The Kinks were an English rock band formed in Muswell Hill, North London, by brothers Ray and Dave Davies in 1964. Categorised in the United States as a British Invasion band, the Kinks are recognised as one of the most important and influential rock groups of the era.
Their music was influenced by a wide range of genres, including rhythm and blues, British music hall, folk and country. Ray Davies (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Dave Davies (lead guitar, vocals) remained members throughout the group's 32-year run. Longest serving member Mick Avory (drums and percussion) was replaced by Bob Henrit formerly of Argent in 1984. Original bassist Pete Quaife was replaced by John Dalton in 1969 and Dalton was in turn replaced by Jim Rodford in 1978. Keyboardist Nicky Hopkins accompanied the band during studio sessions in the mid-1960s. In 1969 keyboardist John Gosling joined the band, making them an official five-piece, while Ian Gibbons replaced him in 1979, playing in the band until its eventual demise.
The Kinks first came to prominence in 1964 with their third single, "You Really Got Me", written by Ray Davies. It became an international hit, topping the charts in the United Kingdom and reaching the Top 10 in the United States. Between the mid-1960s and early 1970s, the group released a string of commercially and critically successful singles and LPs, and gained a reputation for songs and concept albums reflecting English culture and lifestyle, fuelled by Ray Davies' observational writing style. Albums such as Face to Face, Something Else, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround and Muswell Hillbillies, along with their accompanying singles, are considered among the most influential recordings of the period.
The Kinks' subsequent theatrical concept albums met with less success, but the band experienced a revival during the late 1970s and early 1980s with albums Sleepwalker, Misfits, Low Budget and State of Confusion. Also groups such as Van Halen, the Jam, the Knack and the Pretenders covered their songs, helping to boost the Kinks' record sales. In the 1990s, Britpop acts such as Blur and Oasis cited the band as a major influence. The Kinks broke up in 1996, a result of the commercial failures of their last few albums and creative tension between the Davies brothers.
The Kinks had five Top 10 singles on the US Billboard chart. Nine of their albums charted in the Top 40. In the UK, the group had seventeen Top 20 singles and five Top 10 albums. Four of their albums have been certified gold by the RIAA. Among numerous honours, they received the Ivor Novello Award for "Outstanding Service to British Music". In 1990, their first year of eligibility, the original four members of The Kinks were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the UK Music Hall of Fame in November 2005.
The Davies brothers were born in suburban North London on Huntingdon Road, East Finchley, the youngest and only boys among their family's eight children. Their parents, Frederick and Annie Davies, soon moved the family to 6 Denmark Terrace, Fortis Green, in the neighbouring suburb of Muswell Hill. At home they were immersed in a world of varied musical styles, from the music hall of their parents' generation to the jazz and early rock and roll that their older sisters enjoyed. These musical experiences centred around nightlong parties held in the front room of their house, which made a great impression on the Davies brothers. Thomas Kitts writes, "The influence of these parties on The Kinks ... is remarkable. Whether consciously or unconsciously, [onstage] it seemed as if Ray was trying to recreate the Saturday night parties of his family's home—complete with chaos, beer and singalongs." Both Ray and his brother Dave, younger by almost three years, learned to play guitar, and they played skiffle and rock and roll together.
The brothers attended William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School (later merged with Tollington Grammar School to become Fortismere School), where they formed a band, the Ray Davies Quartet, with Ray's friend and classmate Pete Quaife and Quaife's friend John Start. Their debut at a school dance was well received, which encouraged the group to play at local pubs and bars. The band went through a series of lead vocalists; the most notable was Rod Stewart, another student at William Grimshaw, who performed with the group at least once in early 1962. He soon formed his own group, Rod Stewart and the Moonrakers, which became a local rival to the Ray Davies Quartet. In late 1962, Ray Davies left home to study at Hornsey College of Art. He pursued interests in subjects such as film, sketching, theatre and music such as jazz and blues. He gained experience as a guitarist with the Soho-based Dave Hunt Band, a professional group of musicians who played jazz and R&B. Davies soon quit school and returned to Muswell Hill, where the brothers and Quaife re-formed their old group, performing under several names, including the Pete Quaife Band, The Bo-Weevils and The Ramrods, before (temporarily) settling on The Ravens.
The fledgling group hired two managers, Grenville Collins and Robert Wace, and in late 1963 former pop singer Larry Page signed on as their third. American record producer Shel Talmy began working with the band, and The Beatles' promoter, Arthur Howes, was retained to schedule The Ravens' live shows. The group unsuccessfully auditioned for various record labels until early 1964, when Talmy secured them a contract with Pye Records. During this period they had acquired a new drummer, Mickey Willet; however, Willet left the band shortly before they signed to Pye. The Ravens invited Mick Avory to replace him after seeing an advertisement Avory had placed in Melody Maker. Avory had a background in jazz drumming, and had played one gig with the fledgling Rolling Stones.
Around this period, the Ravens decided on a new, permanent name: the Kinks. Numerous explanations of the name's genesis have been offered. In Jon Savage's analysis, "[They] needed a gimmick, some edge to get them attention. Here it was: 'Kinkiness'—something newsy, naughty but just on the borderline of acceptability. In adopting the 'Kinks' as their name at that time, they were participating in a time-honoured pop ritual—fame through outrage." Manager Robert Wace related his side of the story: "I had a friend. ... He thought the group was rather fun. If my memory is correct, he came up with the name just as an idea, as a good way of getting publicity. ... When we went to [the band members] with the name, they were ... absolutely horrified. They said, 'We're not going to be called kinky!'" Ray Davies' account conflicts with Wace's—he recalled that the name was coined by Larry Page, and referenced their "kinky" fashion sense. Davies quoted him as saying, "The way you look, and the clothes you wear, you ought to be called the Kinks." "I've never really liked the name," Ray stated.
