God save the Kinks?
The band are on a par with The Beatles, says a new biography
God Save The Kinks: A Biography
Besides the Beatles, who were the greatest British band of the 1960s? The Rolling Stones? The Who? Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich? Actually, argues Rob Jovanovic in his God Save the Kinks: A Biography (Aurum, £8.99 paperback), it is the band led by the brothers Ray and Dave Davies who are right up there with the Fab Four in terms of songwriting, musicianship and sharp lyrical observation.
Yet, laments Jovanovic, they have always been underappreciated, the least-known and lauded of the 1960s behemoths. “In my opinion, if you were to line up the best 20 Beatles songs, the best 20 by The Kinks would more than hold their own,” he writes.
Hip young bands are more likely to cite The Kinks than The Beatles as an influence, he says. Blur are obvious inheritors of the band’s London-lads persona, but the Manchester band Oasis owe them a debt, too: ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ extols the virtues of lazing on a sunny afternoon.
Even US bands such as Pixies, The Killers and REM have tipped their baseball caps to the Davies brothers, and these days Ray Davies is seen as a sort of godfather of indie-pop, a status Paul McCartney has never reached.
Jovanovic is on a mission to restore The Kinks to the top of the rockpile, and his book is an impassioned call for the preservation of this great British pop institution.
The book’s title is not just a pun: besides echoing the Kinks’ 1968 song ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’, in which Davies intones such lines as “God save Donald Duck, vaudeville and variety”, it refers to a US publicity campaign in the mid-1970s that set the flagging band on the road to a spectacular career revival.
Fred and Annie Davies already had six daughters before their first son, Raymond Douglas Davies, was born, in 1944. His reign as the young prince came to an end three years later, when David Russell Gordon Davies arrived and stole his thunder.
The family lived in Muswell Hill in London, and Ray’s dad took him to Arsenal matches in Highbury and introduced him to music-hall artists such as Max Miller. Fred was a drinker, and invariably it was all back to his place every weekend for a knees-up on the piano and banjo.
These parties were a formative influence on the young Davies brothers – but the most seismic event in their young lives was the death of their older sister Rene, who suffered from heart disease. She collapsed while out dancing in the West End.