Before his 18th birthday Dave Davies had played guitar on 3 records which made the Top 10 of the charts around the world. The first of these has a monstrous, instantly recognisable riff . “You Really Got Me” is, according to Rolling Stone, the 4th greatest guitar song. It is a keystone in the origins of metal, hard rock & punk. The Kinks needed a hit record, time & money were in short supply. Dave, dissatisfied with the sound he was getting, hooked a little green Elpico amp into his set-up. He sliced the speaker cone with a razor blade (as you do) & rock history was made. There is a song about it on Dave’s brand new record.
That is great stuff. “Little Green Amp”, a rifftastic reflection on the best band to come out of Muswell Hill.
Ah the mythology of the Kinks…Jimmy Page played on “Y.R.G.M.” (maybe, but not the solo), the personal animus between them so pronounced that 3 of the 4 originals could play together for just the 20 years (that fight one night in Cardiff MUST be mentioned). The sibling rivalry which strangled creativity. Ray Davies wrote over 30 of the best songs you have ever heard & his younger brother improved many of them with distinctive & sympathetic guitar accompaniment. Lazy journalism ? Not for the first time…or probably the last.
Boorish behaviour & breakdowns did not help the Kinks but a ban on working in the US hit them the hardest. Refused permits by the American Federation of Musicians for 4 years, a golden run of mature, idiosyncratic 45s were not hits in the US. “Waterloo Sunset”, once described by critic Robert Christgau as “the most beautiful song in the English language” did not bother the compilers of the Billboard Hot 200 ! In 1967, with that record heading the soundtrack of a memorable Summer, Dave Davies showed out to start a solo thing.
Dandy Dave’s first time around, “Death Of A Clown”, a dense, Dylanesque drawling bit of folk-rock was a big hit. It was taken from the Kinks LP “Something Else” & plans for a solo LP were made. “Susannah’s Still Alive” is a great follow-up but there were diminishing returns, the LP was never completed. It may have been that Dave’s confidence was affected when his songs were not as successful as his big brother’s. I think that Dave Davies is a very talented guy whose major contribution to the long history of the Kinks is to be celebrated. The solo LP that never was ? Forget about it.
You will not be surprised to learn that I have a couple of thoughts about the Kinks, their place in the hierarchy of British rock & why their songs of English tea, trains & transvestites did not sell a squillion records (the last one did but let’s not spoil the alliteration). Another time yeah but while we are in the neighbourhood it would make sense to kick back & enjoy this.
“Till The End Of the Day” is the last great garage rock-out by the Kinks before “Dedicated Follower” began a run of laconic, individual commentaries on post-war Britain. This live clip shows just what Dave brought to the sound & the spirit of the band. The way that he blows his entry into that killer solo not only doesn’t matter but makes the thing rougher & better…go on !
Dave Davies did finally complete 3 solo LPs in the early 1980s, there was a 20 year gap & with the release of “I Will Be Me” this week there are 3 more. He unfortunately suffered a stroke in 2004 but, after a couple of years, was walking, talking & playing guitar again. A recent BBC documentary showed him to be a lovely man with a dry humour about his long career. His solo records are unlikely to become as iconic as tose made with the little green amp but it’s certainly good that he is still around.