By: Amber Harvey
For many classic rock fans, Ray Davies is known as the mastermind behind such feel-good, timeless Kinks’ hits as “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All of the Night,” “Lola” and “Come Dancing.”
For a select group of fans—including those busy working on theses of why the Kinks top even the Beatles—their appreciation of Davies lies not in his “Greatest Hits,” but instead in his most obscure works—those artistic triumphs mistaken for commercial flops.
One such unappreciated Kinks gem is their 1968 LP, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, which Davies has called “the most successful failure of all time.” In a 1969 review of the album, Rolling Stone’s Paul Williams explained that true Kinks’ fandom is not just an appreciation for “some rock group. It’s more like a taste for fine wines from a certain valley, a devotion to a particular breed of cocker spaniel.”
If we are to describe the Kinks sound and lyrical content as fine wine, then the grapes that went into the group’s homebrew were Ray Davies’s remarkable ear for melody, as well as his tortured, yet brilliant eccentricity. It was Davies’s inner conflicts—his quests for privacy, approval and perfection—that would both fuel and hinder his band’s musical pursuits throughout the years.
Over four decades, Davies’s presided over the Kinks as they originated heavy metal and punk, pioneered rock opera, and inspired new-wave and Britpop. Although theirs is a somewhat schizophrenic catalog when looked at in its entirety, it brings to mind the old saying that, “the distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.”
When the Kinks played their last concert ever in Osloin 1996, Davies moved on to a successful solo career, experimenting further in film and writing. His most recent album See My Friends, features Kinks songs revisited by the likes of Metallica, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. On July 12 of this year, Davies will accompany Elton John at a concert in London’s iconic Hyde Park.
While an in-depth look at Kinks under-appreciated work makes it easy for one to bemoan the fact that the band isn’t given enough credit in the annals of Rock and Roll history, perhaps that is part of the band's charm.
That being said, it is more than our pleasure to give Davies credit where it is due on his 69th birthday today!
For more information on Ray Davies, visit the genius songwriter’s website, and be sure to share your birthday wishes in the comments section below!