The Kinks are likely the most important British Invasion band that most folks remember only slightly, if even at that. They were quite good, but completely different from the BIG THREE (The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones) in that they just never seemed to get things completely right. I mean no disrespect to them by that statement.
I really like that band! The problem with them was that they never really penetrated the American psyche like the previously mentioned ones did, although they DID have lots of hits. I guess that part of it was because they did not have quite the level of genius in writing that The Beatles had, nor the outstanding musicianship that at least three of the four of The Who had, or the showmanship mastery (and good writing) that The Rolling Stones had.
Before we start, a little housekeeping. I have not mentioned for a long while that I have not bought a pack of cigarettes since 2008. I DO smoke cigarettes, but am very happy with my Prince Albert tobacco and Top papers. In the coming weeks I plan to ration them, cutting down my cigarette intake from ad libitum now to 20 next week, and two fewer per day per week until I quit. I offer solidarity for any reader who needs just that bit of impetus to begin to quit, and hope that any who are ready to quit assist me here, and on Pique the Geek, in the comments for encouragement.
With that said, The Kinks were more than anything a collaboration by two brothers, Dave and Ray Davies. Dave (David Russell Gordon Davies) was born 19470203 (happy just now belated birthday to him!) in London and was one of the singers and the lead guitarist for the band. He is still with us, just now turning 64, about which Sir Paul wrote. His brother, Ray (Raymond Douglas Davies) was born 19440621, so he is a few years older. He is also still with us. He is also what we Americans call "knighted" being a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). That is pretty cool.
United States citizens can NEVER be knighted, unless that person renounces her or his citizenship. However, because of the very close relationship that the UK and the US has, honorary knighthood is possible, but not the full one that British citizens can enjoy. Actually, it is just sort of an honorary title, with no money nor anything else, but a nifty sort of recognition for contributions.
The Kinks formed in 1964, somewhat later than the BIG THREE, mostly from pillow talk betwixt the brothers. I mean no sexual innuendo by this statement, but all of you with siblings of the same sex near the same age know that they often sleep in the same room and spin their dreams to each other. Dave and Ray did more: the made them come to life. By the way, they had SIX sisters!
At their secondary school, William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School, they formed a high school band that included another pimply faced guy by the name of Pete Quaife (He died 20100623). This was in 1962, and they had several other artists play and sing with them. One that you might remember is Rod Stewert! Nicky Hopkins from Quicksilver Messenger Service also did some session with them.
Now is where it gets interesting. Around the same time, in the 1963 to 1964 timeframe, an American record producer by the name of Shel Talmy inked deals with both the Davies brothers and another upstart band, The Who. Talmy is still with us, and is sort of an ultimate a**hole. He took advantage of everyone with whom he worked, and I know well that if The Who had not gotten away from him that poverty would have been their outcome. Fortunately, Townshend proved to be way smarter than Talmy, and with the help of Kit Lambert and others was able to get out of a horribly punishing contract. Talmy is quite self aggrandizing, and often boasts about being in The Triple Nine Club, where folks who like to think of themselves of geniuses go to gloat. I suspect that Pete is in the five nines club!
Anyway, The Kinks got going commercially around 1964, around the same time as the BIG THREE came to the United States. Their other member was Michael Charles Avory (born 19440215, and still with us), who was the drummer. So here is the original lineup of The Ravens (soon to change their name to The Kinks before their first commercial release):
Ray Davies: lead songwriting, lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica, and some keyboards
Dave Davies: some songwriting, lead guitar, backup vocals, and occasional lead vocals
Mick Avory: percussion and drums, and
Pete Quaife: bass guitar and backup vocals
Note that I pushed the writing to the front where possible, because I truly believe that writing is the genesis of the creative process. Their first release was not well received.
It was a cover of Long Tall Sally, the Little Richard (Richard Penniman) hit. It did not go very far.
Here is a live version. Not very professional, but you can see that they were loving what they did.
Here is how it is supposed to be done:
By the way, this is one of the most covered songs in the history of R and B, and R and R. The Beatles covered it, Elvis Presley covered it, and lots of other big acts covered it.