Breakthrough and American touring ban (1964–1965)
The Kinks' first single was a cover of the Little Richard song "Long Tall Sally". Bobby Graham, a friend of the band, was recruited to play drums on the recording. He would continue to occasionally substitute for Avory in the studio and play on several of the Kinks' early singles. "Long Tall Sally" was released in February 1964, but despite the publicity efforts of the band's managers, the single was almost completely ignored. When their second single, "You Still Want Me", failed to chart, Pye Records threatened to annul the group's contract unless their third single was successful.
"You Really Got Me" was released in August 1964, and, boosted by a performance on the television show Ready Steady Go!, quickly reached number one in the United Kingdom. Hastily imported by the American label Reprise Records, it also made the Top 10 in the United States. The loud, distorted guitar riff—achieved by a slice Dave Davies made in the speaker cone of his Elpico amplifier (referred to by the band as the "little green amp")—gave the song its signature, gritty guitar sound. Extremely influential on the American garage rock scene, "You Really Got Me" has been described as "a blueprint song in the hard rock and heavy metal arsenal". Soon after its release, the group recorded most of the tracks for their debut LP, simply titled Kinks. Consisting largely of covers and revamped traditional songs, it was released on 2 October 1964, reaching number four on the UK chart. The group's fourth single, "All Day and All of the Night", another original hard rock tune, was released three weeks later, reaching number two in the United Kingdom, and number seven in the United States. The next singles, "Set Me Free" and "Tired of Waiting for You", were also commercially successful, the latter topping the UK singles chart.
The Kinks made their first tour of Australia, New Zealand beginning in January 1965 as part of a package bill that included Manfred Mann and The Honeycombs. An intensive performing schedule saw them headline other package tours throughout the year with acts such as The Yardbirds and Mickey Finn. Tensions began to emerge within the band, expressed in incidents such as the on-stage fight between Avory and Dave Davies at The Capitol Theatre, Cardiff, Wales on 19 May. After finishing the first song, "You Really Got Me", Davies insulted Avory and kicked over his drum set. Avory responded by hitting Davies with his hi-hat stand, rendering him unconscious, before fleeing from the scene, fearing that he had killed his bandmate. Davies was taken to Cardiff Royal Infirmary, where he received 16 stitches to his head. To placate the police, Avory later claimed that it was part of a new act in which the band members would hurl their instruments at each other. Following a mid-year tour of the United States, the American Federation of Musicians refused permits for the group to appear in concerts there for the next four years, effectively cutting off The Kinks from the main market for rock music at the height of the British Invasion. Although neither The Kinks nor the union gave a specific reason for the ban, at the time it was widely attributed to their rowdy on-stage behaviour.
A stopover in Bombay, India, during the band's Australian and Asian tour had led Davies to write the song "See My Friends", released as a single in July 1965. This was an early example of crossover music and one of the first pop songs of the period to display the direct influence of traditional music from the Indian subcontinent. In his autobiography, X-Ray, Davies noted he was inspired to write "See My Friends" after hearing the songs of local fishermen during an early morning walk:
Music historian Jonathan Bellman argues that the song was "extremely influential" on Davies' musical peers: "And while much has been made of the Beatles' 'Norwegian Wood' because it was the first pop record to use a sitar, it was recorded well after the Kinks' clearly Indian 'See My Friends' was released." Pete Townshend of The Who was particularly affected by the song: "'See My Friends' was the next time I pricked up my ears and thought, 'God, he's done it again. He's invented something new.' That was the first reasonable use of the drone—far, far better than anything the Beatles did and far, far earlier. It was a European sound rather than an Eastern sound but with a strong, legitimate Eastern influence which had its roots in European folk music." In a widely quoted statement by Barry Fantoni, 1960s celebrity and friend of the Kinks, the Beatles and the Who, he recalled that it was also an influence on The Beatles: "I remember it vividly and still think it's a remarkable pop song. I was with the Beatles the evening that they actually sat around listening to it on a gramophone, saying 'You know this guitar thing sounds like a sitar. We must get one of those.'" The song's radical departure from popular music conventions proved unpopular with the band's American following—it hit number 11 in the UK, but stalled at number 111 in the US.
Recording began promptly on the group's next project, Kinda Kinks, starting the day after their return from the Asian tour. The LP—10 of whose 12 songs were originals—was completed and released within two weeks. According to Ray Davies, the band was not completely satisfied with the final cuts, but pressure from the record company meant that no time was available to correct flaws in the mix. Davies later expressed his dissatisfaction with the production, saying, "a bit more care should have been taken with it. I think [producer] Shel Talmy went too far in trying to keep in the rough edges. Some of the double tracking on that is appalling. It had better songs on it than the first album, but it wasn't executed in the right way. It was just far too rushed."
A significant stylistic shift became evident in late 1965, with the appearance of singles like "A Well Respected Man" and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion", as well as the band's third album, The Kink Kontroversy, on which session musician Nicky Hopkins made his first appearance with the group on keyboards. These recordings exemplified the development of Davies' songwriting style, from hard-driving rock numbers toward songs rich in social commentary, observation and idiosyncratic character study, all with a uniquely English flavour.
