Classics like Waterloo Sunset, Lola and Dedicated Follower Of Fashion introduced character studies into pop music, paving the way for later chroniclers of everyday British life like The Jam, Madness and Blur. Alongside Ray, younger brother Dave’s incendiary guitar riffs influenced generations of musicians, with peers including Pete Townshend and even the great Jimi Hendrix wowed by his exhilarating playing.
Dave’s classic riff on The Kinks’ first hit, You Really Got Me, in 1964 is generally credited as inventing distortion in rock music, paving the way for heavy metal.
The Davies brothers’ feuds, which lasted until The Kinks split in 1996, were legendary. Forget Liam and Noel Gallagher, Ray and Dave were rock’s first brawling brothers – and they continued to scrap, with Ray infamously stamping on Dave’s 50th birthday cake in 1997.
But the brothers have mellowed towards each other in recent years.
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And now they want to remind the world of The Kinks’ greatness by reuniting on stage.
“We spoke the other day and we’re meeting up in a couple of weeks,” Dave tells the Daily Express. “We’ll try to get back on stage. I won’t tell you what it is until it’s ready, but I want us to talk about doing something based on our lives.”
It’s news Kinks fans have been longing for, with the Davies brothers’ only previous reunion coming when Ray joined Dave onstage at the guitarist’s solo concert at intimate London club Islington Assembly Hall in 2015 to perform You Really Got Me.
Dave speaks fondly of his brother these days, admitting it’s only in later in life that he’s come to fully appreciate the magic of their work together.
He smiles: “I look forward to it whenever I see Ray and we talk about stuff, because Ray has got such a way with words.”
That brotherly love is a far cry from The Kinks’ heyday, as Dave, 76, admits: “I hated it a lot of times when I was working with Ray, because I’d think, ‘Oh, f***, how do I get away from this madness?’ And it was madness, being in The Kinks.”
Now, nearly 60 years after helping to revolutionise music, Dave is proud of the part The Kinks played in mixing his incendiary guitars with Ray’s incisive lyrics.
“We didn’t know what we were doing,” believes Dave, three years Ray’s junior.
“The Kinks was a constant state of screaming and shouting at each other and loving each other too. Because we didn’t know what we were doing, our quest was always, ‘What are we going to do now?’ That’s the path we followed, reviewing everything we did along the way. We were rough kids who were learning how to express ourselves.”
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The youngest two of eight siblings, Ray and Dave had six older sisters.
Along with their mum Annie, Dave credits the Davies family women for inspiring the brothers into creating music. He recalls: “My sisters were such strong characters. In those days, women were barely allowed to go to the toilet without permission. But if my sisters wanted to do something, they’d do it. They knew all about expressing themselves, which is a crucial part of music.
“It was mum who taught me how to manifest my creativity. I was an angry kid, who had so much rage. Mum taught me all about my feelings, which I expressed through music. If I hadn’t done that, I’d have ended up in a straitjacket – or worse.”
That rage played a vital part in changing rock history.
Aged just 16, Dave created the sound of You Really Got Me by taking a razorblade to his guitar amp after a row with his girlfriend. He explains: “After this terrible row, I thought I was going to slash my wrists with the razorblade. I was being very theatrical. Instead, I looked at the amp and thought, ‘I’m going to take it all out on this.’
“I started slashing at the amp, not knowing what I was doing. I was really shocked afterwards that it still worked. The raggedy sound it now made was fantastic.”
Ray agreed, as did bassist Pete Quaife, who died in 2010, and drummer Mick Avory. Unaware that it was exactly what young music fans were desperate to hear, The Kinks’ studio engineers refused to record the amp’s raw noise. “It went against everything they were taught about recording,” laughs Dave. “They hated that sound, and our record company wasn’t keen either. But we told them, if they didn’t record it the way we wanted then the band would split up.”
You Really Got Me promptly became the first of the band’s three No 1 singles, followed by Tired Of Waiting For You and Sunny Afternoon. Dave enthuses: “Young people wanted that rough sound. I was 16, I couldn’t articulate how I felt about my girlfriend. I wanted to both hug her and scream at her, and that’s how You Really Got Me sounds. We were a very primordial band, in a way.”
That primitive nature was part of the band’s arguments. Dave’s fights with Mick Avory were often even more severe than his scraps with Ray.
“The Kinks’ fights have been blown up out of proportion over the years,” Dave insists. “Me and Mick wanted to kill each other – but I love him too. Ray and I were so different. We still are. When you look back, you see how those differences complemented each other.
“You sometimes need things to go wrong before they go right. It didn’t always work, but when it did? Boom, we had something.”
The Kinks were prolific, releasing 24 albums over the course of their career.
It’s ironic that The Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur, which failed to chart on their release in the late 1960s, are now generally regarded as the band’s finest albums. “We were always experimenting,” says Dave. “Not all of those experiments worked or were understood. Village Green was an important album.
“It could have been our last album, and it felt like the end when we were making it. But it became a beginning. I love it when something new grows out of what you think is the end. That’s like nature.”
The guitarist chuckles at sounding like a hippy, but the kid who was full of rage has matured into a gentle soul. He happily shows off pictures on his phone of his black-and-white rescue cat, Jolene, noting: “Certain animals know what’s going on a lot more than people. Cats are healers.”
In a lilac paisley-patterned scarf, with his shoulder-length silver hair mostly hidden under a purple beanie, Dave looks bohemian.
He travels a lot with his girlfriend of 11 years, singer/photographer Rebecca G Wilson. The father-of-eight also emphasises how his children “constantly teach me, reminding me of love and that kindness is so important”.
But Dave is equally still thrilled at the impact of The Kinks’ early wild days, grinning: “When I saw girls dancing to our music and screaming at us, I thought, ‘We must be alright.’ Those fans were learning how to express themselves, like we were in the band. It was wonderful to be a part of a generational experiment that worked.”
Dave is quick to praise the part his older brother’s lyrics played in The Kinks’ success, stating: “Ray was able to take anything people said – even me telling him, ‘Shut the hell up!’ – and write it down in a way that made you think, ‘Wow, that’s clever.’
Ray shaped cultural advances through our music.”
Being banned from the US for four years between 1965-69 – mostly due to cutting shows short in a financial row with promoters – meant The Kinks didn’t achieve the global success of their contemporaries.
A glut of cheap compilations in their later years also tarnished their legacy.
Thankfully, successful West End musical Sunny Afternoon, which ran from 2014 for two years, and new two-part Best Of compilation The Journey have reminded a new generation of fans of The Kinks’ magic.
It opens the way for that potential 60th-anniversary reunion.
“Inside, I still feel 15,” adds Dave. “I still don’t really know what I’m doing. But music has taught me more about the world than I’d ever thought possible.”
- The Kinks’ new compilation, The Journey Part 2, is out now on BMG. The Journey Part 1 is also available
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