Nov 122011

What is it with my obsession with watching footage of The Kinks sink to new lows in self-parody and loss of dignity? Most of the time, I’d much rather watch stuff like this than something from the band’s halcyon era. What does this say about me? (I should note for those who are new-ish to RTH that The Kinks are one of my favorite bands and part of my Holy Trinity of Rock. This isn’t a case of schadenfreude.)

And does this footage merely show the band trying to stay current during a low point for mainstream rock, in general, or is there something else going on here?

Also, help me guitar nerds: What is the weird Strat-like Gibson (I think) Ray plays in this clip?

Finally, here’s a happier clip, giving a little glimpse of the band’s interpersonal communications as well as their innate musical talent. Sorry about the Ovation acoustics.


  12 Responses to “The Decline and Fall of a British Empire”

  1. tonyola

    I think the Kinks were terrific from 1966 to around 1972 with several classic albums and some fine non-album singles, too. Ray Davies seemed committed to making fine and thoughtful music even in the face of being nearly invisible in the US. Then Ray got really ambitious and put out a few failed rock operas (Preservation, Soap Opera, and Schoolboys in Disgrace) to the scorn of reviewers and indifference of former fans. When the Kinks enjoyed a minor renaissance in the late ’70s after going back to simpler songs, I think Ray discovered something important – he didn’t have to really try anymore. He could put out any old commercial crap and people would lap it up. That’s what he’s been doing for the past 30 years. He has shown a bit of talent on occasion – his part in the movie Absolute Beginners as a harried landlord was amusing and the “Come Dancing” video was fun – but he’s mostly been pandering.

  2. BigSteve

    Ray’s weird strat-like Gibson is a Gibson Victory:

    I’d never seen him play one before. I’m familiar with it because Congolese guitar god Franco favored this instrument:

  3. Awesome, thank you! This guitar pops up in assorted Kinks clips from the ’80s, along with the Les Paul and Melody Maker (i think) he usually played.

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    Do that UK Jive, Oats!

  5. cliff sovinsanity

    I think what should be pointed out before we dig deeper is that despite some troubling albums during the 70’s and 80’s, The Kinks are still highly regarded in the rock universe. Ray Davies’ ambitions and ego projects have not tarnished their reputation or cool factor.
    I saw them in ’87 during the Think Visual tour and though this was clearly not a memorable period in the band, never once did I feel the band was embarrassing. What I’ve always appreciated about Davies is that he really believes that what he’s doing at that moment is really important. So, they rarely come across as false. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t layed a dozen eggs over the years. Feel no shame Oats.

  6. Happiness Stan

    Quite agree Tony, although I do like Preservation.

  7. I actually found Dave Davies solo albums in the early 80s more interesting than anything Ray did.

  8. I’ve never seen the Kinks live because almost any live-in-concert clips I’ve seen of them (or heard on radio broadcasts) fell into self-parody and a kind of cynical jerk on the audience. I always got the sense that Ray didn’t really feel comfortable playing live or didn’t like the fact that more than half the audience may not have “gotten where he was really coming from,” so he’d jerk their chains with all that sing-along nonsense. The little hotel room performance Oats posted is so much better as was that live-in-studio (to no audience, if memory serves) performance of stuff from the Village Green period that I found about a year ago. I wonder if they weren’t really made for playing in front of people. Maybe they should have filmed a live-in-studio performance or made a semi-theatrical movie, like Neil Young has attempted, and let that be their “live” record of each release or era.

  9. diskojoe

    Mr. Mod, did you pick up that To the Bone CD (UK 1disc; US 2discs)? I believe that those performances were actually taped @ Konk Studio before an audience, but has never been officially released.

    I saw the Kinks live about 6 times between 1981-95 & although I was generally entertained, I always felt that something was lacking. My favorite concerts were the ones where they played a small theater (the Orpheum in Boston in 1988 & the last time I saw them in 1995 @ the North Shore Music Theater the next town over from me). Another thing that annoyed me was the quality of the opening acts, of which Tonio K was probably the best.

  10. Yeah, the acoustic recordings on To the Bone really play to what remained of the band’s strengths at that point. It’s a very poignant recording in spots. They kinda botched it on the two-CD version, adding too many trainwrecky concert recordings and getting rid of the sublime version of “Waterloo Sunset” from the one-CD version. I keep meaning to create my own version of the album with the best recordings from the two version.

    I’ve posted this before, but this is the only filmed footage from the sessions that’s leaked onto YouTube.

  11. hrrundivbakshi

    Mockcarr, take note of John Dalton’s Mustang bass!

  12. Pince nez: That’s Jim Rodford. And he’s playing a headless bass in the top clip. Sigh.

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