The Golden Age (1966–1972)
The satirical single "Sunny Afternoon" was the biggest UK hit of summer 1966, topping the charts and displacing the Beatles' "Paperback Writer". Before the release of The Kink Kontroversy, Ray Davies suffered a nervous and physical breakdown, caused by the pressures of touring, writing and ongoing legal squabbles. During his months of recuperation, he wrote several new songs and pondered the band's direction. Quaife was involved in an automobile accident, and after his recovery decided to step back from the band for much of 1966. Bassist John Dalton filled in until Quaife returned to the group at the end of the year.
"Sunny Afternoon" was a dry run for the band's next album Face to Face, which displayed Davies' growing ability to craft gentle yet cutting narrative songs about everyday life and people. Hopkins returned for the sessions to play various keyboard instruments, including piano and harpsichord. He played on the band's next two studio albums as well, and featured on a number of their live BBC recordings before joining The Jeff Beck Group in 1968. Face to Face was released in the UK in October 1966, where it was well received and peaked at number eight. It was released in the US in December and was tapped as a potential "chart winner" by Billboard magazine. Despite this it managed only a meager chart peak of 135—a sign of the band's flagging popularity in the American market. The Kinks' next single was a social commentary piece, entitled "Dead End Street". It was released in November 1966 and became another UK Top 10 hit, although it reached only number 73 in the United States. Melody Maker reviewer Bob Dawbarn praised Ray Davies' ability to create a song with "some fabulous lyrics and a marvelous melody ... combined with a great production," and music scholar Johnny Rogan described it as "a kitchen sink drama without the drama—a static vision of working class stoicism". One of the group's first promotional music videos was produced for the song. It was filmed on Little Green Street, a small 18th-century lane in North London, located off Highgate Road in Kentish Town.
The Kinks' next single, "Waterloo Sunset", was released in May 1967. The lyrics describe two lovers passing over a bridge, with a melancholic observer reflecting on the couple, the Thames and Waterloo Station. The song was rumoured to have been inspired by the romance between two British celebrities of the time, actors Terence Stamp and Julie Christie. Ray Davies denied this in his autobiography, and claimed in a 2008 interview, "It was a fantasy about my sister going off with her boyfriend to a new world and they were going to emigrate and go to another country." Despite its complex arrangement, the sessions for "Waterloo Sunset" lasted a mere ten hours; Dave Davies later commented on the recording: "We spent a lot of time trying to get a different guitar sound, to get a more unique feel for the record. In the end we used a tape-delay echo, but it sounded new because nobody had done it since the 1950s. I remember Steve Marriott of the Small Faces came up and asked me how we'd got that sound. We were almost trendy for a while." The single was one of The Kinks' biggest UK successes (hitting number two on Melody Maker's chart), and went on to become one of their most popular and best-known songs. Pop music journalist Robert Christgau called it "the most beautiful song in the English language", and Allmusic senior editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine cited it as "possibly the most beautiful song of the rock and roll era."
The songs on the 1967 album, Something Else By The Kinks, developed the musical progressions of Face to Face, adding English music hall influences to the band's sound. Dave Davies scored a major UK chart success with the album's "Death of a Clown". While it was co-written by Ray Davies and recorded by the Kinks, it was also released as a Dave Davies solo single. Overall, however, the album's commercial performance was disappointing, prompting The Kinks to rush out a new single, "Autumn Almanac", in early October. Backed with "Mister Pleasant", the single quickly became another Top 5 success for the group. Andy Miller points out that, despite its success, the single marks a turning point in the band's career—it would be their last entry into the UK Top Ten for three years: "In retrospect, 'Autumn Almanac' marked the first hint of trouble for The Kinks. This glorious single, one of the greatest achievements of British 60s pop, was widely criticised at the time for being too similar to previous Davies efforts." Nick Jones of Melody Maker asked, "Is it time that Ray stopped writing about grey suburbanites going about their fairly unemotional daily business? ... Ray works to a formula, not a feeling, and it's becoming rather boring." Disc jockey Mike Ahern called the song "a load of old rubbish". Dave's second solo single, "Susannah's Still Alive", was released in the UK on 24 November. It sold a modest 59,000 copies, but failed to reach the Top 10. Miller states that "by the end of the year, The Kinks were rapidly sliding out of fashion."
Beginning early in 1968, the group largely retired from touring, instead focusing on work in the studio. As the band was not available to promote their material, subsequent releases met with little success. The Kinks' next single, "Wonderboy", released in the spring of 1968, stalled at number 36 and became the band's first single not to make the UK Top Twenty since their early covers. Despite this, it became a favourite of John Lennon of The Beatles. According to Ray Davies, "Someone had seen John Lennon in a club and he kept on asking the disc jockey to play 'Wonder Boy' [sic] over and over again". However, the band's own opinion of the track was low—Pete Quaife later stated, "[I] hated it ... it was horrible." In the face of The Kinks' declining popularity, Davies continued to pursue his deeply personal songwriting style while rebelling against the heavy demands placed on him to keep producing commercial hits, and the group continued to devote time to the studio, centring on a slowly developing project of Ray's called Village Green. In an attempt to revive the group's commercial standing, the Kinks' management booked them on a month-long package tour for April, drawing the group away from the studio. The venues were largely cabarets and clubs; headlining was Peter Frampton's group The Herd. "In general, the teenyboppers were not there to see the boring old Kinks, who occasionally had to endure chants of "We Want The Herd!" during their brief appearances," commented Andy Miller. The tour proved taxing and stressful—Pete Quaife recalled, "It was a chore, very dull, boring and straightforward. ... We only did twenty minutes, but it used to drive me absolutely frantic, standing on stage and playing three notes over and over again." At the end of June, The Kinks released the single "Days", which provided a minor, but only momentary, comeback for the group. "I remember playing it when I was at Fortis Green the first time I had a tape of it," Ray said. "I played it to Brian, who used to be our roadie, and his wife and two daughters. They were crying at the end of it. Really wonderful—like going to Waterloo and seeing the sunset. ... It's like saying goodbye to somebody, then afterwards feeling the fear that you actually are alone." "Days" reached number 12 in the United Kingdom and was a Top 20 hit in several other countries, but it did not chart in the United States.
