Kinks guitarist Dave Davies turns 70 years old today, believe it or not. He formed the Kinks with his brother Ray (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), with whom he has had a rocky relationship over the years, back in 1964 in Muswell Hill, North London. Also including drummer Mick Avory and bassist Pete Quaife, the Kinks were briefly a part of the British Invasion of the U.S. along with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits and the Animals; the band’s third single, “You Really Got Me,” released in August 1964, featured loud, distorted guitars and became an international hit.
Altogether the band had five Top 10 singles on the U.S. Billboard chart and 17 Top 20 singles and five Top 10 albums in the UK, selling 50 million albums worldwide. The Kinks were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, their first year of eligibility.
Despite all their success, I always felt the Kinks were somewhat overshadowed by their peers the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, especially in America; the band has always been well-respected by other artists, and music historians have acknowledged the Kinks as having been extremely influential in the development of hard rock, heavy metal and punk, with the band being labeled "the original punks" by some. Here’s a look back at some of their best songs.
10. "Till the End of the Day" (1965)
Written by Ray Davies, "Till the End of the Day" is a song celebrating young love, youth and freedom from responsibilities with the lyrics: “You and me we're free/ We do as we please, yeah/ From morning, till the end of the day/ Till the end of the day.” The power chord in the song can’t be beat; the song reached No. 8 on the UK charts and number 50 in the U.S.; founding KISS lead guitarist Ace Frehley is a huge Kinks fan and recorded a version of the song for his covers album Origins, Vol. 1, released in April 2016.
9. "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" (1965)
Released as the B-side to the aforementioned "Till the End of the Day," "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" was the second Kinks song covered by Van Halen after the success of their version of “You Really Got Me” from their fantastic self-titled debut; David Bowie also covered the song on his 1973 album Pin Ups. Davies has said the lyrics were inspired by the older people he met in pubs in Britain who were complaining about high taxes and the lack of high-paying jobs; I can’t help but think that this song’s title could equally be relatable to both Donald Trump supporters and his detractors at different points in time; sorry, couldn’t resist.
8. "A Well Respected Man" (1965)
"A Well Respected Man" is a song about class consciousness in Britain and the conventions of the English middle and upper classes, though Americans could relate to it as well presumably since it reached No. 13 on the U.S. charts. Written by Ray Davies, the lyrics are satirical and comment on the hypocrisy and tedious boredom often present in a 9-to-5 so-called respectable career and conservative lifestyle that many in the West aspire to but ultimately are unsatisfied with.
7. "Tired of Waiting For You" (1965)
Written on a train to the recording studio, with lyrics written at a coffee shop during a break, “Tired of Waiting for You" comments on the romantic and sexual frustrations of a guy getting the brush-off from a girl he is interested in; the song was another hit for the Kinks, reaching No. 6 in the U.S. and No. 1 in the UK.
6. “Destroyer” (1981)
Like every song on our list, “Destroyer” was written by Ray Davies; the lyrics reference the earlier Kinks song “Lola” with the leading man becoming paranoid after taking Lola back to his place. The song also uses the main riff from the band’s 1964 song "All Day and All of the Night." When I was younger I thought the lyric was “paranoia will destroy ya,” but the correct lyric is “paranoia, the destroyer.”
5. “Come Dancing” (1982)
I'm an '80s kid, and this is my personal favorite song by the Kinks. It’s catchy and fun to sing along with, and the video makes me nostalgic for the early days of MTV. Ironically, I don’t dance at all; Ray Davies's older sister, Rene, sadly died of a heart attack in 1957 while dancing at a dance hall, inspiring him to write the song. It's a nostalgic look back at Rene’s days of dancing at clubs in the '50s and does not comment on her death. "Come Dancing" reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, tying with the aforementioned "Tired of Waiting for You" for the Kinks' highest-charting single in the U.S.
4. "All Day and All of the Night" (1964)
"All Day and All of the Night" was yet another classic, power-chord-riffing Kinks song covered by Van Halen, though they never recorded it for an album; fellow hard rockers Scorpions and Quiet Riot, along with English punk band the Stranglers, have also covered the song. The Doors were accused of stealing the song’s musical structure for their 1968 song "Hello, I Love You," charges that Doors guitarist Robby Krieger has denied. Courts in the UK reportedly found in favor of songwriter Ray Davies, and royalties for “Hello, I Love You" are paid to him.
3. “Waterloo Sunset" (1967)
Many consider “Waterloo Sunset" to be the Kinks' finest song, and it reached all the way up to No 2 on the British charts and was a Top 10 hit in most of Europe as well, though the song didn’t even chart in America. Rolling Stone ranked the song No. 43 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. The lyrics describe the observations of a melancholy, solitary man observing a couple walking over a bridge on the River Thames near Waterloo (railway) Station in London. Ray Davies has stated that the song was originally titled “Liverpool Station,” as Liverpool is his favorite city.
2. “Lola” (1970)
“Lola” is the Kinks' most iconic song and famously tells the tale of a young man who meets a possible transgender woman named Lola in a nightclub in London; Lola is described in the lyrics as a person who "walked like a woman and talked like a man.” The original song had the word “Coca-Cola” in the lyrics but it had to be re-recorded as “cherry cola” for the single release, because BBC Radio in England had a policy against commercial product placement. The song was a hit worldwide despite being banned in Australia and enduring threats of censorship elsewhere because of its controversial nature at that time. “Lola” is a classic song, and the inspiration for Weird Al Yankovic’s hilarious parody “Yoda,” based on the little green guy from the Star Wars universe.
1. "You Really Got Me" (1964)
Featuring one of the coolest opening guitar riffs in rock history, "You Really Got Me" was constructed around power chords and became an inspiration for hard rock, metal and punk bands for decades, as did the cover version Van Halen recorded for their debut album in 1978. As cool as that Van Halen album is, it would really be missing something without "You Really Got Me" as the follow-up to Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” guitar solo intro. The song was a No. 1 hit for the Kinks in the UK and reached No. 7 on the U.S. charts; it’s no doubt the Kinks’ most famous song.
The Kinks broke up back in 1996 and a reunion seems unlikely judging from what the Davies brothers have said in the press over the years. The good news is that Ray Davies has recorded a new album, called Americana, scheduled to be released April 21.
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