Fuse Rock Interview: Dave Davies — Playing the Kinks Klassics

In this interview Dave Davies discusses his solo show and gives us the latest on the ongoing Kinks intrigues.

Photo: R G Wilson

Dave Davies will perform Kinks tunes of yore at the Wilbur in Boston this week. Photo: R G Wilson

By Brett Milano

The Kinks are still very much with us, even if brothers Ray and Dave Davies can’t seem to come to terms on a reunion. But the band’s legacy is alive and well, with a constant stream of reissues — most recently, import vinyl of their early albums in mono — and a musical, Sunny Afternoon, that’s been playing to great success in London.

Lead guitarist Dave Davies launched his solo career with the momentous “Death of a Clown” single in 1967 and abandoned a solo album around that time. He finally made his first solo album a dozen years later, when the Kinks were deep into their arena-rock phase. Since surviving a stroke in 2004 he’s done three more studio albums (last year’s Rippin’ Up Time is the latest) whose lyrics take a nostalgic and Kinks-like lyrical tone. He’ll be playing that material at the Wilbur on Thursday, October 8, but most of the set will be Kinks klassics, mostly Ray’s with a few of his own.

In this interview Dave discusses his solo show and gives us the latest on the ongoing Kinks intrigues.

Arts Fuse: Listening to your new album, it sounds like you’ve been in a nostalgic mood.

Dave Davies: I think a lot of Kinks music and Ray’s writing is drawn from our family roots and background, so it seems quite normal for me to reflect on that. I had a great childhood and was very lucky, having a working class family in North London. That family support was really crucial in growing up and learning music, it was a really hopeful time. My sisters brought so much music into the house, everything from Little Richard and Fats Domino to Doris Day. They played piano and so did my dad, so it seemed quite natural to pick up a guitar.

AF: So it sounds like you and Ray still influence each other, even when you’re not speaking.

Davies: I think we’ve obviously had a great creative impact on each other, from the fact of being brothers. It’s always been a backwards and forwards kind of emotion. I’ve supported him very overtly in his writing. We’re bound to have an influence even on each other’s solo work. A song like “Front Room” from the new album is about being brought up together, and the way those rehearsals used to happen

AF: Which brings up the obvious question: Why can’t you and Ray get it together to do a Kinks reunion?

Davies: There’s been a lot of weird stuff over the years. Ray always talks about how we could do it if it felt alright, but I think we’d need to get together and figure out exactly what we’d want to do. That would take proper respect from him to start off with. We need to do a show where we approach it like professional people—musicians, performers. I don’t want a show where I’m sitting in the bloody corner. We’re planning to meet before Christmas and I’m sure we could work it out—It’s just that big-brother thing always making it strange. It must have been really terrible for the Everly Brothers.

AF: Ray tells the story that the little shout we hear before the guitar solo on “You Really Got Me” is you yelling “Fuck off!” at him. True?

Davies: Yeah, because that was already difficult enough and he was making it worse by standing in front of me so I couldn’t concentrate. We didn’t have a lot of time to make that one, so I knew I was going to have to get it right the first time, and he was starting to piss me off. I’m not sure I could still hear that on the record, my ears aren’t that good anymore.

AF: My favorite of your solo albums is a lesser known one, Chosen People from 1983. It’s different in a few ways, with a prog-rock flavor and more spirituality in the lyrics.

Davies: Oh, glad you know that one. I had come across the story of a Lakota Indian, Black Elk [ed note– a leader and medicine man who died in 1950], and wound up doing a lot of research on him. And I sort of realized that we were a witness to his life and work. And that inspired me, the idea that we’re all chosen people and that it’s what we do with our lives that’s important.

AF: Your show has a lot of Kinks songs in it, but it looks like you’re mostly doing Ray’s.

Davies: We’re rehearsing a couple of mine—“Susanna’s Still Alive,” “Love Me Till The Sun Shines,” but we’re trying to give people a mix of things. I’m trying to get my own favorites in there—I’ve always loved Arthur and Muswell Hillbillies, and “See My Friends” has always been a favorite, though I always thought that should have been a longer piece of music. I really love “Complicated Life” (from Muswell) and would love to throw in a bit of that. And “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”—Ray wrote that, but I always felt like it was my song. But I can’t do a show without playing “You Really Got Me,” that just wouldn’t seem right. It would feel like I was out there hopping around on one leg.

AF: That would make it Jethro Tull instead of the Kinks.

Davies: Right (laughs).

Brett Milano has been covering music in Boston for decades, and is the author of Vinyl Junkies: Adventures in Record Collecting (St. Martins, 2001) and The Sound of Our Town: A History of Boston Rock & Roll (Commonwealth Editions, 2007). He recently returned from New Orleans where he was editor of the music and culture magazine OffBeat.

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