Dave Davies : Caught In Kinks' Confusion

By David C. Eldredge

Illinois Entertainer - November 1983

In the waning days before the Kinks are scheduled to set out on the American road once again, co-founder and vastly-under-rated guitarist Dave Davies meets me to talk about his recently-released third solo album ... 'Chosen People'. Of course, during the course of our afternoon together, our talk will constantly wander back and forth to the Kinks - after the group's 20-plus years in rock 'n' roll it's hard to avoid.

Dave's current solo is clearly his strongest and most satisfying yet. This is perhaps in no small part due to the fact that this time Dave hasn't tried to do it all himself, opting instead to work with seasoned London session men, as well as with an outside engineer. If anything, the weaknesses of his previous two solo LPs were a direct result of the tensions of being a one-man band overshadowing the material.

"Yeah, that did come to mind," says Dave, after acknowledging that he does, in fact, read what people say in the press about him. "After the second album. I felt kind of scared of myself. Maybe I sort of over indulged getting ideas out in Glamour. I don't know - there's a song called 'Eastern Eyes,' which is still a pet favorite.

"But yeah - I consciously wanted to try and get a band together. We rehearsed like we would do if I were doing it with the Kinks. And it was fun, you know - it was interesting to work in a band with new people. Because," he concludes with a laugh, "I've been working in the same old band ..."

And that "same old band" has also recently released its 28th American release, 'State Of Confusion' - leaving Dave to understand what it's like to bold two jobs at the same time. For instance, he explains how, while filming his own single's video, 'Mean Disposition,' one afternoon, he's also shuttling back to appear with the Kinks on the "Top Of The Pops" TV show in between takes. And then there's the previous days radio interview, where the DJ insists on playing Kinks records in between his talk with Dave about his solo release. "You'd think after doing promotion for the Kinks for 19 years, he'd play me more than once or twice," comments Dave, with his voice again trailing off into laughter.

Call it coincidence, then - after all, - Dave's current solo has been in the can for almost a year, being held up only by contractual problems. But such prolificity after 13 years of heretofore silence demands the question he asked: Has it been brother Ray Davies' stature - as chief writer far the Kinks - that has kept Dave's own efforts deterred for so long?

"Probably it affected me subconsciously more than consciously, because I never really felt in competition. As a person, I suppose it's inevitable," said Dave honestly, musingly. "I always merely thought of myself as a musician more than a writer. I've always expressed myself through sound and music rather than lyrically. So, there's always been different kinds of conflicts between me and Ray. I don't think it would have been as creative if it had been any other way." He pauses, then adds, with a laugh, "Well, I really don't know that."

The surge in interest by the record buying public in the Kinks has found the band moving to ever larger arenas, as the band's '70's cult status has exploded into '80s mass appeal.

And so, the legion of true Kinks/Dave Davies fans who encounter Chosen People for the first time just might do a double-take at the album cover and recognize the not-so-accidental likeness of Dave under the Chinese coolie hat in that oh-so-familiar 3/4-stance he assumes onstage. And then they might wonder about the title, Chosen People yet again.

"Which I suppose we all have really been," explains Dave. "We all started out as little tribes, and we were taken over by modern days of materialism. The idea of 'chosen people' is that we're all chosen people. I think of it as sort of a humour I like.

"But the idea of it came from a book I read on an American Indian called Black Elk. He felt his people were the chosen people. And their prophecy said they were going to meet the white man - but it would be a very positive union. The white man would teach him all about technology, and help.

"And where I could draw a parallel with myself is that I'm a very sort of feeling person. I feel that I've learned a lot of things through my feelings, rather than directly through intellect. And the American Indian always seamed to be that type of race of people. So I could relate to it in a lot of different ways."

"But I enjoy what I do, really" assures Dave. "I'm glad I'm playing rock 'n' roll. I just feel now I would like to put a little into what I do."

Nevertheless, in the course of these long years, there have been those well-recorded disputes and confrontations with brother Ray. Those moments when Dave would just as soon walk away from the stage forever.

"It's like you're on tours you know?" Dave confesses. "You've been on tour for two-weeks and already you've had enough of this. You know, 'No way I'm going to do five more weeks of this. 'And then you wake up the next day, and what're you gonna do? You go to the gig, and if you're lucky, it'll be a great show.

"I hate sound checks," he continues. "I hate rehearsal. Because I just don't know what to play. I mean, although we play the same songs every night, I forget what to play. I like being inspired to play. I know that's easier said than done, because 80% of the time, it's hard work. You're schlepping from one place - you know what I mean. So it' s nice for people to inspire you into doing something - you might do something really crazy.

But just as this album shows Dave reaching out to include other players, it perhaps also shows him a little less insular toward Ray. For one thing, this is the first time Dave's ever played any of his demo tapes to Ray, as he explains.

"I haven't done that before, for obvious reasons. I'd hate for us to one day go into the studio and Ray would start playing something on the piano and say, 'Well, what do you think of this, Dave?' And then I'd say, 'Well. It sounds like something I wrote last week.' That's always been a fear that I've gotten.

"But this time, I played him two or three songs in demo form: 'Cold Winter,' 'Take One More Chance,' 'Love Gets You.' I took a chance. He liked 'Love Gets You', he really did. But apart from that
- he'd walk through the building and then I'd turn off the music.

Moreover, since Dave's own work was finished what it came time to start the recent Kinks album, he was free to get together with Ray to work our arrangements for some of the ideas Ray had. The result of this meeting can be heard on the stellar cut 'Come Dancing,' along with 'Don't Forget To Dance.' The song from this Kinks album that sounds most like Dave, 'Bernadette,' however, is a staple of the group's recent road shows that, because it was done live so much, "never did sound tight," according to Dave.

"Other songs," Dave concluded, "that Ray would write, he'd be very fixed about. When it's positively creative, it's really fun to work with Ray. But it can be," he said laughingly, "a real bitch. When you don't agree on something, it can be really difficult."

In a sense, these words proved more prophetic than either of us realized. A couple at weeks after I had spoken with Dave, there was an announcement from the Kinks management: The Kinks have postponed their scheduled Fall tour of the U.S. since Dave Davies was "for both physical and mental reasons" unable to tour. Moreover, the tour was being postponed pending the group's ability to secure and break in a new guitarist. So what's the story? The record companies and other people in the know, don't know. Fortunately, Dave Davies quickly gets on the phone with me.

"I'm getting hundreds of calls, telling me not to break up the Kinks - wondering why I've quit the band," says Dave. "As far as I'm concerned, the tour's merely been rescheduled. When it happens, I'll be playing guitar."

I ask if his solo work and his promotion of it has anything to do with what's going on.

"No, Ray and I have been having personal difficulties for a little while now. But they an be resolved. We've just had to put the tour back, that's all. You can tell them you got it straight from the horse's mouth," concludes Dave.

What's going on? Is this just a repeat of prior spats? Is this permanent? Said one record company publicist, "Nothing's permanent in this business."

And we're all chosen people in this state of confusion.

By David C. Eldredge - Illinois Entertainer - November 1983

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