The Kinks ready to come back fighting
If ever there was a band destined to never re-unite it was The Kinks.
Forget The Stone Roses and the now-resolved feud between singer Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire, forget the rivalry between Noel ‘eyebrows’ Gallagher and his gobby kid brother Liam. Throwing guitars and punches is kids’ play. Insulting family members is the stuff of Sunday lunchtimes.
Forget too Pink Floyd’s Gilmour and Waters, The Beatles’ Lennon versus McCartney, Guns N' Roses’ Slash against Axl and The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and Mike Love (which, of course, should be Mike ‘No Love Lost’) – because Ray and Dave Davies are the monarchs of mayhem, the emperors of enmity, the sovereigns of the spat.
See The Kinks perform Sunny Afternoon here:
They formed their band in Muswell Hill in 1964 and became one of the most important and influential bands of the sixties. The acme of mod, long before The Who and Paul Weller assumed that title. They captured the zeitgeist and reflected English culture thanks to the brilliant and perspicacious lyrics of Ray Davies – Britain’s original observationalist songwriter. When Blur and Oasis later became the biggest thing since The Beatles and The Stones during the halcyon years of Britpop, they were but following in the footsteps of The Kinks.
Inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as long ago as 1990, recipients of the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Service to British Music and writers of such hits as You Really Got Me, Tired of Waiting For You, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, Set Me Free, Lola, Waterloo Sunset, All Day and All of the Night, David Watts, Stop Your Sobbing and Sunny Afternoon, they blazed a trail and set standards that others have sought to follow.
See the band play Waterloo Sunset here:
The band was fuelled not by sex or drugs or rock ’n’ roll – but, to put it plainly, by mutual hatred. Few bands have been so dysfunctional. Explosive tempers, bitter feuds, casual violence and unhappy threats were as habitual as chart hits. On one famous occasion Dave Davies and drummer Mick Avory got into a ruck. Dave nearly died. Dave had insulted the drummer and kicked over his kit, so Mick whacked the provocateur with his hi-hat stand, knocking him out cold. Avory imagined he had, in fact, killed his bandmate and ran off. Alcohol may have been involved. Happily, the extent of the damage was a mere 16 stitches to a serious head wound. Fun times. Happy days.
At the heart of the aggro were Ray and Dave Davies. They’d grown up in a big household. Ray, child number seven, and Dave, child number eight, were attention seekers by necessity. Fisticuffs were part of their upbringing and during a mock childfight, Ray pretended to be unconscious. When Dave reached over to see if his brother was alright, Ray battered him.
See The Kinks perform All Day and All of the Night here:
Dave later recalled: “It’s symbolic. I felt the pleasure that I’d knocked him over, then concern that I’d hurt him. But all he wanted was to get back at me.”
The band fought so hard that they were banned from the States for four years but the pressure took its toll and in 1966 Ray suffered a nervous breakdown.
Worse followed as six years later Ray attempted suicide during a show by popping pills, after his wife had left him. Dave had, of course, tried to spoil their big day back in 1964 by getting too drunk to carry out his best man duties. Ray’s revenge came years later when he smashed Dave’s 50th birthday cake.
See the group perform A Well Respected Man here:
Both sought to take control of the band. Ray said: “I was the serious deep-thinking musician. He was this crazed kid playing these amazing guitar riffs. Dave has his problems with me sometimes, but that’s inevitable. I’m not an easy person to work with.”
Dave’s version was different: “I’m not like anybody else, and I’m especially not like my brother. And vice-versa. The tension was important – until it went out of control.”
See the band play Lola here:
They’ve tried to patch things up and get back together before. But an attempt in 2013 led to nought. Old tensions resurfaced at Ray’s home when they tried to write new songs in the kitchen. It could have been worse. Some decades earlier, Ray had stabbed Dave in the chest with a fork for stealing one of his chips in a restaurant. At the heart of their grievance is that Dave feels Ray has never given him sufficient credit for his contributions to The Kinks and is a hateful, pretentious narcissist. Boom.
So there we have it. The only surviving members of The Kinks are Ray and Dave Davies plus drummer Mick Avory, who are now starting to work on a new album together. Dave and Ray have always loved/loathed each other and Mick almost killed Dave with that pesky, flying hi-hat. What could possibly go wrong?
After decades of fighting, it’s remarkable that The Kinks plan to bury the hatchet. And it’s even more remarkable that it won’t be in each other.