“We’ve wasted so much time be­ing an­gry at one an­other.”

Re­united for the Q Award-win­ning reis­sue of 1968’s The Kinks Are The Vil­lage Green Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety, Ray and Dave Davies join drum­mer Mick Avory and Q’s Tom Doyle to look back on the magic they cre­ated and the time that’s slipped through their fin­gers

Q (UK) - - The Kinks -

There’s been blood shed on that desk,” says Ray Davies, ges­tur­ing to­wards the mix­ing con­sole in Konk, the North Lon­don stu­dio where The Kinks made pretty much all of their records af­ter 1972. Q won­ders aloud whether he means metaphor­i­cal blood spilled in the name of artis­tic en­deav­our? Or… lit­er­ally? “Lit­er­ally,” he of­fers, in his whis­pery way, the hint of a smile play­ing on his lips. This room, it turns out, has been the scene of many a ruckus be­tween Ray and Dave Davies, the two war­ring brothers who led The Kinks. “I was fad­ing a track too quickly…” Ray grins, as he re­mem­bers the cause of the fra­cas, be­fore dis­solv­ing into si­lence him­self, the im­pli­ca­tion be­ing that Dave thumped him. “He’s pas­sion­ate about his mu­sic,” he shrugs. For his part, Dave Davies claims not to re­call this par­tic­u­lar incident. “Oh, there’s so many in­ci­dents over the years, I can’t re­mem­ber them all,” he chuck­les. “A lot of it’s been mis­ery. But a lot of it’s been to­tally amaz­ing. Peo­ple of­ten for­get the re­ally eu­phoric times. Y’know, the birth of songs. There’s so many ups as well. It doesn’t make very good head­lines: ‘Ray And Dave Get­ting On Re­ally Well.’” Two nights be­fore, at a gallery in cen­tral Lon­don, the three sur­viv­ing mem­bers of the clas­sic line-up of The Kinks – the Davies brothers, plus drum­mer Mick Avory (bassist Pete Quaife hav­ing passed away in 2010) – stood to­gether in the same room for the first time in 13 years, open­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion cel­e­brat­ing the half-cen­tury an­niver­sary of their 1968 al­bum, The Kinks Are The Vil­lage Green Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety. Two weeks later, they once again re­united to ac­cept the Clas­sic Al­bum gong for Vil­lage Green at the Q Awards. Twenty-two years af­ter they split for good in 1996, it looks as if The Kinks’ re­union is fi­nally on. Or is it? Ray Davies seemed to make the an­nounce­ment this sum­mer in an in­ter­view with Chan­nel 4 News, be­fore cagily re­tract­ing, say­ing the only planned re­union for them was to be in the pub. Was he jok­ing? “I didn’t say it as a joke,” he in­sists to­day. “I said, first of all, if the peo­ple get on… I don’t know if there’s any mu­sic. It’s im­por­tant.” He pauses. There’s some­thing on his mind. “Can you hold on a minute? There’s a song I’ve just re­mem­bered we didn’t re­lease…” And with that, he shuf­fles out of the room, pos­si­bly in search of some dusty old tape. At 74 years of age, Ray Davies is an even more semi-de­tached char­ac­ter than he fa­mously was in his youth. In­side his head – as he ad­mits upon his re­turn to the Konk mix­ing room – he’s con­stantly spin­ning plates: ideas for songs, books, mu­si­cals… “I’m kind of a strange bird,” he smiles. “Be­cause I ap­pear like there’s noth­ing hap­pen­ing, I’m not think­ing about any­thing. But I’m think­ing about 10 things at once.”