Village Green eventually morphed into their next album, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, released in late 1968 in the UK. A collection of thematic vignettes of English town and hamlet life, it was assembled from songs written and recorded over the previous two years. It was greeted with almost unanimously positive reviews from both UK and US rock critics, yet failed to sell strongly. One factor in the album's initial commercial failure was the lack of a popular single. It did not include the moderately successful "Days"; "Starstruck" was released in North America and continental Europe, but was unsuccessful. Though a commercial disappointment, Village Green (the project's original name was adopted as shorthand for the long album title) was embraced by the new underground rock press when it came out in January 1969 in the United States, where The Kinks began to acquire a reputation as a cult band. In The Village Voice, a newly hired Robert Christgau called it "the best album of the year so far". The underground Boston paper Fusion published a review stating, "the Kinks continue, despite the odds, the bad press and their demonstrated lot, to come across. ... Their persistence is dignified, their virtues are stoic. The Kinks are forever, only for now in modern dress." The record did not escape criticism, however. In the student paper California Tech, one writer commented that it was "schmaltz rock ... without imagination, poorly arranged and a poor copy of The Beatles". Although it sold only an estimated 100,000 copies worldwide on its initial release, it has since become The Kinks' best-selling original record. The album remains popular; in 2004, it was re-released in a 3-CD "Deluxe" edition and one of its tracks, "Picture Book", was featured in a popular Hewlett-Packard television commercial, helping to boost the album's popularity considerably.
In early 1969, Quaife told the band he was leaving. The other members did not take his statement seriously, until an article appeared in New Musical Express on 4 April featuring Quaife's new band, Maple Oak, which he had formed without telling the rest of The Kinks. Ray Davies pleaded with him to return for the sessions for their upcoming album, but Quaife refused. Davies immediately called up John Dalton, who had filled in for Quaife in the past, as a replacement. Dalton remained with the group until 1977, when the album Sleepwalker was released.
Ray Davies travelled to Los Angeles, California, in April 1969 to help negotiate an end to the American Federation of Musicians' ban on the group, opening up an opportunity for them to return to touring in America. The group's management quickly made plans for a North American tour, to help restore their standing in the US pop music scene. Before their return to the United States, The Kinks recorded another album, Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). As with the previous two albums, Arthur was grounded in characteristically English lyrical and musical hooks. A modest commercial success, it was well received by American music critics. Conceived as the score for a proposed but unrealised television drama, much of the album revolved around themes from the Davies brothers' childhood; their sister Rosie, who had migrated to Australia in the early 1960s with her husband, Arthur Anning, the album's namesake; and life growing up during the Second World War. The Kinks embarked on their tour of the US in October 1969. The tour was generally unsuccessful, as the group struggled to find cooperative promoters and interested audiences; many of the scheduled concert dates were cancelled. The band did, however, manage to play a few major underground venues such as the Fillmore East and Whisky A Go Go.
The band added keyboardist John Gosling to their line-up in early 1970; before this Nicky Hopkins, along with Ray, had done most of the session work on keyboards. In May 1970 Gosling debuted with The Kinks on "Lola", an account of a confused romantic encounter with a transvestite, that became both a UK and US Top 10 hit, helping return The Kinks to the public eye. The lyrics originally contained the word "Coca-Cola", and as a result the BBC refused to broadcast the song, considering it to be in violation of their policy against product placement. Part of the song was hastily re-recorded by Ray Davies, with the offending line changed to the generic "cherry cola", although in concert, the Kinks still used "Coca-Cola". Recordings of both versions of "Lola" exist. The accompanying album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One was released in November 1970. It was a critical and commercial success, charting in the Top 40 in America, making it their most successful album since the mid-1960s. After the success of "Lola", the band went on to release Percy in 1971, a soundtrack album to a film of the same name about a penis transplant. The album, which consisted largely of instrumentals, did not receive positive reviews. The band's US label, Reprise, declined to release it in America, precipitating a major dispute that contributed to the band's departure from the label. Directly after the release of the album, the band's contracts with Pye and Reprise expired.
Before the end of 1971, the Kinks signed a five-album deal with RCA Records and received a million-dollar advance, which helped fund the construction of their own recording studio, Konk. Their debut for RCA, Muswell Hillbillies, was replete with the influence of music hall and traditional American musical styles, including country and bluegrass. It is often hailed as their last great record, though it was not as successful as its predecessors. It was named after the Davies brothers' birthplace in Muswell Hill and contained songs focusing on working-class life and, again, the Davies childhood. Muswell Hillbillies, despite positive reviews and high expectations, peaked at number 48 on the Record World chart and number 100 on the Billboard chart. It was followed in 1972 by a double album, Everybody's in Show-Biz, which consisted of both studio tracks and live numbers recorded during a two-night stand at Carnegie Hall. The record featured the ballad "Celluloid Heroes" and the Caribbean-themed "Supersonic Rocket Ship", their last UK Top 20 hit for more than a decade. "Celluloid Heroes" was a bittersweet rumination on dead Hollywood stars in which the narrator declares that he wishes his life were like a movie, "because celluloid heroes never feel any pain ... and celluloid heroes never really die." The album was moderately successful in the United States, peaking at number 47 in Record World and number 70 in Billboard. It marks the transition between the band's early 1970s rock material and the theatrical incarnation in which they immersed themselves for the next four years.
