“I AM A GENUINE OUTSIDER,” The Kinks’ Ray Davies tells MOJO magazine this month. “I find it difficult to integrate with society.”
It’s a contrariness that makes Davies’ music unlike anyone else’s, and has motivated a stubborn and individualistic refusal to kowtow to the demands or expectations of the music business, then and now – sometimes (OK, often) to the commercial detriment of himself and his group.
You can see it in many of the Kinks and Ray solo performances collected below, from the compelling weirdness of Davies’ early-doors execution of Slim Harpo’s Got Love If You Want It, to the daring honesty of his 2006 song, After The Fall, and the recusant philosophy of a brand new number – Poetry, from his forthcoming album, titled Americana.
It’s the essence – along with the simply extraordinary tunes – of what makes The Kinks and Ray the original cult artists of the rock era.
“You don’t consider yourself pop stars?” the Kinks were asked on America’s Clay Cole TV show in 1965. “We’re more impressionists,” replied Ray.
Impressionists doing a more than passable impersonation of genius.
1. The Kinks – Got Love If You Want It
Ace clip from the dawn of the band. Check the hanky on Mick Avory’s snare, the groovy girls dancing and Ray’s pseudo nervous breakdown from 1.07. And the freakout ending! Wow!
2. The Kinks – You Really Got Me
A more exciting rock’n’roll record has never existed and maybe never will. But behind the scenes, as Ray relates in the latest MOJO magazine, shows like this Shindig one in 1965 were fraught with awkwardness.
3. The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon
In the snow?
4. The Kinks – Lola
This performance is from 1972 on Germany’s fantastic Beat Club TV show. Quiet start. Amazing outfits.
5. The Kinks – Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues
Was this song meant to be humorous or was there madness in his method? Here, in a 1973 BBC concert, Ray’s at his most intense and strange, as the band take it from North London to New Orleans on this key track from Muswell Hillbillies.
6. Ray Davies Interview 1977
A brilliant example of the kind of approach to promotion that America found so offputting – and yet The Kinks were on the rise and their Sleepwalker album was their first Top 30 US album since their debut. Ray points at Dave: “We’re divorced at the moment.” Dave appears to mouth: “Arsehole.” And just look at Tony Bennett’s hair.
7. The Kinks – All Day And All Of The Night
This 1979, Providence, Rhode Island set epitomises why The Kinks ended the ’70s so strongly in the States: kinetic showmanship, hard rock dynamics, audience engagement. It was as if the band were making up for lost time.
8. Ray Davies & Damon Albarn – Waterloo Sunset
On UK TV show The White Room in 1995, Britpop’s debt to Godfather Ray’s melodic facility and observational poetry is laid bare. Ray’s phrasing here is wonderful.
9. Ray Davies – After The Fall
A heartbreaking song from Ray’s 2006 album, Other People’s Lives, that grasps for the meaning of life and comes up short. God doesn’t care – perhaps on a good day it seems worth it, for a bit. Typical Ray Davies.
10. Ray Davies – Poetry
Taster from the Kinks Kommander’s excellent new album surveys a world manipulated and degraded by commerce. “Where’s the poetry?” he asks, quite reasonably. Not crazy after all, then.
RAY DAVIES IS ON THE COVER Of MOJO 280, WHICH FEATURES AN EXCLUSIVE FREE CD RE-COVERING THE KINKS’ CLASSIC 1967 ALBUM, SOMETHING ELSE. FIND OUT MORE.