In the ’ 60s, The Kinks were al­ways out­siders. “We still are out­siders,” states Ray, his use of the present tense sug­gest­ing that he views the band as an on­go­ing af­fair. “Mis­fits. I think that’s maybe be­cause of me. My man­ager said I didn’t play the show­biz game.” Where their peers The Bea­tles were a shapeshift­ing cul­tural phe­nom­e­non and The Rolling Stones the liv­ing em­bod­i­ment of sex and drugs and rock’n’roll, The Kinks were a far more elu­sive propo­si­tion. Af­ter Dave Davies ef­fec­tively in­vented hard rock by slash­ing the speaker cone of his amp to pro­duce the thrillingly dis­torted gui­tar sound on You Re­ally Got Me, their 1964 UK Num­ber 1, The Kinks were banned from Amer­ica the fol­low­ing year due to a fall­out with an allpow­er­ful mu­si­cians’ union. Around the same time, Ray Davies be­gan pulling back from fame, re­al­is­ing that it was killing his pri­vacy. “I didn’t un­der­stand what it was like to be a pop star,” he says now. “I was the song­writer in a band. I never wanted to be the front­man. I thought Dave should’ve been the front­man. He’s a more up­front per­son. I’m kind of with­drawn. But as a kid I had

emo­tional is­sues… be­ing kind of dif­fi­cult. Not autis­tic. But there were no words to de­scribe peo­ple like me.” Stuck back in Bri­tain, from 1966 on, Davies be­came en­sconced in his house in North Lon­don’s Muswell Hill, writ­ing a peer­less run of Top 5 hit sin­gles: Ded­i­cated Fol­lower Of Fash­ion, Sunny Af­ter­noon, Dead End Street and, of course, the im­mac­u­late, reverie-in­duc­ing Water­loo Sun­set. “Some of the mu­sic didn’t go with our rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing rowdy,” Mick Avory points out. “Hav­ing fights and God knows what one minute. The next minute we were re­ally serene and do­ing these lovely, sweet songs.” Aged only 22, Ray Davies be­gan to buckle un­der the pres­sure to keep on writ­ing the hits. “I think the run [ of sin­gles] gave me a bit of a ner­vous break­down,” he says. “It gets you. Although Dave’s a good sound­ing board, ul­ti­mately, I’m alone writ­ing.” In their down­time, while Dave Davies and Mick Avory were off down to Soho, hang­ing with The Bea­tles and the Stones at leg­endary Kingly Street club the Bag O’Nails, Ray stayed at home. Does he re­gret that now? “What… not get­ting laid?” he grins. “I don’t think they washed the beer glasses there.” On the sur­face, the Davies brothers seemed to be com­plete op­po­sites. Ray was dis­tant, dreamy and some­times dif­fi­cult, whereas Dave fit­ted right into the ’ 60s scene, with his dandy-ish get-ups and fond­ness for in­tox­i­cants. But, pretty quickly, the shine be­gan to come off his late-night, carous­ing ways, as de­picted in his de­but 1967 solo sin­gle (which reached Num­ber 3), Death Of A Clown. “The song touches on that dis­il­lu­sion­ment,” he says. “Am I just a party piece for ev­ery­body’s amuse­ment?” Then, vir­tu­ally overnight, The Kinks seemed to be yes­ter­day’s news. The bril­liant Won­der­boy, their first sin­gle of 1968 (and John Len­non’s favourite record at the time), strug­gled to Num­ber 36. Think­ing the band