Theatrical incarnation (1973–1976)
In 1973, Ray Davies dived headlong into the theatrical style, beginning with the rock opera Preservation, a sprawling chronicle of social revolution, and a more ambitious outgrowth of the earlier Village Green Preservation Society ethos. In conjunction with the Preservation project, The Kinks' line-up was expanded to include a horn section and female backup singers, essentially reconfiguring the group as a theatrical troupe.
Ray's marital problems during this period began to affect the band adversely, particularly after his wife, Rasa, took their children and left him in June 1973. Davies went into a state of depression, culminating in a public outburst during a July gig at White City Stadium. According to a Melody Maker review of the concert, "Davies swore on stage. He stood at The White City and swore that he was 'F...... [sic] sick of the whole thing'. ... He was 'Sick up to here with it' ... and those that heard shook their heads." At the show's conclusion, as pretaped music played on the sound system, he declared that he was quitting. Sounds magazine reported that Ray looked "haggard and ill" before he kissed Dave Davies "gently on the cheek, and then delivered the bombshell". Ray subsequently collapsed after a drug overdose and was rushed to hospital. Dave later commented in an interview about the incident:
With Ray Davies in a seemingly critical condition, plans were discussed for Dave to continue as frontman in a worst-case scenario. Ray eventually pulled through and recovered from his illness as well as his depression, but throughout the remainder of The Kinks' theatrical incarnation the band's output remained uneven, and their already fading popularity declined even more. John Dalton later commented that when Davies "decided to work again ... I don't think he was totally better, and he's been a different person ever since."
Preservation Act 1 was released in late 1973 to generally poor reviews, and its sequel, Preservation Act 2, appeared in May 1974 to a similar reception. It was the first album recorded at Konk Studio; from this point forward, virtually every Kinks studio recording was produced by Ray Davies at Konk. The Kinks embarked on an ambitious US tour throughout late 1974, adapting the Preservation story for stage. Musicologist Eric Weisbard: "[Ray] Davies expanded the Kinks into a road troupe of perhaps a dozen costumed actors, singers and horn players. ... Smoother and tighter than on record, Preservation live proved funnier as well."
Davies soon began another project for Granada Television, a musical called Starmaker. After a broadcast with Ray Davies in the starring role and The Kinks as both back-up band and ancillary characters, the project eventually morphed into the concept album The Kinks Present a Soap Opera, released in May 1975, in which Ray Davies fantasised about what would happen if a rock star traded places with a "normal Norman" and took a 9–5 job. In August 1975, The Kinks recorded their final theatrical work, Schoolboys in Disgrace, a backstory biography of Preservation's Mr Flash. The record was a modest success, peaking at number 45 on the Billboard charts. Following the termination of their contract with RCA, The Kinks signed with Arista Records in 1976. With the encouragement of Arista's management they stripped back down to a five-man core group and were reborn as an arena rock band. During this period, heavy metal band Van Halen achieved a Top 40 hit with a cover of "You Really Got Me" (and their subsequent debut album, Van Halen, which included the track, hit number 19 on Billboard), boosting The Kinks' commercial resurgence.
Return to commercial success (1977–1985)
John Dalton left the band before finishing the sessions for the debut Arista album. Andy Pyle was brought in to complete the sessions and to play on the subsequent tour. Sleepwalker, released in 1977, marked a return to success for the group as it peaked at number 21 on the Billboard chart. Soon after its release and the recording of its followup, Misfits, Andy Pyle and keyboardist John Gosling left the group to work together on a separate project. Dalton returned to complete the tour and ex–Pretty Things keyboardist Gordon John Edwards joined the band. In May 1978, Misfits, the Kinks' second Arista album, was released. It included the US Top 40 hit "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy", which helped make the record another success for the band. Dalton left the band permanently at the end of their UK tour, and Gordon John Edwards soon followed. Ex-Argent bassist Jim Rodford joined the band before the recording of Low Budget, on which Ray Davies played the keyboard sections. Keyboardist Ian Gibbons was recruited for the subsequent tour, and soon became a permanent member of the group. Despite the personnel changes, the popularity of the band's records and live shows continued to grow.
Beginning in the late 1970s, bands such as the Jam ("David Watts"), the Pretenders ("Stop Your Sobbing", "I Go to Sleep") and the Knack ("The Hard Way") recorded covers of Kinks songs, which helped bring attention to the group's new releases. In 1978, Van Halen covered "You Really Got Me" for their debut single, a Top 40 U.S. hit (the band later covered "Where Have All the Good Times Gone", another early Kinks song). The hard rock sound of Low Budget, released in 1979, helped make it the Kinks' second gold album and highest charting original album in America, where it peaked at number 11. In 1980, the group's third live album, One for the Road, was produced, along with a video of the same title, bringing the group's concert-drawing power to a peak that would last into 1983. Dave Davies also took advantage of the group's improved commercial standing to fulfill his decade-long ambitions to release albums of his solo work. The first was the eponymous Dave Davies in 1980. It was also known by its catalogue number "AFL1-3603" because of its cover art, which depicted Dave Davies as a leather-jacketed piece of price-scanning barcode. He produced another, less successful, solo album in 1981, Glamour.
