Dave Davies - In The Spotlight

By Diana Clapton

Faces - February 1984

It's been 20 years since "You Really Got Me" and its raw, raucous, feed-back-funked guitar solo forged the Dave Davies "style." The song went to No. 1 in England and broke the Kinks in America before beginning a life of its own, eventually covered by Van Halen as a super-screamer.

Now that the Kinks are hot again with "Come Dancing," the original is getting lots of airplay. "When I hear it on the radio, I cringe," says Davies, "but it's still fun to play live."

The glamour-puss lead guitarist, whose brawls with big brother Ray set their stage style for years, has grown up into a fine solo performer. His new Chosen People is actually the dream come true, a dream set forth by Ray in "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy." Six years ago, spatting to the point where Ray thought his brother might leave the band, and seeing John Gosling and Andy Pyle depart, Ray wrote the song to encourage Dave to stay - but "do other things on his own, as well."

The affection which Dave showed by bringing Ray into the band he founded at age 15, has lasted through over 20 years of petulant pranks. The two became something like rock's answer to the Katzenjammer Kids. Punches and pot-shots were de rigeur. Dave would take free-form solos and challenge the band to keep up. Once, Dave stood by coolly as his besotted brother - whose booze hassles approached legend - crashed into a nearby bank of amps.

Around the time all this got them banned by the American Federation of Musicians, fans were coming for the combat as well as the music; on any level, a Kinks concert was a combustible event.

"Even through my arrogant youth," the still-boyish Dave recalls, 'everything mattered desperately. Even I still criticize myself for caring too much."

How did he learn to deal with pressures and frustrations? "Only through work. I finally wrote a song about the process, for my second album - 'Too Serious.' Wrote it in a pub one afternoon; then things started falling into place.

"But I never actually took myself seriously as a songwriter until a few years ago. I'd always been a guitar player, expressing myself through sounds. I was writing poetry all through the 70s, then hiding it away. A miserable decade - not a great time for the Kinks.

"But I'm much happier in the 80s," Davies says brightly, "and much more comfortable with my music - even the singing. Y'know, I've been singing through me nose for the last 15 years!"

Chosen People is a carefully crafted, highly sentimental album, almost a letter from a beloved friend. "The simple message is that we're all chosen," Davies says, "because we've survived - we're still here. And so we have a responsibility to everything else in the way we live. Everything matters."

But how has he survived? How can this personal intensity be maintained without causing the classic rock burnout? "Rock tragedy has a lot to do with drugs," Davies says, "and people dragging you down. I'm a great believer in personal, private time - I must have a few hours a week when it's just me. Even if It comes to locking myself in a hotel room somewhere.

"I heard a story - I think it was about Prince - how he wouldn't see visitors after a certain performance. I say, fine. He had to give out all that energy onstage, and he was trying to preserve himself. I say he might just survive because of that. The others said he was an asshole. But I got my energy from, oh, walking around the street, walking into art galleries. I don't let myself be drained away."

Now the first single, 'Mean Disposition,' is a big wow on MTV, and Davies continues his guitar innovation. "I've re-found the acoustic guitar," he says, "after years. Used with the electric here, it makes the song very rock and roll without being heavy. It made a wonderful video. But I really wrote the song stalled in traffic in London. That tremendous frustration! I often find it difficult to express direct emotion, but not here. Actually, I like the mobility of driving and find it very ... creative.

"I'm writing my first screenplay now, and I work out the script by talking out the action with my girlfriend. I always write my songs from single images that come to me. I see life in terms of pictures.

"Live performance is the most precious part of my career for me. There is nothing in this world like getting out onstage and having the kids go crazy," says Davies. "But more and more, I've come to admire film and video as a form of expression, a very logical process. If a song starts out as an envisioned image, it seems right it should end up on film. And I know Ray's thinking the same way."

By Diana Clapton - Faces - February 1984

[What's New] [Tour Info] [Kink] [Solo Albums] [Guitars] [Sound & Vision]
[Reviews] [Spiritual Planet] [Talk To Dave] [Links & Credits]