The Kinks’ Ray Davies on drugs, mortality, and his volatile relationship with his brother: ‘I have a dark side’

While the frontman was always the more subdued of his bandmates, especially compared to his riotous younger brother, he has his share of Swinging Sixties stories to tell. As The Kinks celebrate their 60th anniversary, Chris Harvey finds the musician, now 79, on reflective form post-tooth extraction

Wednesday 22 November 2023 08:58
<p>Clockwise from back left: Mick Avory, Ray Davies, Pete Quaife, Dave Davies</p>

Clockwise from back left: Mick Avory, Ray Davies, Pete Quaife, Dave Davies

We were a working-class band with upper class aspiration,” says Ray Davies. “Born at a wonderful time in an evolving world. I hope I reflected some of that world in my songs.” The 79-year-old is chatting over Zoom about the second of the two-part collection, The Journey, released this week to mark 60 years of his band The Kinks, of which Davies remains lead singer and rhythm guitarist.

The Journey Pt 1, released in March, opened with the distorted power chords of “You Really Got Me”, the first great buzz guitar riff of the Sixties, created with an amplifier that lead guitarist Dave Davies had slashed with a razor blade. The single raced to No 1 in August 1964, and set the tone for primal rock riffs stretching way into the future, from “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to “Purple Haze” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

The Journey Pt 2 opens with the sharper, brighter, yet perhaps even more violent chords of “Till the End of the Day”, the guitar sound of The Jam’s “Art School” and “In the City”, as well as the ringing chimes of The Who and The Strokes. The song was recorded just over a year after “You Really Got Me”, at the beginning of November 1965, yet between those dates, The Kinks had released a stream of EPs and singles that included “All Day and All of the Night”, “Tired of Waiting for You”, “Set Me Free”, “See My Friends” and “A Well Respected Man”. Great songs were just pouring out of Davies – with “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” next to drop.

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