The next Kinks album, Give the People What They Want, was released in late 1981 and reached number 15 in the US. The record attained gold status and featured the UK hit single "Better Things" as well as "Destroyer", a major Mainstream Rock hit for the group. To promote the album, The Kinks spent the end of 1981 and most of 1982 touring relentlessly, and played multiple sell-out concerts throughout Australia, Japan, England and America. The tour culminated with a performance at the US Festival in San Bernardino, California, for a crowd of 205,000. In spring 1983, the song "Come Dancing" became their biggest American hit since "Tired of Waiting for You", peaking at number six. It also became the group's first Top 20 hit in the UK since 1972, peaking at number 12 in the charts. The accompanying album, State of Confusion, was another commercial success, reaching number 12 in the US, but, like all of the group's albums since 1967, it failed to chart in the UK. Another single released from the record, "Don't Forget to Dance", became a US top 30 hit and minor UK chart entry.
The Kinks' second wave of popularity remained at a peak with State of Confusion, but that success soon begin to fade, a trend that also affected their British rock contemporaries The Rolling Stones and The Who at the time. During the second half of 1983, Ray Davies started work on an ambitious solo film project, Return to Waterloo, about a London commuter who daydreams that he is a serial murderer. The film gave actor Tim Roth a significant early role. Davies' commitment to writing, directing and scoring the new work caused tension in his relationship with his brother. Another problem was the stormy end of the relationship between Ray Davies and Chrissie Hynde. The old feud between Dave Davies and drummer Mick Avory also re-ignited. Davies eventually refused to work with Avory, and called for him to be replaced by Bob Henrit, former drummer of Argent (of which Jim Rodford had also been a member). Avory left the band, and Henrit was brought in to take his place. Ray Davies, who was still on amiable terms with Avory, invited him to manage Konk Studios. Avory accepted, and continued to serve as a producer and occasional contributor on later Kinks albums.
Between the completion of Return to Waterloo and Avory's departure, the band had begun work on Word of Mouth, their final Arista album, released in November 1984. As a result it features Avory on three tracks, with Henrit and a drum machine on the rest. Many of the songs also appeared as solo recordings on Ray Davies' Return to Waterloo soundtrack album. Word of Mouth's lead track, "Do it Again", was released as a single in April 1985. It reached number 41 in the US, the band's last entry into the Billboard Hot 100.
Coinciding with the album's release, the first three books on The Kinks were published. The Kinks: The Official Biography, by Jon Savage, drew on extensive interviews with members of the band. Ray Davies had even helped Savage and his agent set up the book deal. However, shortly before the publication date, he tried three times to halt its release. The Observer reported that "first was an objection to the text, even though the singer had approved it earlier. ... Then there came a threatened injunction ... because of objections to some of the photographs. Then there was a curious demand [for a] £50,000 permission fee for quoting some lyrics." The threats were dismissed, and publication went forward. Appearing soon after were The Kinks Kronikles, by rock critic John Mendelsohn, who had compiled and written the liner notes to a similarly titled compilation album released in 1972; and The Kinks—The Sound And The Fury (The Kinks—A Mental Institution in the US), by Johnny Rogan.
Decline in popularity and split (1986–1996)
In early 1986, the group signed with MCA Records in the United States and London Records in the UK. Their first album for the new labels, Think Visual, released later that year, was a moderate success, peaking at number 81 on the Billboard albums chart. Songs like the ballad "Lost and Found" and "Working at the Factory" concerned blue-collar life on an assembly line, while the title track was an attack on the very MTV video culture from which the band had profited earlier in the decade. The Kinks followed Think Visual in 1987 with another live album, The Road, which was a mediocre commercial and critical performer. In 1989, The Kinks released UK Jive, a commercial failure, making only a momentary entry into the album charts at number 122. MCA Records ultimately dropped them, leaving The Kinks scrambling to find a label deal for the first time in over a quarter of a century. Longtime keyboardist Ian Gibbons left the group and was replaced by Mark Haley.
In 1990, their first year of eligibility, the Kinks were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Mick Avory and Pete Quaife were present for the award. The induction, however, did not resuscitate The Kinks' stalled career. A compilation from the MCA Records period was produced in 1991, titled Lost & Found (1986-1989). It was primarily released to fulfill contractual obligations, and marked the official end of the group's relationship with MCA. The band then signed with Columbia Records and released the five-song EP Did Ya in 1991 which, despite being coupled with a new studio re-recording of the band's 1968 British hit "Days", failed to chart.
The Kinks reverted to a four-piece band for the recording of their first Columbia album, Phobia, in 1993. Following Mark Haley's departure after the band's sellout performance at the Royal Albert Hall, London, Gibbons rejoined The Kinks for a US tour. Phobia managed only one week in the US Billboard chart at number 166; as had by then become usual for the band, it made no impression in the UK. One single, "Only a Dream", narrowly failed to reach the British chart. "Scattered", the album's final candidate for release as a single, was announced, followed by TV and radio promotion, but the record was unavailable in stores—several months later a small number appeared on the collector market. The group was dropped by Columbia in 1994. In the same year, the band released the first version of the album To the Bone on their own Konk label in the UK. This live acoustic album was partly recorded on the highly successful UK tours of 1993 and 1994 and partly in the Konk studio, before a small, invited audience. Two years later the band released a new, improved, live double CD set in the USA, which retained the same name and contained two new studio tracks, "Animal" and "To The Bone". The CD set also featured new treatments of many old Kinks hits. The record drew respectable press but failed to chart in either the US or the UK.
