Despite fickle fans, infighting and controversies of all kinds, The Kinks have managed to make hits and headlines in the music world for five decades.
London-born Dave and Ray Davies and schoolmate Peter Quaife started off playing skiffle music; and like many of their contemporaries, developed an interest in American R&B. By summer 1963, they’d recruited a drummer, recorded a demo and were calling themselves the Ravens. Six months later, the Ravens became the Kinks, signed a contract with Pye Records and released their first single, a cover of the Little Richard classic “Long Tall Sally.”
Neither “Sally” not their second release, “You Still Want Me,” reached the charts, but the Kinks’ third release, “You Really Got Me,” was the charm. Its gritty, sliding two-chord intro and Dave Davies’ bluesy guitar solo propelled “You Really Got Me” to the top of the British charts and to #9 in the US. “All Day and All of the Night,” the Kinks’ next release, contained many of the elements of their first hit — an extra chord added to the fuzz-tone riff and another hard driving guitar solo. It reached #2 in the UK and #7 in the States.
The Kinks’ 1965 American tour would represent their only visit to the US for four long years. They were blacklisted for refusing to join a musicians union before a television appearance, and there were also reports that Ray Davies punched out a union representative.
Over the next few years, the energy in Davies’ music came down a notch and many of the Kinks’ songs featured a more traditional and nostalgic British influence. Both the satiric “Sunny Afternoon,” a #1 hit in summer 1966 and “Waterloo Sunset”, which reached #2 in the UK in spring 1967, sounded as if they came from a 1930s era music hall.
At this point, the Kinks appeared to turn their focus to themed albums. The first of these, The Village Green Preservation Society, was released in 1968 and while many critics loved it, the album was not a commercial success.
In early 1969, the Kinks were once again able to tour in the US. As the tour began, they released Arthur (or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire), which also contained distinctly British lyrical and musical themes. It was a modest success.
Just when it appeared that the Kinks couldn’t put out another hit single, they released “Lola,” describing an encounter with a transvestite. “Lola” became a big hit in Great Britain and the US in the fall of 1970. It had a harder edge than their more recent songs and did much to boost the Kinks’ popularity in the States.
Despite that, the Kinks returned to music hall-nostalgia themes with the release of Muswell Hillbillies, their first album on RCA Records. It received a lukewarm reception. Around the time the Who was performing the rock opera Tommy, Ray Davies was composing the first of his own two-part opera called Preservation. He followed this up with two more, one called Soap Opera for ITV and the third entitled Schoolboys in Disgrace, which returned the Kinks to their rock and roll roots.
In 1976 the Kinks were recording harder edged songs for Clive Davis’s Arista Records. Sleepwalker, their first album on Arista, and Misfits, their second, were very well received and launched a new period of commercial success for the band. The Kinks spent much of the late Seventies and early Eighties on tour, playing hard rock in major venues, including a 1981 sold-out concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Thanks to the 24-hour music channel, MTV, they were receiving constant exposure and “Come Dancing,” released in 1983 became their biggest US hit since “Tired of Waiting.”
1984 saw the departure of the Kinks’ longtime drummer, Mick Avory and the release of Word of Mouth, an album that was the start of a decline in the Kinks’ popularity. Over the next decade, the group’s lineup changed often, as did their record labels. By 1995, no one was releasing the Kinks’ records in the US.
But in the Nineties came increasing recognition of the Kinks’ musical contributions over the previous three decades. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and Ray and Dave Davies each published an autobiography.
Where Are They Now?
Ray Davies has had a solo career over the last 15 years. His 2006 release, “Other People’s Lives,” was his first top 40 hit in UK since the 1960s. In 2015, he’s still touring the UK with his own band.
Dave Davies is largely recovered from a stroke he suffered in 2004. In 2007 Davies released Fractured Mindz, his first album of all new material in nearly five years.
Writer Jonny Rogan chronicled the brothers’ feud in Ray Davies, A Complicated Life, published in 2015. Both Davies brothers have talked about reuniting on state, but so far it hasn’t happened.
Bass player Peter Quaife left the Kinks in 1969 and for many years worked as a graphic artist in Canada. Quaife, who had been receiving kidney dialysis for more than ten years, died in June 2010, aged 66. Two days after the bassist’s death, Dave Davies expressed his sorrow over the passing of his former band mate, saying Quaife “was never really given the credit he deserved.” Ray Davies told a the crowd at the 2010 Glastonbury Festival, “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him.”
Drummer Mick Avory currently plays in The ’60s All Stars’ band, featuring members of several British Invasion bands. He lives in West London.
THE KINKS VIDEOS
All Day and All of the Night on Shindig, 1965
Ray Davies dedicated this version of “Waterloo Sunset” to Pete Quaife in 2010.
The Kinks Discography
1. The Kinks (Released in the US as You Really Got Me) – 1964, #3 UK, #29 US
2. Kinks Size – 1965, #13 US
3. Kinda Kinks – 1965, #3 UK, #60 US
4. Kinks Kinkdom – 1965, #47 US
5. The Kink Kontroversy – 1965, #9 UK, #95 US
6. Face to Face – 1966, #12 UK, #136 US
7. Something Else by The Kinks – 1967, #35 UK #153 US
8. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society – 1968 Did Not Chart
9. Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) – 1969 # 105 US
10. Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One – 1970, #35 US
11. Percy (soundtrack) – 1971
12. Muswell Hillbillies – 1971, #100 US
13. Everybody’s in Show-Biz1 – 1972, #70 US
14. The Great Lost Kinks Album – 1973, # 145 US
15. Preservation: Act 1 – 1973, #177 US
16. Preservation: Act 2 – 1974, #114 US
17. Soap Opera – 1975, #51 US
18. Schoolboys in Disgrace – 1976, #45 US
19. Sleepwalker – 1977, #21 US
20. Misfits – 1978, #40 US
21. Low Budget – 1979, #11 US
22. Give the People What They Want – 1981, #15 US
23. State of Confusion – 1983, #12 US
24. Word of Mouth – 1984, #57 US
25. Think Visual – 1986,
26. UK Jive – 1989
27. Phobia – 1993
28. To the Bone (double album) – 1996
The Kinks Singles
You Really Got Me (Aug 1964)
All Day And All Of The Night (Oct 1964)
Tired Of Waiting For You (Jan 1965)
Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy (Mar 1965)
Set Me Free (May 1965)
See My Friend (Aug 1965)
Till The End Of The Day (Dec 1965)
Dedicated Follower Of Fashion (Mar 1966)
Sunny Afternoon (Jun 1966)
Dead End Street (Nov 1966)
Waterloo Sunset (May 1967)
Autumn Almanac (Oct 1967)
Wonderboy (Apr 1968)
Days (Jul 1968)
Plastic Man (Apr 1969)
Victoria (Jan 1970)
Lola (Jul 1970)
Apeman (Dec 1970)
Supersonic Rocket Ship (May 1972)
Better Things (Jun 1981)
Come Dancing (Aug 1983)
Don’t Forget To Dance (Oct 1983)
The Days EP (Jan 1997)