.
British pop music observers say that Ray and his brother Dave often fought on stage. Their angry antics during the first U.S. tour got them in hot water with the American Federation of Musicians who then barred them from further appearances here until the Kinks apologized.
Ted Dreber, assistant to the President of the American Federation of Musicians, could not find any reference to the Kinks on file. But he did say that, in general, the Anglo-American musician's reciprocity agreement allows either union to withhold permits for a group if they behave badly on stage or fail to show for scheduled performances without good reason.
Davies said: "I'd like to tell you about what happened but there are some things I don't want to talk about. It's very difficult and we're lucky to come back.
If Davies does have a nasty temper, it doesn't show during interviews. No show biz temperament. He sits quietly over his beer, shifting awkwardly like a boy afraid he'll say the wrong thing on his first date. While performing, he exhibits more ease, more cool.
"I think I'm the same on stage and off stage," Ray said. "I'm probably more at home on stage. I don't know why I should feel that way. You are limited on stage. You say one line and it's got to be right. Off stage there's more freedom, but it's really the same. It's all a stage."
When Ray talks, you wonder if he isn't saving all his wit and incisiveness for his songs. Like "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," Ray said. "It wasn't a person I was writing about, but a particular group of people, like the trendies. The ting that annoyed me is that they're not the only people like that. Everybody does things because other people do them, whether they think it's right or not. It's as broad a thing as that. Although it is good to use a thing like that about the clothes to hang the idea on."
Like other groups, the Kinks began by playing other people's songs. Then Ray began writing. "The first stuff I did for the group because people were trying to manufacture us into things," he said. "I thought if I was going to do other people's rubbish, I might as well do my own."
As he put it: "If I wanted to say something and got really worked up about it, people would laugh. They take the piss out of anyone who gets intense. If you can be smart and funny about it, somehow they listen to you and don't really argue. Then you put your point of view over with a certain amount of wit."
"I'm not very witty at all. I feel intensely about a lot of things but it might come out in a funny sounding way. If you can make a funny song and then have one very hard line, you reach people. That's just a construction thing."
Arthur, the Kink's latest album, is actually the score for a musical play Davies and Julian Temple wrote for European television. Said Ray: "All of the songs are connected and part of the story. At the same time we tried to make the album stand up on its own without the music."
Now Ray is working on a screenplay for a film and says several people in Britain are interested in producing it. He thinks that rock music definitely has a place in film or in theater. "You've got to find something that your audience can relate to," he said. "Like when they used Simon and Garfunkel's music for The Graduate rather than a complicated score. That's a step in the right direction."
Loraine Alterman, Rolling Stone Magazine, 12/18/69