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Messing Up in Public

Ray Davies gets the kinks (if not the Kinks) out of his career

Davies is too proud to be openly bitter. But he's still ambitious enough to recognize the power of his own past. Between performances, he's working up a new musical project spun out of his '80s hit "Come Dancing" and a literary follow-up to X-Ray.

"I don't want to think that I'm a writer," he says of the next book. "That's the biggest mistake anyone could ever make. 'Cause I'm not trained to do that. So I'm trying to let that personality come through that people recognize as me, rather than just write a story."

All of this should not be taken to mean, Davies reassures, that To the Bone is the Kinks's swan song. He continues to say that the band will go on recording together "as long as it's not torture" and that future one-shot arena shows (such as the performance at last year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction) remain a possibility. As for the group's reaction to Storyteller, Davies says, "I think it's generally, 'Oh, well, he's doing it. As long as it's going well, we don't mind.' " And then he laughs. In other words, Davies still has his best friend to look out for. This is, after all, the guy who told NME back in '64 that his "personal ambition" was "to be exceedingly successful and highly esteemed among my friends."

Exceedingly successful? Guess it depends how you measure it. Davies and the Kinks never imploded, but they never really exploded the way some of their contemporaries did either. Then again, if it's true -- as Davies remarks of the Kinks in To the Bone's liner notes -- that "everybody's always expecting us to do wonderful things, and we mess it all up usually," then that's at least in part because the band clings to a certain integrity. And integrity has not been proven, shall we say, to be a key ingredient in the ongoing success of certain middle-aged pop artists. Thus Kiss shows up on the cover of Forbes, Mick Jagger necks with Uma Thurman at the Viper Room and Pete Townshend ("Hope I die before I win a T-T-Tony") leads the Who in a series of rehashings of Quadrophenia in arenas across America.

Ah, well. No one needs to tell a Kinks fan there's no justice in rock and roll.

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