“Vil­lage Green is a very sexy al­bum. It’s about re­pressed sex.” Ray Davies

was over, Ray Davies wrote the beau­ti­ful, nos­tal­gic Days, ef­fec­tively say­ing good­bye to his mu­sic ca­reer. “I was fin­ished,” he says. “I didn’t care any more. So I thought, ‘Say good­bye nicely’, and wrote Days.” But yet he couldn’t stop writ­ing songs, ini­tially for a planned solo al­bum, which gen­tly mor­phed into The Kinks Are The Vil­lage Green Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety, an al­bum that in the febrile, protest-filled atmosphere of 1968 ini­tially came over as cutesy and old-fash­ioned – pin­ing for a dis­ap­pear­ing Eng­land of “vaude­ville and va­ri­ety”. Ray ar­gues that many have missed the point about the record. “Peo­ple don’t no­tice it, but Vil­lage Green is a very sexy al­bum,” he in­sists. “It’s about a lot of sex. [ Char­ac­ters such as] Mon­ica, Annabella… all these women that’ll bring you down, dis­grace you. Make you leave your wife and fam­ily for a lit­tle leg-over in the woods [ grins]. It’s about re­pressed sex.” Upon its re­lease, the record was a flop, sell­ing only an es­ti­mated 100,000 world­wide. In com­par­i­son, The Bea­tles’ White Al­bum, re­leased the same day, 22 Novem­ber 1968, shipped 3.3 mil­lion copies within four days in Amer­ica alone. Only in the ’ 90s was Vil­lage Green re­dis­cov­ered and widely touted in the time of Brit­pop as the quin­tes­sen­tial English al­bum. “Yeah, it took bloody long enough, didn’t it?” Dave Davies splut­ters. “Maybe next week they’ll say it was a load of shit [ laughs]. I al­ways thought it was a great al­bum.” “I wanted to make a record that I felt would stand the test of time, re­gard­less of its suc­cess,” his brother stresses. “And, lo and be­hold, here we are 50 years later talk­ing about it.”

In the story of The Kinks, much is al­ways made about the prob­lems that Ray and Dave Davies’ sib­ling ri­valry cre­ated for the band. But at the same time, grow­ing up, the two youngest boys in a fam­ily with six sis­ters, they were also in­cred­i­bly close. The band evolved out of the pair of them play­ing their gui­tars to­gether at home in Muswell Hill, and when, as a pop star, Ray moved into his own house close by, this ar­range­ment – sit­ting around, work­ing through songs – stayed the same. Both claim there is a psy­chic bond be­tween them. In the band they of­ten wouldn’t have to talk to ex­plain cer­tain things to one an­other… “He’s very tele­pathic, Dave,” says Ray. “Yeah,” says Dave. “It’s not weird, but it is

“Let bygones be bygones. Ray said, ‘Well, Monty Python have put it to­gether. They all hate John Cleese. Why let that stand in the way?’” Mick Avory

un­usual. We’ve had very many ex­pe­ri­ences like that. It’s a lot to do with trust. It opens up a flow of ideas. It acts like a chan­nel for all kinds of in­for­ma­tion and mu­sic and sto­ries.” “They’re their own peo­ple,” says Mick Avory, a man who knows the Davies brothers bet­ter than most, hav­ing had the per­haps im­pos­si­ble task of be­ing the bridge be­tween the two for decades. “They’re not like any­one else. They wrote a song called that [ 1966’ s I’m Not Like Ev­ery­body Else: writ­ten by Ray, sung by Dave]. It was very true, I thought.” In fact, it seems that the great­est bar­rier to a Kinks re-for­ma­tion in re­cent years has been a lin­ger­ing an­i­mos­ity be­tween the drum­mer and Dave Davies. This dates back to 1965, when Avory, on­stage in Cardiff and pig-sick of the guitarist, jumped out from be­hind his kit and smashed him in the head with the base of his hi-hat stand, split­ting Dave’s head open. “It was all stupid non­sense re­ally,” Avory laughs now. “He used to lose his tem­per quick. I don’t know what Dave was on… but some­thing. It all came to a head and if you re­tal­i­ate then it be­comes se­ri­ous.” “Mick had some sort of weird men­tal aber­ra­tion about some­thing,” Dave reck­ons. “It was a hor­ri­ble time. Y’know, it was stress­ful be­ing on tour and be­ing young. You’ve got no one to re­ally help you or ad­vise you. You’d get an­gry and up­set.” In­cred­i­bly, the story of the fight made the TV news. “The po­lice wanted to ar­rest him for as­sault,” Ray re­mem­bers, still clearly tick­led by the furore. “Very un-Mick. Usu­ally he gets it first blow. He had to have two hits.” Bassist Pete Quaife was the first to quit The Kinks, ini­tially in 1966 as he re­cov­ered from a car crash, and then fi­nally in April 1969, five months af­ter the re­lease of Vil­lage Green. “He used to do some strange things,” Avory re­calls. “It seemed like he was there to ag­gra­vate the oth­ers some­times. He’d been to school with them and [ laughs] he was prob­a­bly fed up of them.” Come 1969, The Kinks were al­lowed back into Amer­ica, though start­ing again at the bot­tom, play­ing sup­port slots on the col­lege cir­cuit for a com­par­a­tively pal­try $ 250 a night. Mak­ing up for lost time, they toured the States hard, and by the late ’ 70s had man­aged to get up to arena-fill­ing level. “I was acutely aware of the cost of com­ing back to Amer­ica,” says Ray. “Fam­i­lies break­ing up be­cause of the dis­tance. Hav­ing af­fairs on the road. Temp­ta­tion.” They may have been sell­ing out Madi­son Square Gar­den, but they weren’t al­to­gether happy. One song, A Rock’N’Roll Fan­tasy, from 1978 al­bum Mis­fits, as­sessed the state of the Davies brothers at the time, in what Ray has cited as a deeply per­sonal song about the sib­lings. “The song is about two guys,” he says now. “‘Shall we call it a day?’” The Kinks didn’t pack it in, how­ever, and drove on­wards. By 1984, though, Mick Avory had fi­nally had enough of Dave Davies. The drum­mer says he jumped ship. Ray re­mem­bers that he re­quired a gen­tle push: “The only way I could break it to him was, ‘You know you came for that au­di­tion in 1963?’ He says, ‘Yeah.’ I says, ‘You didn’t get it [ laughs].’”

