October 3, 2006
Ray Davies: Feature Story
By Rob Patterson
It’s been more than 40 years since Ray Davies and the Kinks burst onto the pop music scene with “You Really Got Me.” The No. 1 English hit remains one of rock’s most primal songs, even credited by some as the first salvo of punk. He remains as vital as ever on his official solo debut, Other People’s Lives, which was hailed as “bloody brilliant” by Harp magazine.
The Kinks followed that first hit with a string of distinctive songs like “All Day and All of The Night,” “Tired of Waiting For You,” “See My Friends,” “Till the End of the Day,” “A Well Respected Man,” “Sunny Afternoon,” “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” and “Lola,” to name but a few of the songs written by Davies that formed a major part of the cultural soundtrack of the 1960s. By the end of that decade, he had begun composing conceptual albums like Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), Preservation and Soap Opera, incorporating the inherent theatricality in his songs into the Kinks’ stage show. During the 1980s, the Kinks solidified their stature as rock elder statesmen with hits like “Come Dancing.”
Davies has also continued to explore a variety of modes for expressing his considerable creativity, including a 1995 “unauthorized biography,” “X-Ray,” written as a semi-fictional (yet still revelatory) life story penned sometime in the future by an eager young journalist, and a book of short stories, “Waterloo Sunset.” Readings from “X-Ray” became part of his “Storyteller” tour and album in which he revisited some of his finest moments with the Kinks, introducing new material that suggested his continued excellence. as a songwriter outside his legendary band. Davies has also directed films (Return to Waterloo and Weird Nightmare, the latter a portrait of Charles Mingus) and written works for the theatre like Chorus Girls and 80 Days with Snoo Wilson.
When the Kinks were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, Davies was hailed as “almost indisputably rock’s most literate, witty and insightful songwriter.” He is also acknowledged for the quintessential sense of Englishness that can be found in many of his songs and his gift for telling character studies. In addition to being named a BMI Icon at the organization’s 2006 London Awards, he has also been awarded Commander of the British Empire honors by Queen Elizabeth II alongside the induction of the Kinks into the U.K. Music Hall of Fame.
Davies’s influence on other artists began with his peer Pete Townshend and has continued over the years with acts like Paul Weller, Oasis, Blur and, lately, the Hives, the Vines, the Libertines and others. Bands like Van Halen, the Jam and the Pretenders have enjoyed hits with his songs. Once called “the greatest humanist in rock,” Davies continues to compose songs marked by heart, humor, empathy, pungent details and unforgettable melodies, and record and perform them with classic showmanship.