- Fawning, fanboy questions that have been hashed over since the band’s critical underdog hero renaissance, which began in the mid-’80s and steamrolled past all the dreck in the band’s catalog since Muswell Hillbillies
- Ray’s expected tight-lipped and even tighter-assed replies
- My own admittedly shameful haughty feelings being ignited in response to the first 2 reasons for looking forward to hearing this interview.
See, the problem with me is that I feel I truly loved the Kinks since childhood and, therefore, only loved them more once I discovered their late-’60s masterpieces, Something Else and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. I simply loved their hit songs without knowledge of any backstory, without feeling like they somehow represented the underdog in me, etc. I even knew with Klassic Kinks hits from their golden era I didn’t particularly like, such as “Sunny Afternoon,” which simply wore thin on me by the time I was about 16 years old. Ever since rock nerds started piling onto The Kinks Are the Greatest Overlooked Band of the 1960s bandwagon, by 1990, my rock snobbery on this issue has occasionally threatened to overtake my sincere love of the band. I may find myself listening to the brilliant …Village Green… album, for instance, and recall the time in 1987 my friend Jay, who is a little older than me and I’m sure is also a “true” Kinks fan, by my definition, stated, “The Kinks are just as good as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.” Despite ranking …Village Green… over any Stones album and all but 1 Beatles album in my Top Albums list, I couldn’t go for that. To save you a long-winded rationale, it came down to the fact that the Kinks lacked the depth of Rock Superpowers of the Beatles and the Stones. End of story. I stand by that judgment, and I stand by my rock snobbery regarding those I consider “Johnny-come-latelys” to”truly” loving the Kinks for the band they “truly” are.
Anyhow, Terry’s interview with Ray delivered on all frustrating fronts, as expected. She played snippets of and asked him about the most obvious Kinks fanboy songs (eg, “Deadend Streets”). She made numerous references to the band’s “music hall tradition,” a term I once threw around with as reckless abandon as my fellow American Kinks fans before I realized I didn’t have a clue what England’s music hall tradition was. She went ga-ga over some drawn-out demo from the band’s new boxed set. I think it was some song my friend Jay played me from one of the collections of once-rare Kinks demos on a bootleg album that he scored. Back then, in 1987, I argued with him that there’s usually a good reason songs don’t make it on great artists’ official releases, and this collection was chock full of such rightfully left-behind numbers. He disagreed. We’ve remained friends all these years. I forgot that this Fresh Air interview was tied into a box set of remastered, rejiggered Kinks recordings. These massive reissue projects annoy me more with each passing year. As Terry played clips of jaunty, fanboy-approved Kinks songs, I started listening for the highlighted tambourines and acoustic guitars that bug the crap out of me when some Mother’s Basement engineer guy gets his hands on original tapes and “cleans them up” so I can hear what the artists “truly” meant for me to hear when they were recording. (Don’t get me started on the acoustic guitar in the late-’80s remaster of the Stones’ “Satisfaction.”)
Ray’s sphincter-crunching, competitive side was in full display any time Terry asked him a question regarding the Beatles. He was more uptight about the legendary specter of the Beatles than my friend was during our 1987 argument. At the same time, Terry comparing the Kinks’ original version of “Stop Your Sobbing” to a Beatles song just because it had some harmonies was preposterous. My wife looked over at me and said something meaningful and relevant: “Boy, the Pretenders really made the most out of that song!”
The oddest display of Ray’s competitive streak, however, came up over the recording of “You Really Got Me.” Ray claimed that he got Dave’s distinctive guitar sound by jamming knitting needles into his amp. I’d always heard that Dave slit the amp’s cone with a razor. It turns out Dave was upset by this claim and got into a Twitter snit with one of Fresh Air’s producers. Why can’t those 2 agree on anything, if Dave even played the solo. (Isn’t that one of the tracks other rock mythologists attribute to Jimmy Page?) Whatever! Ray Davies is responsible for some of the most beautiful music on the planet. I wish he’d refuse to do interviews and stop bumming me out. I love Terry Gross, too, but the Davies interview was a trap. I wish I’d been able to suggest that she turn that assignment over to her backup, Dave Davies (not Ray’s brother). Wouldn’t that have been a good way to get under Ray’s skin?