The Kinks: Songs of the Semi-Detached – A class apart

Review: Mark Doyle’s social history through the prism of Ray Davies’s art is impressive

From left, Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Peter Quaife and Mick Avory of the Kinks wait on the set of a television show in 1968. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty

From left, Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Peter Quaife and Mick Avory of the Kinks wait on the set of a television show in 1968. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty

Mark Doyle stresses from the outset that this is not, in any sense, a biography of the Kinks but rather “an exercise in what I have decided to call historically informed rock criticism”.

Biographical details are used sparingly, with Ray Davies’s “unauthorised autobiography” X-Ray serving as a major source. Doyle knows he has to tread carefully here as that book features various literary tricks, not least an unreliable narrator (“the effect of which is to call into question whether anything in the book is actually true”). In short, biography serves as a mere backdrop for Doyle.

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