At the cheesy affairs that were otherwise known as school discos, whenever You Really Got Me by the Kinks was put on the turntable, the dance floor would clear and Big Roger would appear and proceed to dance a frenzied stomp that defied all description in menacing ever decreasing circles. The record would switch to Satisfaction by the Stones and Big Roger would up the tempo, if that was even possible, running the risk of shattering the dance floor and his tibia with his movements.
Years later I was drinking in the work social club on the first day of my new job wondering what the hell I was doing. The news editor, who had told me "the most important thing we do here is have fun," was slumped gloomily over a pint of heavy, suggesting today's paper was "utter shite." He seemed less than impressed that I had failed to grasp the intricacies of local government reorganization on my first day on the job.
Then a strange thing happened. Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks came on and suddenly my morose mustachioed boss was transformed. coming over all misty eyed at some memory related to the song that I didn't want to know about.
Although The Kinks were in their heyday some time before me, these episodes illustrated how they had a habit of appearing in my life. The Kinks can be like that. The band was mould breaking and anyone familiar with The Kinks has a favorite track.
The Kinks were labelled a "British invasion" band in the US. The band was formed in 1964 by brothers Ray and Dave Davies in Muswell Hill, London. It seems Ray and Dave had the kind of parents we all wished for but so few of us got. In the unpromisingly suburban surroundings of north London, Frederick and Annie Davies held all night rock and roll parties that inspired their offspring to form a band.
The band was originally called The Ravens but changed their name to The Kinks in 1963. Manager Robert Wace recalled a friend had advised him the risque name would be a good way of getting publicity. Band members were horrified about a name that suggested they were in some way deviant. "I've never really liked the name," Ray stated.
You Really Got Me in was released in 1964. It was boosted by a performance on the television show Ready Steady Go. It reached number one in the UK and number 10 in the US.
The Kinks acquired something of a reputation for on stage rowdiness afer an incident in Cardiff in 1965 in which Dave Davies insulted the drummer Mick Avory and kicked over his drum set. Avory hit Davies with his hi-hat stand, leaving him unconscious, before fleeing from the scene, fearing that he had killed him. Davies received 16 stitches to his head at the hospital.
Such behavior may explain why the American Federation of Musicians refused permits for the group to appear in US concerts for four years.
In the 1965 record See My Friends written by Ray Davies the band integrated Indian raga sounds into their music before the Beatles did the same thing. Later the band took on an increasingly theatrical aspect, which also has parallels with The Beatles.
The 1967 record Waterloo Sunset is one of the most enduring tracks from The Kinks. The dreamy feel of the track has always appealed to me. Waterloo station is a vast terminus surrounded by decay and disorder, tower blocks and ring roads. Waterloo Sunset hints at escapism and loneliness in the vastness of London.
The song describes two lovers walking over a bridge, with a melancholic observer reflecting on the them. The song was rumoured to have been inspired by the romance between actors Terence Stamp and Julie Christie. Ray Davies denied this in his autobiography, and later said: "It was a fantasy about my sister going off with her boyfriend to a new world and they were going to emigrate and go to another country."
By 1973 there was little romance left between Ray Davies and his wife Rasa, who took their children and left him. The lead singer's depression led to a public outburst during a gig in London where a reviewer said he he swore that he was "sick of the whole thing'. ... He was "sick up to here with it. "At the end of the show he declared he was quitting, kissed Dave Davies on the cheek and collapsed from a drug overdose.
The incident clearly provided a decent scoop for the reporter from Melody Maker. Fortunately, Davies lived but The Kinks faded out like the bittersweet melody of Waterloo Sunset, although their legacy lived on in numerous bands who re-recorded their songs.
Curious fact about The Kinks - in the early 1960s they tried out a number of vocalists including Rod Stewart, who was unknown at the time.