For now, there seems to be an uneasy peace be­ing main­tained be­tween the Davies brothers and Avory. All are keen for a re­union to hap­pen, both in the stu­dio and on the stage. “We’ve got to come to some com­pro­mise,” says the drum­mer. “Let bygones be bygones. Ray said, ‘Well, Monty Python have put it to­gether. They all hate John Cleese. Why let that stand in the way?’” In the cre­ative pot, there are some songs that Ray and Dave wrote to­gether in the last few years to work on. A new Kinks al­bum in 2019 may well be­come a re­al­ity. Ray, mean­while, has also be­gun to dream up more sto­ries for the char­ac­ters in Vil­lage Green with a view to a staged “event” in­volv­ing the three Kinks play­ing to­gether for the first time in 35 years. Which begs the ques­tion: has time re­ally healed the old wounds that Ray Davies ( 74), Mick Avory ( 74) and Dave Davies ( 71) in­flicted on one an­other down the years? “They’re all healed up now,” Avory laughs. “There’s only men­tal scars.” “I think time makes it worse,” says Ray. “Be­cause you’ve wasted so much time be­ing an­gry at one an­other.” “You just get suc­cess­ful at ac­cept­ing peo­ple for what they are when you get older,” rea­sons Dave. “We’re ob­vi­ously very fond of each other. We’re very dif­fer­ent, but at the same time there’s a lot of bonds there. “I think we should try it,” he adds, mean­ing their re­union. “It’d be nice to do some­thing. No one lives for­ever. There’s no way around that rid­dle.” In other words, the sands of time in the hour­glass are slip­ping away fast. Let’s hope that – for their sakes and ours – The Kinks get it back to­gether be­fore they run out.

He’s not like ev­ery­body else: (above) Ray Davies, the ar­chi­tect be­hind the 1968 clas­sic, The Kinks Are The Vil­lage Green Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety (left).

Thank you for the days: the orig­i­nal Kinks line-up, fea­tur­ing the late Pete Quaife (far left), 1968. Sib­ling rev­elry: Dave Davies al­ways loved Vil­lage Green.

See my friends: back­stage with award pre­sen­ter Paul Weller (far left).

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