This is my second week participating in the Monday’s Music Moves Me blog hop. It’s a “Freebie” week which means we don’t have to follow a specific theme and instead can choose whatever music we want to feature. I say Let’s Get Kinky with a time-capsule set of The Kinks!
The Kinks were an English rock band formed in North London in 1964 by brothers Ray and Dave Davies. They are regarded as one of the most important and influential rock bands of the era. The band emerged during the height of British rhythm and blues and Merseybeat and they were briefly part of the British Invasion of the US until their touring ban in 1965.
The group opened 1965 with their first tour of Australia and New Zealand, with Manfred Mann and the Honeycombs. An intensive performing schedule saw them headline other package tours throughout the year with acts such as the Yardbirds and Mickey Finn. Tensions began to emerge within the band, expressed in incidents such as the on-stage fight between Avory and Dave Davies at The Capitol Theatre, Cardiff, Wales in May that year. After finishing the first song, “You Really Got Me”, Davies insulted Avory and kicked over his drum set. Avory responded by hitting Davies with his hi-hat stand, rendering him unconscious, before fleeing from the scene, fearing that he had killed his bandmate. Davies was taken to Cardiff Royal Infirmary, where he received 16 stitches to his head. To placate the police, Avory later claimed that it was part of a new act in which the band members would hurl their instruments at each other.
Following a mid-year tour of the United States, the American Federation of Musicians refused permits for the group to appear in concerts there for the next four years, effectively cutting off the Kinks from the main market for rock music at the height of the British Invasion. Although neither the Kinks nor the union gave a specific reason for the ban, at the time it was widely attributed to their rowdy on-stage behavior. It has been reported that an incident when the band was taping Dick Clark’s TV show Where The Action Is in 1965 led to the ban. Ray Davies recalls in his autobiography, “Some guy who said he worked for the TV company walked up and accused us of being late. Then he started making anti-British comments. Things like ‘Just because the Beatles did it, every mop-topped, spotty-faced limey juvenile thinks he can come over here and make a career for himself” following which a punch was thrown and the AFM banned them.”
After a fallow period in the mid-1970s, the band experienced a revival during the late 1970s and early 1980s with albums Sleepwalker (1977), Misfits (1978), Low Budget (1979), Give the People What They Want (1981) and State of Confusion (1983). In addition, groups such as Van Halen, the Jam, the Knack, the Pretenders and the Fall covered their songs, helping to boost the Kinks’ record sales. The Kinks broke up in 1996, a result of the commercial failures of their last few albums and creative tension between the Davies brothers. Ray Davies (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Dave Davies (lead guitar, vocals) remained members throughout the group’s 32-year run.
The following are my favorite Kinks songs, presented in order of release dates:
You Really Got Me – written by Ray Davies, “You Really Got Me” was released in August 1964 as the group’s third single, and reached number one on the UK singles chart the next month, remaining for two weeks. The song became the group’s breakthrough hit; it established them as one of the top British Invasion acts in the United States, reaching number seven there later in the year. “You Really Got Me” was later included on the Kinks’ debut album, Kinks.
The lyrics of the song are about lust and sex. Dave Davies said of the song’s lyrics, “‘You Really Got Me’ [is] such a pure record, really. It’s a love song for street kids. They’re not going to wine and dine you, even if they knew how to chat you up. [They say] ‘I want you—come here.'”
The song was covered by American rock band Van Halen in 1978 for their debut album Van Halen, reaching the Billboard Top 40. As the band’s first single, it was a popular radio hit which helped jump-start the band’s career, as it had done for the Kinks 14 years earlier. This version, which was cited by Eddie Van Halen as an “updated” version of the original, featured “histrionic” guitar playing by Eddie Van Halen and “vocal shenanigans” by David Lee Roth. The song had been played by the band live for years before its studio release. On the radio, it is often featured with “Eruption”, the instrumental that precedes it on the album, as an intro. (I’ve included a video of Van Halen’s version at the end of this post).
The following video shows a very early Kinks, performing in 1965 on the show Shindig! Shindig! was an American musical variety series which aired on ABC from September 16, 1964 to January 8, 1966.
All Day and All of the Night – “All Day and All of the Night” is a song from 1964. It reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 7 on Billboard’s US chart in 1965. The song was released on the American studio album Kinks-Size.
Tired of Waiting for You – “Tired of Waiting for You” was a 1965 hit. The song was released as a single in January 1965 in the UK and in February 1965 in the US. It then appeared on their second studio album Kinda Kinks.
According to Ray Davies, the music for “Tired of Waiting for You” was written on the train to the recording studio and the words were written at a coffee shop during a break in the session.
“Tired of Waiting for You” was written before “All Day and All of the Night,” but “All Day and All of the Night” was released first due to its similarities to the band’s first UK hit, “You Really Got Me.”
It reached No.1 on both the UK Singles Chart and Melody Maker, becoming the band’s second UK chart-topper since “You Really Got Me.” The single also reached No. 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100, the highest charting Kinks single in the US until the band’s 1983 hit “Come Dancing” tied it.
Here’s another television performance on the British show Shindig! appearing on July 7, 1965:
Where Have All the Good Times Gone – written by Ray Davies, it was first released as the B-side to “Till the End of the Day,” and was then included on their album The Kink Kontroversy in 1965 (1966 in the US).
Ray Davies said, “We’d been rehearsing ‘Where Have All the Good Times Gone’ and our tour manager at the time, who was a lot older than us, said, ‘That’s a song a 40-year-old would write. I don’t know where you get that from.’ But I was taking inspiration from older people around me. I’d been watching them in the pubs, talking about taxes and job opportunities.”