The band's profile rose considerably in the mid-1990s, primarily as a result of the "Britpop" boom. Several of the most prominent bands of the decade cited The Kinks as a major influence. Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Oasis chief songwriter Noel Gallagher both described The Kinks as having a major impact on their songwriting as well as their overall development as musical artists. Gallagher declared The Kinks the fifth best band of all time. Despite such accolades, the group's commercial viability continued to decline. They gradually became less active, leading Ray and Dave Davies to pursue their own interests. Each released an autobiography; Ray's X-Ray was published in early 1995, and Dave responded with his memoir Kink, published a year later. The Kinks gave their last public performance in mid-1996, and the group assembled for what would turn out to be their last time together at a party for Dave's 50th birthday. Kinks chronicler and historian Doug Hinman stated, "The symbolism of the event was impossible to overlook. The party was held at the site of the brothers' very first musical endeavour, the Clissold Arms pub, across the street from their childhood home on Fortis Green in North London."
Solo work and potential reunion (1997–present)
The band members subsequently focused on solo projects, and Ray and Dave released their own studio albums. Talk of a Kinks reunion circulated (including an aborted studio reunion of the original band members in 1999), but neither Ray nor Dave Davies showed much interest in playing together again. Meanwhile, former members John Gosling, John Dalton and Mick Avory had regrouped in 1994 and started performing on the oldies circuit along with guitar-player/singer Dave Clarke as The Kast Off Kinks. Gosling and Dalton retired in 2008 and were replaced in the band by former Kinks members Jim Rodford and Ian Gibbons. Ray Davies, Pete Quaife and Bob Henrit have occasionally made guest appearances with the group at Kinks fan club conventions.
Ray Davies came out with the solo album Storyteller, a companion piece to X-Ray, in 1998. Originally written two years earlier as a cabaret-style show, it celebrated his old band and his estranged brother. Seeing the programming possibilities in his music/dialogue/reminiscence format, the American music television network VH1 launched a series of similar projects featuring established rock artists titled VH1 Storytellers. Dave Davies spoke favourably of a Kinks reunion in early 2003, and as the 40th anniversary of the group's breakthrough neared, both of the Davies brothers expressed interest in working together again. However, hopes for a reunion were eliminated when in June 2004 Dave suffered a stroke while exiting an elevator, temporarily impairing his ability to speak and play guitar. Following Dave's recovery, The Kinks were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in November 2005, with all four of the original band members in attendance. The award was presented by The Who's guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend, a longtime Kinks fan and friend of Ray Davies. The induction helped fuel sales for the group; in August 2007, a re-entry of The Ultimate Collection, a compilation of material spanning the band's career, reached number 32 on the UK Top 100 album chart and number one on the UK Indie album chart.
In December 2007, Record Collector published an interview with Ray Davies in which he said, "I spoke to Quaife about a month ago and he dearly wants to make another record with me. I think Dave's getting better and Mick's still playing. It would be great to get back together just to see what musical ideas we had, and what would happen." The Daily Mail subsequently interpreted his comments as a declaration that a reunion of the band's original line-up was imminent. Dave Davies swiftly rejected the idea of a reunion. He told a reporter that "it would be like a bad remake of Night of the Living Dead" and added, "Ray has been doing Karaoke Kinks shows since 1996."
In a September 2008 interview with BBC Radio 4, Ray Davies said of a possible reunion, "There is a desire to do it", but that he wouldn't participate if it were a nostalgia act: "The thing that would make me decide 'yes' or 'no' would be whether or not we could do new songs". He added that the main barrier to the band getting back together was his brother's condition following his stroke. Two months later, he told the BBC that the band was beginning to write new material for a possible reunion, but failed to detail which members were involved. In an interview aired that December on the Biography Channel, Quaife rejected any possibility that he would take part in a reunion. That same month, Ray Davies spoke again about the possibility of performing with his brother: "I suggested he do some low-key shows to see how well he can play. If we're going to play together again, we can't hit the road straight away with a big-time announcement. ... But, if Dave feels good about it and there's good new material that we can write, it'll happen."
In June 2009, Ray Davies told The Independent that while a full-fledged reunion was unlikely, "I will continue to play with ex-band members like Mick Avory from time to time. With Dave, a lot of it is psychological. I’ll guide him in, and coerce and nurture him, and when the time is right I suppose I’ll even shout at him again." When asked about a possible reunion in an interview that year, Avory stated, "A reunion would not be possible with the originals, for a start due to ill health. But it would be possible with the Kast Off Kinks plus Ray. In any event Ray would record new material. We have some old tracks from the 80s as well." In March 2010, Avory reported that the band were planning on releasing an album of unreleased and new material. He stated that they had "eight tracks" ready for the album, but that the Davies brothers had to settle their differences before the project could progress. It remains unclear who has been involved in the recordings besides Avory and Ray Davies.
Quaife, who had been receiving kidney dialysis for more than ten years, died on 23 June 2010, aged 66. Two days after the bassist's death, Dave Davies posted a statement on his message board expressing deep sorrow over the passing of his former band mate and stating that Quaife "was never really given the credit he deserved for his contribution and involvlement [sic] [with The Kinks]". Ray Davies dedicated his 27 June performance at the Glastonbury Festival to Quaife and performed several Quaife-era Kinks songs in tribute to him. Davies told the crowd, "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him."
