A Well Respected Man

Ray Davies is the songwriting genius who led the Kinks during the heyday of the British Invasion. Today is his birthday. He held the Kinks together for a long time, through some famously nasty spats with his brother and lead guitarist Dave as well as other members of the band. After a string of hits and a bona fide classic or two such as “Waterloo Sunset,” the Kinks fell from sight. They returned in a big way with the very funny smash “Lola” (above) and an album full of terrific songs including “Get Back In Line” and “Apeman.” The Kinks fell from sight again while Davies continued to turn out some of his best work on “Village Green Preservation Society” and “Muswell Hillbillies.”

The Kinks returned to sight for one last rally in the early ’80s. Reader Mark Harrison recalls the Kinks peaking during this period with the 1982 album “State of Confusion.” As a GenXer, he writes, “those were The Kinks I was most familiar with.” While “State of Confusion” is best known for the nostalgic single “Come Dancing,” it also included “Young Conservatives.” Mark writes that the song “took a slightly disparaging look at the rightward tilt of GenX, more for their conformity than ideology. However, for some of those young conservative GenXers like myself, it was an anthem.” Thanks to that final Kinks rally, I was able to see the Kinks perform live at ear-splitting volume with my then-colleague, and rabid Kinks fan, Tom Benin, when the Kinks played the old Met Center stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Davies is a prolific songwriter. Dave Emlen’s unofficial Kinks Web site lists nearly 600 songs, most of them written by Davies. In 2004 Davies set up shop in New Orleans to write and record again. When he and his girlfriend were mugged while they were walking in the French Quarter, Davies took after the muggers and was shot in the leg. He recovered and is still going strong, with “Working Man’s Cafe” out earlier this year.

PAUL adds: Davies’ genius is evident from the opening moments of this song, in which he rhymes “Lola” with “Cherry-Cola.”

The early Kinks had a distinctive guitar sound. Someone asked a band member how they achieved it. He answered, “we use cheap guitars.”

SCOTT adds: Dave Davies was probably most responsible for the Kinks’ guitar sound. Ray Davies sheds some light on how he tried to keep a lid on brother Dave’s sound in this 2006 Rolling Stone interview.

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