It is often said that the lack of access to American performing cost the Kinks career momentum, thus keeping them from achieving the success they deserved. I wonder if it didn’t turn out to be a blessing in disguise. On the one hand, as you explain, it pushed Ray and the band to explore the Englishness beloved by fans of the period between “Sunny Afternoon” and Arthur, but it also may have kept them from burning out too soon, as other promising UK groups like The Hollies and The Zombies did. Touring the U.S. was tough in those days.
I agree with you — at least, mostly. Without question, being banned from the US encouraged Ray’s retreat into his Englishness. While he always had — and still does have — a fascination with America, he was bitter about the ban. He turned away from America and, to an extent, his American influences. He began to think about his self and his musical roots in a different way, turning more to English folk traditions and the music hall.
However, I don’t think Ray would have allowed the Kinks to burn out, even though touring America in those days was especially tough. Ray’s competitive impulse and his resourceful imagination would not have burned out from the demands.
In the chapter on the Waterloo Sunset, you propose a thesis that Davies is an exponent/descendant of English literary Romanticism. What led you to this line of inquiry, besides your background as a professor of English, which I assume would make you more sensitive to these influences?
It’s hard to say what lead me there. It seems that I have always thought of Davies as a Romantic — whether I knew the definition of Romanticism or not when I first started listening to him. He has always defended the underdog; his work largely focuses on himself; he strives to break artistic boundaries, and while he can be overwhelmed by the world’s madness, he ultimately has great hope and faith in the individual. Of course, as an English professor I’m probably a lot more sensitive to this side of Ray than most listeners. But, remember too, rock and roll is largely a Romantic form.