In separate interviews early in 2011 both Davies brothers spoke positively about a potential reunion. Dave Davies explained, "There's nothing in the pipeline yet, but...we'll see. It's possible." Each has said that any reunion would be dependent on the other. According to Ray Davies, the brothers were to meet in April to discuss future plans. In October that year, Dave Davies quashed rumours of a reunion, stating in an interview that although he loves his brother, "I just can’t stand to be with him. About an hour with Ray’s my limit, so it would be a very short reunion." In November of that year Ray Davies reported that he had recently recorded with Avory "just to sort of try to do what we call demos...we might do it in fits and starts and bring Dave in at a later date. I'll never say never with my brother, because he's totally unpredictable."
The Kinks are recognised as one of the most important and influential rock acts of the 1960s. Stephen Thomas Erlewine called the Kinks "one of the most influential bands of the British Invasion". Artists influenced by The Kinks include punk rock groups such as the Ramones, The Clash, and The Jam, New Wave and heavy metal acts like The Pretenders and Van Halen and Britpop groups such as Oasis, Blur and Pulp. Pete Townshend, guitarist with The Kinks' contemporaries The Who, was particularly influenced by the group's sound: "the Kinks were ... quintessentially English. I always think that Ray Davies should one day be poet laureate. He invented a new kind of poetry and a new kind of language for pop writing that influenced me from the very, very, very beginning." Jon Savage wrote that The Kinks were an influence on late-1960s American psychedelic groups, "like the Doors, Love and Jefferson Airplane".
Musicologist Joe Harrington has described the Kinks' influence on the development of hard rock and heavy metal: "'You Really Got Me', 'All Day and All of the Night' and 'I Need You' were predecessors of the whole three-chord genre ... the Kinks did a lot to help turn rock 'n' roll (Jerry Lee Lewis) into rock (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, the Stooges)."
Charts, sales certifications and recognition
The Kinks had five Top 10 singles on the US Billboard chart. Nine of their albums charted in the Top 40. In the UK, the group had seventeen Top 20 singles along with five Top 10 albums. The RIAA has certified four of The Kinks' albums as gold records. Greatest Hits!, released in 1965, was certified gold for sales of $1,000,000 on 28 November 1968—six days after the release of The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, which failed to chart worldwide. The group would not receive another gold record award until 1979's Low Budget; the 1980 live album One For The Road followed soon after, and was certified gold on 8 December 1980. Give The People What They Want, released in 1981, received its certification on 25 January 1982, for sales of 500,000 copies. ASCAP, the performing-rights group, presented The Kinks with an award for "One of the Most Played Songs Of 1983" for the hit single "Come Dancing".
The group received the Ivor Novello Award for "Outstanding Service to British Music", and in 1990 the original four members of The Kinks were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Kinks were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in November 2005.
The Kinks initially stayed within the boundaries of genres such as R&B and blues, but soon began experimenting with louder rock and hard rock sounds—due to their pioneering of the field, they have often been labelled as "the original punks". Dave Davies became bored with the traditional "clean" guitar style of the period; in search of a louder, more biting sound, he famously split the speaker cone of his Elpico amplifier (nicknamed "the little green amp"): "I started to get really frustrated [with the amp's sound], and I said, 'I know! I'll fix you!' I got a single-sided Gillette razorblade and cut ... [from the centre to the edge of the] cone ... so it was all shredded but still on there, still intact. I played and I thought it was amazing." The jagged sound of the amplifier was replicated in the studio; the Elpico was plugged into a larger Vox AC30, and the resulting effect became a mainstay in The Kinks' early recordings—most notably on "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night".
However, the group soon abandoned its R&B and hard rock leanings. From 1966 onwards, The Kinks came to be known for their adherence to traditions of English music and culture, during a period when many other British groups dismissed their heritage in favour of American blues, R&B and pop styles. Ray Davies recalled that at a distinct moment in 1965 he decided to break away from the American scene, and write more introspective and intelligent songs. "I decided I was going to use words more, and say things. I wrote 'Well Respected Man'. That was the first real word-oriented song I wrote. ... [I also] abandoned any attempt to Americanise my accent." The Kinks' allegiance to English styles was strengthened by the ban placed on them by the American Federation of Musicians. The ban cut them off from the American record buying public, the world's largest musical market, forcing them to focus on Britain and mainland Europe. The Kinks expanded on their English sound throughout the remainder of the 1960s, fusing music hall and folk, and creating some of the most influential and important music of the period.
Beginning with Everybody's In Show-biz (1972), Ray Davies began exploring theatrical concepts on the group's albums; these themes became manifest on the 1973 album Preservation Act 1 and continued through Schoolboys In Disgrace (1976). The Kinks found little success with these conceptual works, and reverted to a traditional rock format throughout the remainder of the 1970s. Sleepwalker (1977), which heralded their return to commercial success, featured a mainstream, relatively slick production style that would become their norm. The band returned to hard rock for Low Budget (1979), and continued to record within the genre throughout the remainder of their career.
Documentation, unreleased material and out-takes
The recording histories of contemporary acts were well-documented but little survived from studio archives of the Kinks' 1960s recording history. Ray Davies kept a diary, but he had, by 2004, not published it. Unlike larger record companies like EMI, Pye Records, kept few of the Kinks' session tapes, wiping or recording over most acetates and out-takes—by the mid-1980s. From the 1971 - and the move to RCA - both documentation and tapes were preserved because, at their own Konk Studios, The Kinks kept creative licence – but "until and unless there is some access to the vaults of Konk Studios, this aspect of the Kinks' recording legacy will remain far from definitive", Doug Hinman wrote in 2004. Later compilation releases, such as "Picture Book", increasingly included previously-unreleased material and commentary.
- Studio albums
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Image from Discogs