A few years ago, I spent a week decorating at Baxter Towers. As per usual when undertaking this torture, I had a selection of CDs primed up to make the undercoating and cutting in etc. slightly more bearable.
Only I found that by the end of the Monday of that week, I only played the one CD. It contained 24 tracks by The Kinks, and each song was as good as the one before. Hit and hit after hit.
So good in fact that it was all I listened to for most of DIY week in the end. That master wordsmith, the one and only Ray Davies, penned the majority of the tracks contained within.
The cleverness of the lyrical content allied to the instantly catchy tunes all contributed to a body of work in the 1960s that in my humble opinion rival that of any of his contemporaries.
I often think, that back then, if asked, I’m sure young Ray could have written a number one song based on my mums shopping list.
‘All human life is here.’ Time and gain he writes three minute plays really more than songs, the majority of which contain an opening scene, a middle section and a closing scene that neatly bundles everything in the end. Throw in almost music hall approach to the tunes and, well you have The Kinks, God bless him.
Raymond Douglas Davies was born on June 21st 1944 in the Muswell Hill area of London, one of eight kids born to parents Fred and Annie.
Whilst studying art at Hornsey College, he began to explore the world of music and played at a variety of pick up gigs with various line-ups, as he developed his chops. From the Ramrods to the Ravens to finally The Kinks, thought to be a reference to the way they looked and what they wore at the time. Whatever it was, the name garnered them some publicity. Fame through outrage.
‘I never liked the name’ Ray said later.
The final line up was finally in place, with Mick Avory on drums, Pete Quaife on bass and Ray’s brother Dave on lead guitar. They landed a record deal with the Pye label in 1964 and quickly broke through with the all time classic single ‘You Really Got Me.’
The gap toothed grin of Ray and the outlandish outfits and haircuts of brother Dave, mean the brothers are regulars in the music papers and pop magazines of the day.
His relationship with Dave is one of myths and legends, brothers who love and hate each other in equal measure and the dynamics of which, only brothers can really understand. Needless to say, it was volatile at best.
The list of songs from that golden period just go on and on. Here are just a few of your correspondent’s personal highlights. ‘Set Me Free’ ‘I Go To Sleep’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’ ‘A Well respected Man’ Dead End Street’ ‘David Watts’ ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ ‘Waterloo Sunset’ ‘Dandy’ ‘Picture Book’ ‘Lola’ and ‘Days’
Obviously, I could go on and on and no doubt, I’ve missed off one or two classics, but space limits a full discography. Anyway you get the point…
The Kinks limped along for many a year after their 60s heyday, but in truth, despite the occasional highlight never quite reaching the heights of that glorious decade.
Ray published his autobiography ‘X-Ray’ in early 1995 and continues to record and perform as a solo artist and it is fair to say the respect for his craft is universal from the generation of recording stars who followed in his wake.
He became Sir Ray in the New Years honours list of 2017 for ‘services to the arts’ and ART to my mind, is what he produced.
From being a keen student of all things Sixties, I know that the job of continually turning out this amount of fine work, on a very regular basis, took a heavy toll on him and his personal life, but thankfully he is still with us and long may that continue.
The Mumper of SE5