Brothers Up In Arms

By Rob Chapman

Interview by Johnny Rogan

Mojo - May 1996

Imagine starting a band and letting your other brother join - only to be upstaged when it turns out that your brother's the best songwriter of his generation. But enough about Oasis. In 1974 the 17-year old Dave Davies was vying with Phil May and P.J. Proby for the title of longest hair in pop. A few hit singles and a promoter's penchant for getting the Kinks gigs at toffs balls, and Dave is soon poncing around Swinging London like the attractive bit of dandified rough he undoubtedly was in his prime. Every debs delight. And while critics were combing Ray's See My Friends for sexual ambiguity, Dave was cuddling up to Long John Baldry and some bloke from Ready, Steady, Go!

Bisexual revelations aside, Kink is light on '60's insight. Pete Murray, we discover, was a "true gent", Lulu (go on - three guesses) a "cheeky little lassie", Pet Clark was "smashing" and Dave fancied her on the quiet (didn't we all). The plot is not so much telegraphed as semaphored. By 1967 Dave is in post-party mood, reflecting on how he's fed up with playing the clown and how he'd quite like to make a solo single. You can kind of figure out what's coming next.

Halfway through the '70's, the former Muswell Hillbilly goes all spiritual pick'n'mix on us. A pinch of yoga, a scoop of Scientology, a smattering of "blimey, what's life all about?" bewilderment. Kink being what it is, though - i.e. devoid of any trace of editorial supervision - Doubting Dave is soon back on rock'n'roll terra firma, knobbing and snorting his way around the world, and proffering philosophical encounters of the more regular bar-room kind.

Notwithstanding, the fact that a Pete Frame flow chart might have been handy in order to keep up with the sexual liasons, our Dave's obviously a sensitive bloke. In the early chapters he writes movingly about his first love Sue, and the maternal warmth and chaos of his working-class household. There were six older sisters; the most tragic of whom, Rene, died on the
Lyceum dancefloor, and was subsequently immortalised in the classic Come Dancing . And when he's not talking about being abducted by aliens, he displays a fine eye for ironic detail. In the late '60's, for instance, with the hits drying up, Davies is refused credit in the kind of boutique that five years previously would have been showering him with frilly nylon

Ultimately, though, Kinks is the best justification for the existence of ghost writers that you'll ever read. Dave free-associates through the last 50 pages like the Paul Whitehouse character in The Fast Show who thinks everything's "brilliant!" Football, Sibelius, Paddington Bear, Paddington Station. Maybe its a Eugene Landy/Brian Wilson thing: "Write it all down Dave. Get it out of your system."

One presence looms large over this entire project, of course. Brother Raymond Douglas. The squabbling over songwriting credits, the eternal bickering and bitching, Ray sardonically introducing our kid on stage as Dave "Death of a Clown" Davies. It's all here. By the end the abiding feeling, in this reader, at least, is: Why don't you two stop writing books about it and start talking to each other? Liam and Noel: Don't let this happen to you.

Johnny Rogan interviews Dave Davies ...

When and how did you decide to write your autobiography?

I initially got the idea about two years ago. I had 60-70 pages of another book, met an agent and they suggested I should put together an autobiography. It was weird because I tended to remember things through the way I felt at a particular time. Also, I found if I played a bit of music that I could get into emotionally from the time period, that helped. I didn't use a ghost writer. I used an editor. I found that was the only way I could enjoy doing it. I like to feel - good, bad or indifferent - that it
has my voice.

The major revelation in the book is your bisexuality in the '60's.

It doesn't seem strange to me. It was the times. The pop world was show business - and there's always been a homosexual element there. I just thought, Oh, I'll try this out. I didn't feel any qualms about it. It all seemed experimental and fun. I almost did it as an act of rebellion.

What was Ray's reaction to your chart success in 1967?

There was subtle jealousy about Death of a Clown. One half of him wanted me to do it and the other half was a little worried in case it did work. I remember after that people would pat me on the back and say, "Death of a Clown was such a great record", and Ray would say, "But it did come out after Waterloo Sunset".

You failed to follow the hit single with a solo album, which was a shame.What happened?

I lost heart in it. We were in the studio for two or three days and I just didn't want to do it. It just petered away. The spirit went. I wasn't happy with some of the songs that I had dragged out from a long time ago. I didn't like the direction.

In the book you suggest that you deserved musical credit for inspiring Lola.

The actual riff itself was my idea. I'd played that in the jam session at the house, just messing around, and it evolved into a song. Ray had this quirky idea about some lyric he had and it became a song. It didn't seem a big deal at the time.

What are your future plans?

I'm trying to get this single out, Fortis Green. It's a novelty song to follow the book. We've (the Kinks) an album around May, To The Bone II. We're scheduled to do a studio album and also intend to tour in the summer.

By Rob Chapman - Mojo - May 1996

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