Lola – This is probably my favorite Kinks song. The song details a romantic encounter between a young man and a possible transgender woman, whom he meets in a club in Soho, London. In the song, the narrator describes his confusion towards a person named Lola who “walked like a woman and talked like a man”. Although Ray Davies claims that the incident was inspired by a true encounter experienced by the band’s manager, alternate explanations for the song have been given by drummer Mick Avory.
The song was released in June 1970. Commercially, the single reached number two on the UK Singles Chart and number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. Due to its controversial subject matter and use of the brand name Coca-Cola, the single received backlash and even bans in Britain and Australia. The single version (mono) used the words “cherry cola” while the album version (stereo) uses the name “Coca-Cola”. The track has since become one of The Kinks’ most iconic and popular songs
This video features a 1970 performance on Britain’s Top of the Pops television show:
Celluloid Heroes – written by lead vocalist and principal songwriter Ray Davies, the song debuted on the Kinks 1972 album Everybody’s in Show-Biz.
The song names several famous actors of 20th century film, and also mentions Los Angeles’s Hollywood Boulevard, alluding to its Hollywood Walk of Fame. The actors mentioned are Greta Garbo, Rudolph Valentino, Bela Lugosi, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, George Sanders, and Mickey Rooney
Here’s a cool video I found on YouTube:
Sleepwalker – another of my favorites. Written by Ray Davies, “Sleepwalker” is the debut single from The Kinks’ 1977 album of the same name. Here’s a great 1977 performance but the video embedding was disabled so you’ll have to jump over to the YouTube site to check it out. But do go. It’s worth it! https://youtu.be/NC5BR3RL6ug
If you’d rather stay here and just listen to a studio version of the song, here you go:
Father Christmas – This 1977 single is one of my holiday favorites. It tells of a department store Father Christmas who is beaten up by a gang of poor kids who tell him to give them money instead of toys, as toys are impractical; and asks that the toys be given “to the little rich boys.” At one point, a child asks the narrator to give his/her father a job for Christmas—or, if he must deliver a toy, a machine gun.
A Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy – “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” is the lead single and fourth track from The Kinks’ 1978 album Misfits. Written by Ray Davies, the song was inspired by the band’s then-tumultuous state at the time, with two members leaving the band during the recording of Misfits. Released as the first single from the album, the track was the band’s most successful single in years, peaking at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Low Budget – “Low Budget” is the sixth track of the Kinks 1979 album of the same name. Recorded in January 1979, it describes a man giving up his “expensive tastes” in order to save money. Like many of the tracks on Low Budget, it applies to the economic troubles occurring during the time that the album was released, such as strikes in Great Britain (and the gas and oil crisis in the US). However, AllMusic’s Richard Gilliam claimed that the track’s theme could “easily apply to just about any modern recession.”
Although “Low Budget” refers to economic problems of the times in general, it also refers to some of Ray Davies’ own personal concerns. In the song, Davies mocks his own fear of not having money and his frugality. The song also references Davies’ vanity. The singer describes himself as once being well dressed and able to afford cigars, but now has to buy discount clothes and chew mints. He describes himself as “a cut-price person in a low-budget land.” But despite being reduced to poverty, the singer expresses pride in his hair and his teeth. Author Thomas Kitts notes that even the title, used in the refrain “I’m on a low budget” could refer to Davies keeping himself on a tight budget.
Here are The Kinks performing live in Providence, Rhode Island on September 23, 1979:
Destroyer – “Destroyer” was written by Ray Davies and released as a track on the group’s nineteenth album Give the People What They Want in August 1981. It was the album’s lead single in the US. In 1982, the single reached #3 on the Billboard Rock Top Tracks chart and #85 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It was not released as a single in the UK and was available only when the album was released there in January 1982. (The album’s lead single in the UK was “Better Things”).
The song features many callbacks to previous Kinks songs, both lyrically and musically. The track borrows the main riff from The Kinks’ 1964 song, “All Day and All of the Night”, one of the band’s first hits. The lyrics are a continuation of The Kinks’ 1970 hit song, “Lola”, about a transgender individual. In “Destroyer”, the protagonist of the song becomes paranoid after taking Lola back to his place.
Come Dancing – “Come Dancing” was a 1983 hit single in both the US and the UK, the track was included on the album State of Confusion. The song is a nostalgic look back at childhood memories of its writer: the Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies, remembering his older sister going on dates to the local Palais dance hall where big bands would play. The lyrics tell how the Palais has been demolished and his sister now has her own daughters who are going on dates. Great video!
Living On a Thin Line – “Living on a Thin Line” is a track written by Dave Davies for The Kinks’ 1984 album Word of Mouth. It has been praised as being on of Dave Davies greatest songs. I really like this song.
“Living on a Thin Line” is one of two songs on Word of Mouth written by Dave Davies (the other being “Guilty”). Davies said, in his biography Kink, that the track was influenced by The Kinks’ long and difficult career, along with his hatred toward politicians. The song’s lyrics compare the barbaric times of medieval England to today, saying that “inside we’re the same as we ever were”.
The song, despite not having much commercial success, has become a fan-favorite. The track has also been played three times in the American TV show The Sopranos’ 2001 episode “University.” Producer Terence Winter has said that it is the series’ most asked about song.
Now if this hasn’t been enough Kink, let’s get a little more kinky: Here is Van Halen’s cover of “You Really Got Me” – in a 1980 performance:
Have yourself a very kinky week…
This is a Blog Hop! Be sure to drop by the other participants blogs and check out their Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) posts!