Although I don’t think to book would be a difficult read for any reasonably educated Kinks fan, this is an academic book – 20 pages of footnotes, 8-page bibliography, full index. Was that your conception of the book all along?
Yes and no. I wanted to write a book that would focus on the art of Ray Davies, with and apart from the Kinks. While Ray has been called a genius for some forty years now, no one has attempted to conceptualize and analyze his total artistic output, which is staggering in its inventiveness and meaningfulness. So I primarily wanted to do that. I also wanted to give credit to those critics who inspired my own thoughts and theories and I wanted to let readers know where I got certain information and quotations from, so if they wanted to read further they could check out those sources — hence notes and bibliography. However, I did disagree with my editor on format. I did not want to use the raised number. I thought that format would be too intrusive on the text. I simply wanted to list sources under the relevant pages in the back of the book. The editor won, which is fine.
And how did you hook up with the publisher, Routledge?
My friend, Michael Lydon (a founding editor at Rolling Stone and author of several books on music), put me in touch with his editor at Routledge, who published his biography on Ray Charles. The editor liked my proposal and I signed. I am very pleased that Routledge published Not Like Everybody Else. Not only are they prestigious, but they have been supportive and great to work with.
The book is basically a biography, but you leave yourself a lot of space for examining the man’s work too. You ended up using the life to illuminate the work and also using the music as a way to understand Davies’ life. Was that a difficult balancing act?
You summarize very well what I wanted to do with the book. I don’t know if I can say that it was a “difficult balancing act.” What I did find difficult was keeping the book at 125,000 words or some 300 pages. There are so many more songs that I could have discussed in more detail had I the space. But this is the right length. If it were too much longer, no one would want to read it.
You go into a great deal of detail about Davies’ youth in the first part of the book. I think many Kinks fans are aware that Ray is a football fan, and they might even know that his favorite team is Arsenal, but not many people know that he was quite a good footballer himself, before injuries put an end to any idea of a career in the sport. What connection, if any, do you see between rock music and sports?
That’s a great question. I think that depends a lot on the performer. I think in many ways sports gave performers like Ray Davies a strategy or an approach to performing and creating. What I mean is that not only did sports enhance Ray’s competitive fires and increase his confidence — sports showed him that he could succeed under difficult circumstances — but sports also gave Ray a way to focus on and attack a problem, whether it be to write a needed hit, get a record out, or conquer a less than enthusiastic audience. Rock music is very competitive and at the very least a great rock performer, when working at his/her best, requires the physical stamina and mental focus of a great athlete as well as the competitive heat — even if the artist is only competing with his past work.
Music and sports are both performances too. Being fiercely competitive might be an asset in building a career in the entertainment business, but it might be a negative influence in the area of band dynamics, especially if your little brother is in the band.
You’re absolutely right. In fact, band conflicts are often driven by the competitiveness of the performers. Just think of The Beatles, The Who, and many more. Often the lead guitarist and the singer compete against one another — which just adds to the sibling rivalry of Ray and Dave.