How Ray and Dave Davies Survived Their Kinks Journey
The Kinks' 60-year history has been quite a journey. At times, the discord between brothers Ray and Dave Davies threatened to overshadow the music that was being made. But as Ray writes in the liner notes of the recently released compilation The Journey - Part 1, the siblings have a special link.
He believes "Strangers," from 1970's Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, sums up their complex relationship. "I think it's about Dave and me," he mused. "About a bond that can never be broken despite the fights and squabbles."
Dave Davies uncovered some dusty corners in that relationship in a recent conversation with UCR. "Humor saved the Kinks many times, I think," he says, while also praising his brother's ability to craft songs.
The Journey - Part 1 is the first of two compilations that will be released this year to mark the Kinks' 60-year milestone. The Davies - along with original drummer Mick Avory - offer track-by-track recollections in the album's liner notes. The songs were curated by the trio and separated into themes that chart the band's evolution. The result is a listening experience that is indeed quite a journey.
The Journey's liner notes mention how "Celluloid Heroes" is about how you and Ray enjoyed watching old movies. What were you two watching as kids?
Anything we could get our hands on. I was a big fan of Bela Lugosi and [things like] Dracula - Hammer Films, I loved Quatermass and all of the Vincent Price [films]. The Raven was a particular favorite of ours.
Did you get a chance to meet some of these people later?
We did meet Vincent Price. Many years ago at Konk Studios, Ray did some recording with Vincent. We got to meet him, and what an exceptional guy he was. Apart from the early films when he was more of a straight player, in the black and white films, he played that [kind of role]. But The Witchfinder General [was different]. It was really quite a nasty [movie]. Not funny, nasty. He was always good at making potentially horrible sayings amusing. Fucking great, what a guy.
Watch the Kinks' 'Celluloid Heroes' Video
What do you find yourself going back to with your music?
There’s a lot of stuff. I’ve always had a soft spot for Schoolboys in Disgrace. It’s a funny take on actual real situations that happened to us as kids in school. You know, I was checked out of school. I wasn’t a very good student. The way the school system was then, I did not like being talked down to. They had an insipid kind of way [of doing that]. I didn’t like school, but I loved Schoolboys in Disgrace and all of those great songs that Ray wrote. They’re all based on truth. The stories, characters and people in that one make it one of my favorite Kinks records. Also, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One is one of my favorites.
It's interesting how you and Ray put humor into the songwriting.
You can’t say it as a general comment, but life is funny. I mean, not to make it seem light - it’s not a light thing. It’s like sometimes I feel I’m going mad. But humor is a great saving grace and how characters take on different form in your mind when you add humor to them. It’s not so bad after all and not so grotesque or scary. Humor saved the Kinks many times, I think.
What did you guys do to get banned in America for a period in the '60s?
I think that initial tour, the first American tour - if you talk about naive, we were naive. Our management was also naive. Nobody around us really knew what the fuckin’ hell we were doing. That’s a recipe for disaster. We all kept playing thinking, “Well, it’s going to change.” To be fair, we weren’t very warm with the unions in America. It took us a while to learn how to respect the unions or you’re fucked. Tread cautiously or you don’t get the right treatment. And we had bad organization. We weren’t very good at that. I mean, the [Rolling] Stones and the Beatles had this pristinely honed publicity machinery. But we weren’t professional. That’s the bottom line. We got banned … and I don’t know what really happened. It’s lost in the mists of time. But since then, we had a great following in America. We toured [there] in the ‘80s with big sold-out auditoriums like the Spectrum in Philly and the L.A. Forum. These great huge gigs, when we couldn’t really get a lot together gig-wise in Europe. We were doing better in America than anywhere else. I’m thankful because we got some great followers and fans, and I’ll always be thankful for that.
It seems like you and Ray have a somewhat friendly line of communication at this point.
I think the love that comes between us, that was always there and we could never get rid of it. It’s like a family bond. It’s not that you really want to get rid of it - there were times that he’d drive me mad, “I’ve got to get out of here!” I remember times in the mid-’70s, it was like, “I’ve got to get away from here. To Africa … or anywhere!” But when it works, you think, “Oh, fuck, that’s good.”
When you're working on solo music, do you send it to Ray for him to hear it?
With my own music, I’ve tried to not ask or encourage for Ray’s input. I find it just drove me insane. Because everything he is going to say, it’s a criticism or a comment or “You should do this.” I’d rather stay away from that. But the thing is, you come out thinking, “I wonder what Ray would do?” [Laughs] I know Ray has done that: “What would Dave think about that?” And that’s the answer, you know what I mean? It’s like, you’ve [already] received [an answer]. It’s a mystical thing, but it’s strange how mystical things end up on your records.
How often do the two of you text, just about sports or anything like that?
It’s funny because now we talk about music very minimally. Only really, really important things that we need to, like contracts and shit. Mainly, we talk about movies and actors and about football and soccer. Because the way human beings are made, everything else is going on anyway: the conscious, the subconscious, the superconscious, you know, everything, it’s happening. You don’t need to explain it, really. It’s like when I first heard the Everly Brothers when I was a kid, I could not work out what the fuck was going on. It was just beautiful. It’s so emotional. It uplifted me. It’s great, really great. It’s painful, knowing how great it was. I hate to think about what difficult times they had with each other, let alone with their lives. We’re lucky to have all of these great artists around us and in us. It stays in you. It doesn’t go anywhere. It’s really weird, it’s a mystical experience, whether we like it or not.