Dave Davies - A Kink Stands Alone
By J. Kordosh
Creem - September 1980
of pop music's most famous siblings is Dave Davies, lead guitarist, sometime singer,
and infrequent songwriter for the Kinks. After laboring in the large shadow of brother
Ray all these years, Davies has just put out his first solo album ... an event long-awaited
by Kinksologists everywhere. And about time, too. This guy has spent half his life
in the Kinks. Clearly it's another case of the 16-year-itch.
As a songwriter, Davies has been only slightly more prolific than Charlie Watts.
A quick check of the Kinks' score card shows he's written a grand total of 14 songs
on the Kinks' 25 American albums. But, since I like a guy who has something to say,
I determined I would crack the Dave Davies mystery. A transatlantic chat turned the
trick and turned up some Kinks history, too.
For starters, Dave Davies is certainly one self-effacing artist. What other explanation
can there be for calling his album AFLI -3603, RCA's catalogue number for the disc?
No question about it, this is product. Oh, well, at least his picture's on the jacket
- but only on the back, there's no point in being pushy about these things. Inside,
though, are some happy surprises: not only did Ray Davies not produce the album (man
bites dog!), Dave is the only musician on six of the ten tracks. Someone should warn
Linda McCartney about this ominous trend. On the other cuts, Nick Trevisick and Ron
Lawrence help out on drums and bass, respectively. In other words, Dave Davies is
the only Kink in sight.
So how do the tracks stack up to those "Dave Davies and the Kinks" tunes
cultists have loved over the years?
"I don't know, really," says the youngest male Davies. "The people
I've spoken to that have heard it mention that they feel it's very different from
the Kinks. I like that. They feel that it's probably a more personalized statement,
as well. And they feel that the tracks on it are very diverse, which I like also."
A quick listen verifies most of the above. In the first place, Dave Davies' singing
voice makes "Heart of Glass" sound like "Boris the Spider." I
mean, only your dog can hear some of the notes he hits on this LP. Add in Dave's
proclivity for writing unintelligible lyrics and mix the vocals down, and you've
got yourself a personalized statement. This is not to say that it's a lousy album.
As a matter of fact, I rather enjoy it. Much of it is riff-oriented, but some of
the riffs are cute, like a six-note keyboard introduction on "Doing the Best
for You." The best stuff is saved for guitar, though, and the song that steals
the show, "Nothin' More To Lose," can rock with the Kinks anytime. Davies
cleverly grafts lyrics like "My heart's beatin rhythm and my soul keeps singing
the blues" onto his own lines, my favorite being, "We're so proud of our
intellect/Arrogant, selfish fools/Who can look no further than a bunch of separate
Ten years ago, on "Rats," Davies sang "Those rats jumping on and off
my back/Fat black rats holding me down/I see rots in every direction." It's
good to see he's mellowed out a bit, anyway. But why did he virtually stop writing
for the Kinks during that decade?
"Maybe I just got lazy; I don't know. I did write a couple of tunes after that,
but they were very sparse and few and far between. Ray had such a lot of songs; he
has such a backlog of songs anyway. I suppose that because his songs have taken priority
over anything else it seemed more logical to do his songs than mine. What was curious
was, when I was doing my own album, I recorded a lot of the older songs I had. But
the stuff I decided to use in the end was very recent stuff I'd written this year.
So I dispensed with a lot of the old stuff, anyway.
Not so fast there, Dave. Reprise promised us a Dave Davies solo album in 1969 ...
readers will probably remember it as well as the Comet Kohoutek. It turns out that
eight songs were recorded for the LP, but it never saw the light of day. Howcum?
"We recorded it very quickly in an eight-track studio in London," Davies
explains. "The reason why I didn't want to put it out is because I'd just come
off a hit single in England - 'Death of a Clown' - and, while recording the songs,
I suddenly realized that I felt I was being rushed throughout all of those songs.
I wasn't really that happy, so I just stopped."
Mention of 'Death of a Clown' inevitably raises the question of Dave's working relationship
with his somewhat famous brother. It's one of the two Kinks songs they share songwriting
credits on, the other being 'Party Line' off the Face to Face LP. Who really wrote
the tunes, and why haven't the brothers Davies collaborated more often?
"Both the songs are mine, the structures of the songs and the melodies. On 'Party
Line' I got really stuck for lyrics; I just didn't know what to write. And Ray and
I got together and busted out a few things on the piano and got a lot of ideas for
it. So he heiped me with the lyrics on that. Ray helped more on the music side of
'Death of a Clown.' We co-produced it and he changed a few of the parts around, like
the instrumentalpassage ... the high la-la-la bit. When we started, that wasn't there."
But as far as a continuing writing relationship, it's never worked out. "Too
many arguments," Davies laughs. "When we work with the Kinks stuff, it's
a lot different, the way he feels. He's more open when it's his own stuff. When we
co-write we get in each other's way, so to speak."
And how about the Kinks? With their revolving door membership policy, some body must've
been getting in somebody else's way onstage, too. Davies admits that for a number
of years he couldn't tell who was in the band anymore, but says, "I think that
came out of the concept thing. We actually said that we had the extra pieces to get
the thing across. And I think we suffered for it ... I know I did."
But things are going swimmingly now. It's no secret that Ray directed the song "Rock
'n' Roll Fantasy" (on Misfits) ... a tune about breaking up the band ... at
brother Dave. For some time, I've never been totally happy with the personnel in
the band," Dave says. "The way I feel now - with Ian Gibbons and Jim (Rodford)
in the band - I feel we have a spirit that is more representative of the Kinks."
And whatever that spirit is, it helps grind out albums and tours faster than fruit
flies find last night's watermelon rinds. The Kinks' double-live One For The Road
and AFL1 -3603 were released within a month of each other. The rejuvenated band starts
another American tour In August ... and Davies hopes to perform some of his solo
stuff onstage with his cronies, too. Whatever happened to the days when these guys
brawled on stage and stabbed each other over fish and chips? Can we deal with a happy,
productive Kinks? I suggest to Dave that if they get any bigger they'll have to start
playing the super-stadia, ala the Who.
"That's not very nice," says Dave Davies. I know, Dave I apologize.
By J. Kordosh - Creem, September 1980
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