Phil Capone salutes the guitar style of a hugely influential and pioneering group that continues to inspire musicians and songwriters 50 years on.
were one of the most important bands of the 60s. However, ascent to fame was not a given; their first two singles, Long Tall Sally ( a Little Richard cover) and You Still Want Me ( an early Ray Davies composition) were, to put it bluntly, complete flops that failed to chart. The band’s career could easily have ended there; they desperately needed chart success to avoid being dropped by their unimpressed record company, Pye Records. In August 1964, the band released their critical third single, a song that would change their fortunes overnight. You Really Got Me achieved the coveted Number 1 spot in the UK, plus a top ten hit in the all- important USA charts. This established them as a force to be reckoned with, not just in the UK, but also as one of the principal British Invasion groups, second only to The Beatles.
You Really Got Me is widely recognised as being one of the first songs to be based on a power chord riff, so it was an important milestone in the evolution of rock guitar. Dave Davies achieved his distorted sound not by using a fuzz box as Keith Richards would for Satisfaction the following year, but by slashing the speaker cone of his tiny Elpico amplifier! As Dave explained in the late 90s: “I was getting really bored with this guitar sound – or lack of an interesting sound – and there was this radio- spares shop up the road, and they had a little green amplifier in there next to the radios… it was an Elpico. I twiddled around with it and didn't know what to do, so I started to get really frustrated and I said, “I know! I’ll fix you!” I got a single- sided Gillette razorblade and cut round the cone so it was all shredded but still on there, still intact. I played and I thought it was amazing, really freaky. I felt like an inventor!”
Despite his accomplished soloing style and pioneering riff work, Dave Davies has never been recognised as one of the British ‘ heavyweights’ of guitar like his peers Clapton, Beck or Page. This was partly due to the incredible success of his elder brother's songwriting talents, but also because The Kinks were, and still are, perceived as being a
The Kinks' back catalogue is testament to Dave Davies' rare talent as a guitar player to transform a great song into a pop masterpiece.
‘ pop’ group. Unlike The Beatles and The Stones, who had both managed to shift their product focus ( and fan base) from singles to albums by the late 60s, The Kinks’ biggest successes were always in the singles charts.
However, there’s no denying that Dave’s guitar style defined the quintessential 60s guitar sound. Could you imagine You Really Got Me or All Day And All Of The Night without their iconic riffs, or Waterloo Sunset without those wistful guitar lines woven indelibly into the song’s fabric? Dave was constantly striving for the perfect guitar sound, and there’s no denying that The Kinks’ back catalogue is testament to his rare talent as a guitar player who could transform a great song into a pop masterpiece.
Brothers Dave and Ray Davies, quite probably miming to Lola