Dec 082014

  • 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?


  10 Responses to “The Babies Davies”

  1. diskojoe

    While I’ve been a Kinks fan for 37 years, I never really thought of them being superior to the Beatles. To me, the Beatles exist on another plane above everyone else. You can argue w/the Stones & Who being better than the Kinks & they were probably better in exploiting the US market.

    I also get tired about Ray & Dave being interviewed w/many of the same questions, especially involving a possible reunion. If they decide to reunite, great, I’ll get a ticket, but if they don’t, I’m happy w/the records & the fact that I last saw them live right next to my home town.

    As for the quality of the outtakes question, there were a bunch of them in the last Kinks box set called Picture Book that came out in 2008 & they weren’t really all that good. I think that if Ray had some decent unreleased songs, he would probably use them to write other songs & to release anything that he can’t salvage for one reason or another.

  2. These are heartening words!

  3. I do remember an interview, probably in the long departed Musician Magazine, where Ray vehemently denied the Jimmy Page rumor, although with a slightly snarky tone about that solo being Dave’s greatest moment which no one should ever deny him.

    I listen to Fresh Air pretty regularly, but I’m really not sure how I feel about it. Since reading an essay about Fresh Air by Curtis White in Harper’s about 10 years ago, I’m always waiting for the big Terry Gross Money Shot question that always involves the death of a parent, sibling, or near death experience of the interviewee. It’s so consistent and routine that it’s uncanny…no, hilarious. The full article is hidden behind a subscriber firewall at Harper’s but is liberally quoted here.

    I would warn you not to read this if you want to listen to Fresh Air with a straight face ever again.

    I also wish Dave Davies interviewed Ray because, in addition to the name goof, I think he’d be way more objective.

  4. That was a good read, geo. I don’t know if you heard her interview with Ray, but she went for the money shot with Ray. Yesterday I heard a rebroadcast of her recent interview with Chris Rock. She got lost in possibly her worst trait: that of “challenging” an artist on views that don’t represent her own. Chris Rock’s new movie must have a part where he and the other comedian characters start riffing on a gay joke. She tried to corner Rock on his “gay bashing.” I thought Rock handled it well, but she wouldn’t let up, she wouldn’t actually discuss it with him or hear his point of view, which was, essentially, comedians make jokes. They’re not philosophers or politicians. They’re trying to get laughs. He said he’s personally not homophobic, and he felt no remorse for having added that joke to his film. Gross continued to characterize this seemingly minor part of the film as “bashing.” Her passion and humanity are part of what make her great, but also part of what makes her act wear a bit. She tried a similar attack on Chuck D years ago for some anti-Semitic statements that one of the Public Enemy crew made. I think the guy got booted for his remarks, but that wasn’t enough for Terry.

  5. misterioso

    Wow, I never would have thought “You Really Got Me” was inspired by Gregorian chants, either. And that’s because, you know, it isn’t.

  6. Ha, I forgot about that! Now the interview was even more disappointing.

  7. Oh I did hear the Money Shots, cause there were a couple of them.

    What I loved about this Curtis White essay was that it drew attention to something that, even as a regular listener of Fresh Air, I had never noticed and, once revealed, is impossible to miss. It really has increased my enjoyment, if not my respect, for Fresh Air; it’s sort of an NPR T.J. Hooker moment everytime she does it.

  8. There’s an outstanding Hooker reference!

  9. cherguevara

    Her Gene Simmons interview was a disaster!

  10. Wow, is this thread in my wheelhouse!

    The Kinks were an early favorite – I got on the bandwagon with Arthur. And they were the headliner at my first concert back in 1971 (was it the Spectrum, was that opened yet? maybe the Spectrums’s predecessor) with Philly’s own God opening and Edgar Winter second billed.

    That concert was my first indication that God wasn’t saving the Kinks, at least not in their live incarnation. That was my first taste of all the lousy live habits they have displayed in any live recording I’ve heard – sing-a-longs, the dreaded day-o, and Ray generally treating his songs with no respect.

    I recently purchased the Lola vs Powerman reissue. I loved that album but see in retrospect that the Kinks slide downward, which I had previously dated from Muswell Hillbillies (an album I now find unlistenable) began with this album.

    And I’m more than sick with the Dave-Ray feud. Each of them trots out the desire to get back together whenever they have some solo project to promote. It’s a minor league Mike Love- Brian Wilson thing just not as funny.

    I at least feel a little sorry for Dave. He’s probably got little to no money while Ray must be rolling in it (there’s a poll question – who has more songs licensed to commercials, Ray or Pete Townshend?).

    Of course, I doubt that there’s much money to be made in a reunion tour as I question whether there is much of a market there. I doubt they’d be playing arenas. I think it would end up being sad.

    I know you’d have to pay me to go see it.

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