You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks by Nick Hasted
|You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks by Nick Hasted|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: A biography of one of Britain's most long-lasting bands, with an equal focus on the members' lives, their music, and Ray Davies's songwriting.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: June 2011|
|Publisher: Omnibus Press|
People in America talk about 'The Beatles, the Stones, The Who.' For me it's 'The Beatles, the Stones, The Kinks.' Those words, quoted in the book, are those of Pete Townshend of The Who himself. He is certainly not alone in his verdict that, at the height of the swinging sixties in Britain, the Muswell Hill quartet were No 3 in the premier music league. Patchy chart success since their heyday has done nothing to diminish their reputation, or that of leader Ray Davies as one of the most gifted British songwriters of the last fifty years.
I had previously read two very well-researched biographies of the Kinks some years ago, both published around the time they were coming to the end of their chequered career. Hasted's account follows the story through to the present day, when it is recognized that their songs are now firmly part of our musical heritage.
All bands can be pretty volatile at the best of times, but the Kinks were so explosive that in retrospect it seems astonishing they lasted for over three decades. The author takes us through the beginnings, of the Davies' family upbringing, through Ray and Dave's teenage years until the Ravens became the Kinks and shot to fame with 'You Really Got Me'. From there, it is a fascinating but sometimes poignant tale.
There were many creative conflicts, and fights onstage,notably one in 1965 when drummer Mick Avory, goaded beyond endurance, hurled a cymbal at the increasingly provocative Dave Davies onstage one night, feared he had decapitated him and literally fled the venue in order to avoid what they feared could be a possible charge of manslaughter. There were nervous and marital breakdowns, tales of drink and drug abuse, heart scares, overdoses, and at least one suicide attempt. More recently Dave has suffered a stroke, and though recording again has not yet been given medical permission to play live again. Original bassist Peter Quaife, a stabilizing influence during the early days, soon found his role in the band impossible, left in 1968 and died in 2010 after years of ill-health. Ray was shot in the leg in 2004 and has yet to make a complete recovery.
Yet these are the negative aspects, and it would be less than just to focus on the positive side. The group would not have outlasted most of their contemporaries as a creative force had the talent not been there in the first place. It was significant that the ever-eclectic Ray Davies grew up listening not only to blues and rock'n'roll, but also the great musicals, and the likes of Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. Hasted devotes considerable attention to some of the most important songs, and not just 'You Really Got Me' itself. He tells us that the last of the early riff-driven singles, 'Till The End Of The Day', which Ray is on record as having named as his favourite of the band's 45s, examines 'A Well Respected Man', the one which really changed their direction to social commentary and satire, and 'Dedicated Follower Of Fashion', originally written in white hot anger as a diatribe against ultra-trendies – but which turned out to be more of a George Formby song for the 1960s. Much later on, there is a detailed look at how 'Come Dancing', their last glorious burst of Top 20 success in 1983, came about through his childhood and family memories. It is rather ironic in view of the fact that, towards the late 60s, Ray told his appalled record company that they were going to concentrate on albums as he was no longer interested in writing hit singles, hence the failure of the poorly-promoted but now justly revered 1968 album 'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society'.
The ups and downs, the obsession with concept albums, particularly the 'Preservation' project which led the other members to complain that the band had been turned into an amateur dramatic society, and the constant love-hate relationship between the Davies brothers, are chronicled vividly in these pages. Ray Davies' often contradictory personality is portrayed well, a man who admits he was a socialist who became successful and it made a lie out of what I was, a man who said a prayer on the day that Labour leader John Smith died as he was concerned about what would happen to England, yet a man noted for his wistful evocations in song of a more harmonious England which used to be in the 20th century but is gone, never to return. Perhaps we should be grateful that they were banned from touring the USA for some years after a disastrous 1965 stateside episode, otherwise some of those ultra-English songs might never have been written.
I was fascinated by every page, yet though I thought I had followed the band fairly knowledgeably, I still learnt a good deal – more than just the hitherto little-known fact that Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel fame is a cousin of the Davies brothers. Hasted has spoken to Ray, Dave, and several former members, and presented us with a perceptive portrait that – apart from the lack of an index – is unlikely to be bettered. The photos are well chosen, especially a poignant one showing the four original members at a hall of fame induction in 2005 – the last time they would ever meet.
Just to convince you that the book isn't too desperately serious throughout, let me leave you with a picture of The Kinks on tour in the US in 1970. One of their managers was lecturing some of them for behaving badly and getting a reputation for being total imbeciles. They were suitably contrite until keyboard player John Gosling, nicknamed 'the Baptist' because of his long hair and faintly Biblical appearance, burst in – having just come back from a joke shop, wearing a Viking helmet and brandishing a Viking horn. End of managerial lecture.
If you enjoyed this, you will probably also like You Never Give Me Your Money: The Battle for the Soul of the Beatles by Peter Doggett.
You can read more book reviews or buy You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks by Nick Hasted at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks by Nick Hasted at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.