Their next attempt was You Still Want Me. It was better, but had Talmy all over it. Yet, not a bad tune. Please tell me what you think. I could not find a live version of it, but notice that Dave's guitar was getting better.
Their third single got them noticed. The irony is that the covers, particularly the one by Van Halen (gag me with a spoon!) were bigger sellers. Here is You Really Got Me as it should be enjoyed. This appears to be quite live, with no lip sync. Notice that the girls in the audience are very likely now to be grandmums and even great grandmuns.
Here is another take:
This one might by synched. You tell me. Just one more:
In my opinion, this much later version is an exercise that is often called "trying to gild the lily". It was much better in its earlier versions, with the rawness, but that is just me.
Their next hit pretty much solidified their sound. It is called All Day and All of the Night, but most folks think that the title is Girl, I Want to be with You. Please enjoy the studio version now:
Here is a live version, and I think that it is actually live. Please tell me what you think:
This song pretty much was the drop forge for their sound. The previous ones had the same drive, but they were not satisfied with it. Just as I am not satisfied with my limited writing skills, they wanted to be better in their musical skills.
Their next hit was Tired of Waiting, still with the Talmy influence but less of it. It was a big hit in the UK, actually #1, and made #6 in the US. Here is a "live" version:
Now the studio version. This is an extremely poignant song, and the studio version hints at much boarder music that they finally attained, but not quite yet. I love this song, and every time I listen to it I get a bit teary eyed.
They had a bunch of songs after that, but this is getting too long. Their next big hit was Sunny Afternoon, a stark rebuke of the UK tax system that set the marginal tax rates at 95%. George Harrison wrote about the same thing for The Beatles in his excellently crafted song, Taxman.
I would not be Translator if I did not give my opinion on marginal tax rates, and here it is, for what it is worth. The current ones are OK, except for the highest income earners. It should be at least a 50% marginal rate for anyone making more than a million dollars per year, and the rate for capital gains and dividends should be one's top marginal rate as well. It is obscene that Warren Buffet pays a 15% rate (his income is mostly dividends and capital gains) and most working folks pay 20% or more.
Back to the show.
They had more minor hits until 1969, when Lola came out, so to speak. This was the first time that a band had actually written a song about a transsexual that made hit charts, and this one was in a good light. Now, The Who had written about masturbation before (Pictures of Lily), about sadistic things (Cousin Kevin), and even about child abuse (Uncle Ernie). But this was the first, to my knowledge, popular song to talk frankly about not only transsexuals, but actually loving a transsexual. This is a milestone, and good on them for doing it. I have friends whose son is essentially married to a post surgical transsexual. So here we go with the justly famous Lola!
That song was extremely daring for 1969 (this video is from 1970). Like Donovan, whom I wrote about a week or two ago, there were some extremely subtle lyrics about sex that most folks could not have had on AM radio at the time.
I pushed her away, I walked to the door, I fell to the floor, I got down on my knees...
I rest my case.
Here is a more recent rendition of Lola:
Interestingly, their last Top Ten in the US is my very favorite song of theirs. In late November 1970 the extremely wonderful Apeman hit the charts, and it was actually the first Kinks song that I ever heard (after that, I wanted to hear more), on the Fort Smith, Arkansas 100,000 watt FM station, KMAG. KMAG finally went to country and western, and for a long time people would use the term, "...when KMAG was really KMAG...".
Please, if any of you are inebriated enough, sing along with me.
One is not enough. Try this one as well.
We ALL LOVE the old 45 RPM vinyls! We are all apemen!
They sort of faded out after that one, sadly, but did have one more big US hit. Well, it was big for me. I LOVE that band. Actually they had two, this being the last. The one before is sort of going to be my goodnight to everyone.
That just did not have the feel that the second to last hit had. I hope that all of you remember this one.
Come Dancing was pretty much the last of them. That is sad, because I think that the brothers have several more things to say, just like Translator does as well.
I hope that you enjoyed visiting with this wonderful band and with me as well. It is a horrible burden to write Popular Culture, with the requirement of listening to great old songs and seeing vintage video! LOL! Please feel free to post any clips that you particularly like in the comments, and as always your thoughts are welcome.
Featured at TheStarsHollowGazette. Crossposted at Docudharma.com, and Antimedius.com