“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
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).