'73 was a bad year for Kinks leader/singer/songwriter Ray Davies. First, his wife of nine years, Rasa, split taking the kids. A week later, Davies was admitted to Highgate Hospital and treated for a drug overdose that looked suspiciously like a suicide attempt. The following month, during a London concert, Davies announced that he was leaving the group. It was the third time since '67 he'd given notice. However, Davies returned to the fold a week later. But brother Dave also left and didn't return until '75. In December, the Kinks released their "Preservation Act One" album that barely scrapped the bottom of the U.S. Top 200 album charts. The group also launched its own record label that came and went without much notice. The Kinks glory days seemed in the distant past.
Ray Davies had received a guitar for his thirteenth birthday. He also convinced his parents to buy one for his kid brother Dave. Nice guy. They started out as the Ravens, a name inspired by a Vincent Price movie. One of their early managers re-named them the Kinks and they soon became part of London's early '60s R&B scene.
The Kinks' first single was a cover of Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally." It made an impact but nothing major. Their new manager, Larry Page, suggested Ray write a song similar to the currently popular "Louie, Louie." He came up with one of the all-time great Rock songs, "You Really Got Me." With thunderous chords (thanks to guitar distortion), Davies urgent vocals and a blazing guitar solo, the song had it all. There was a hard-charging heaviness, a sonic density present, which would become a trademark of both Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. The guitar solo also became a long-term point of contention. Session-guitarist Jimmy Page (pre-Led Zep) was rumored to have played it. The solo did have some Page touches. The Kinks claimed Dave Davies played every note. However, the evidence showed that both Page and future Deep Purple organist Jon Lord worked on the Kinks first record. With or without outside help ""You Really Got Me" nailed it.
The Kinks followed "You Really Got Me" with "All Day, And All of the Night." While in the same vein, it wasn't nearly as powerful. It did stay on the charts for fourteen weeks, longer than any Kinks record except "Lola," which also had a fourteen-week run.
Through the '60s the Kinks produced some incredible records including, "Tired of Waiting," "A Well Respected Man," "Dead End Street," "Sunny Afternoon" and "Waterloo Sunset." While these songs lacked the sonic blast of the Kinks earlier classics they were lyrically and musically inventive.
The late '60s saw the Kinks nearly fade away (contractual hassles with now former manager Page added to the difficulties) but in '70 they returned with one of their most notable songs, the gender-bending "Lola." Due to copyright problems the song's "Coca-Cola" line had to be changed to "cherry cola." Didn't matter, the song was perfect for the times and the Kinks. The next few years proved difficult with some failed or unrealized projects. In '78 they released "Misfits" which contained "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy." The following year the Pretenders covered the Kinks "Stop Your Sobbing" and turned it into their first hit. They also covered "I Go To Sleep." Ray Davies then became romantically involved with Pretender Chrissie Hynde. However, four years and one daughter later that was over.
"State of Confusion" rolling out in '83 showed the Kinks still had it. "Come Dancing" had a roller-rink organ riff as Ray sang about his sister going to a favorite dance hall. During the song, when the dance hall gives way to the wrecking ball, the guitar explodes, driving home the sense of destruction. Another highlight was "Destroyer" which used the "You Really Got Me" riff as its base. It was a Rock "paranoia" song combining two Davies/Kinks trademarks: interesting and thoughtful lyrics paired with a scorching guitar.
In the '90s Ray Davies finally made good on his threat to leave and recorded/toured as a solo.
With its distorted power chords the Kinks "You Really Got" brought an end to "Rock 'n' Roll and announced Rock's arrival. Sonically, this song is the bridge between the youthful optimism of Rock 'n' Roll and the hard-edged skepticism of Rock. Had the Kinks done nothing else, their place in Rock history would have been secured. Funny thing though, Ray Davies turned out to be a literate and insightful songwriter.
"The Kinks' Greatest Hits" tracks their early period but the Kinks tend to be more interesting when the "hits" stop. From '68 to '78 the Kinks produced several great records with "Preservation Act One" and "Soap Opera" being among the best. Of course, there's "Lola Vs Powerman and the Moneygoround." In addition to being a great record it also has the Kinks biggest '70s song, the sly and sexually ambivalent "Lola."
In the '80s the "State of Confusion" CD did well with the ballroom reminiscing of "Come Dancing" (with a great guitar part after the "wrecking ball" line) and "Destroyer" which used the "You Really Got Me" riff. It wasn't so much recycling as an updating.