You append lists of your “favorite” Kinks songs and albums. By expressing it that way, are you avoiding passing judgment on which ones are the “greatest?” There’s a difference, right?
Yes, that’s what I’m doing. The problem is that the word best suggests objectiveness, which I’m not sure is always if ever true. I wanted to make clear that this is a subjective list, a list of those songs and albums that have proven most meaningful to me through the years. What was interesting in doing the list is that the first 10 songs came relatively easy. The next 10 were difficult. I had planned on only listing 20 songs but it was too difficult to keep at 20. I found the list to be a fun way to contemplate the works and my relationship to them.
Preservation Act 2 is number 4 on your list, and in your book you spend a lot of time on the concept album era. I love Preservation 2 myself. Do you think the albums of that era are underrated?
Yes and no. I have always loved Preservation Act 2. Not only are there some really good songs, some very overlooked songs, but there’s a rawness in the sound that mirrors the action and a nice dose of black humor throughout. I think Preservation, both acts taken together, represent the high point of the Kinks foray into rock musicals. While I liked the performance of it that the Kinks did, I realized just how well it works on stage when I saw it performed by the Boston Rock Opera about 10 years ago. Without question, for me, Preservation is a major work of the Kinks, one too neglected. I wish Ray would perform a few of the songs in his solo act.
I like Soap Opera too, but not nearly as much, and I happen to think Schoolboys in Disgrace might be overrated. It was the one rock musical that had a decent chart showing and some great moments (“Hard Way” and “No More Looking Back”), but I don’t find too many of the other tracks that inventive either in content or musically.
I see you thank all of the other original Kinks in your acknowledgments except Ray. I assume that you had no help from him but that you were not actively thwarted?
Exactly. Obviously, I had wanted to interview Ray and he informally agreed, but we never actually sat down together. I don’t think he wanted to. For one thing, he figured that I was already an admirer so that I would write a complimentary portrait of his work so why say anything to jeopardize my perspective. And for another, the type of questions that I was going to ask him (and he saw a list) were more involved and more concerned with details about songwriting, production, and the songs themselves — the kinds of questions most artists are not comfortable with. So I understand his reluctance for an interview. With that said, he was supportive in a tacit way, once telling me after he saw my interview questions that I was on to something big.
On the other hand, Peter Quaife was extremely cooperative with all kinds of issues and Mick Avory gave me plenty of time. Both were very open and, at times, very funny. I spent a few hours with Dave after his solo performance at Marian College in Wisconsin in 1999. We talked informally about a lot of things. It was a thrill for me and Michael Kraus (my coeditor on Living on a Thin Line: Crossing Aesthetic Borders with the Kinks) to hang out with Dave. We spent part of our time with him in a Chicago airport hoping that his plane would be delayed.