The Kinks

  • British rock band formed in 1964 from London England. The original members were Ray Davies (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, songwriting), Dave Davies (lead guitar, backing vocals, occasional songwriting), Mick Avory (drums, backing vocals) and Pete Quaife (bass guitar, backing vocals).
  • The Davies brothers grew up in a home surrounded by different music styles from their parents and their older sisters. They both learned to play guitar, and they started to play rock & roll music together. By secondary school, they formed a band, including Quaife on bass, calling themselves the Ray Davies Quartet. They performed at a school dance, and soon after at local pubs. In 1962, Rod Stewart briefly was lead vocalist for the group, but he soon left to start his own rival band. Over the next 2 years, they continued to perform under different names – The Ramrods, The Bo-Weevils, The Ravens. They auditioned with record companies, hoping for a recording contract, and by early 1964, they were signed by a British label. Still seeking a permanent drummer, The Ravens invited Avory to join after they saw Avory’s advertisement in a music magazine.  Around this time, they adopted the name The Kinks – there are conflicting stories as to the origin of the name, but Ray Davies related that it referenced their “kinky” fashion sense and that it was given to them by their manager. Davies stated that he didn’t like the name.
  • The Kinks released their first 2 singles in 1964 – a cover of Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally and a Ray Davies penned song You Still Want Me – both were failures, and their record label threatened to drop them if their next single did not sell. No worries – they released You Really Got Me, and they had their breakthrough. It topped the UK charts, and reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. The signature guitar riff on the song has influenced many guitarists over the years, particularly in heavy metal and punk rock. The unique distortion sound was created when 17 year old Dave Davies sliced the speaker cone of his amplifier with a razor, and poked it with a pin. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, and Rolling Stone places it at #80 on their list of the Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • Now with a successful single, their debut album, Kinks, was released. In the U.S., it was given the alternate title You Really Got Me. From 1964 to 1969, they released 9 albums, plus a U.S.-only album titled Kinks-Size. Kinks-Size managed to reach #13 on the Billboard album chart, and only 3 of the other albums reached the top 10 in the UK, and none of them got higher than #47 in the U.S. While their albums did not sell particularly well, they continued to have hit singles. Eleven songs reached the top 10 in the UK, with Tired of Waiting For You and Sunny Afternoon topping the chart. In the U.S., another signature song, All Day and All of the Night peaked at #7, Tired of Waiting For You made it to #6, and 5 other songs charted in the top 40.
  • In 1967, the band released the single Waterloo Sunset, the first single from their fifth album, Something Else By The Kinks. The song reached #2 in the UK, but did not chart in the U.S. Still, it is their most acclaimed song – Rolling Stone put it at #42 on the GOAT list, and several critics have called it “the most beautiful song of the rock and roll era.”
  • Entering the 70s, The Kinks had one of their biggest hits with Lola. Initially, it was controversial as it details a romantic encounter between a man and a transvestite – “who walked like a woman but talked like a man” – and it used the brand name Coca-Cola in the lyrics, which at the time violated BBC policy against product placement. For the single, a version was recorded using “cherry cola” in place of “Coca-Cola”, and ultimately the song reached #2 in the UK and #9 in the U.S.
  • Lola would be their last hit until 1982, when they had a surprise hit with Come Dancing, from their 19th studio album State of Confusion. Helped by a popular music video, the song peaked at #6 in the U.S. Ray Davies wrote a stage musical called Come Dancing, which featured the song and other Kinks hits – it ran for a month at a London theater.
  • While they continued to release albums and singles, The Kinks popularity declined, and Ray and Dave Davies started to pursue other interests. Their last public performance was in 1996, at a party for Dave’s 50th birthday, across the street from where the Davies brothers grew up.
  • While the band has been in hiatus since 1996, the Davies brothers announced in 2018 that they were working on a new album, with Avory on drums. Quaife, who left the band in 1969, died in 2010. The 4 original members of The Kinks were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Rolling Stone ranks them at #65 on their list of the Greatest Artists of All Time. Listen to the iconic guitar riff of You Really Got Me (and the screaming girls watching them perform), from 1965.

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