Dave Davies : Kink

This month Dave Davies replies to brother Ray's autobiography, X-Ray, with Kink, his own account of 30 years of sibling squabbles. Mark Cooper orders "seconds out!" and attempts to arbitrate ...

By Mark Cooper

Q Magazine - April 1996

Back in March 1993, when Blur were more Baggy than Britpop, Pulp were an obscure and suspiciously long-serving indie band and Noel Gallagher had yet to take over his brother's group and christen them Oasis, The Kinks released their first and only album on Columbia. Yet another semi-concept album, Phobia did little to revive the bands flagging 30-year career despite the presence of a song called Hatred. This self-mocking little ditty took a caustic look at rock's most famous and long-running fraternal feud with the brothers Davies harmonising on a line like "I hate you and you hate me, now I guess we understand each other". The pair even toured American media spots performing Hatred, but the album refused to sell. It was if Ray and Dave had sold the last scrap of their birthright, only to find that there was no longer anyone listening.

Three years later, grunge is dead, the Gallagher brothers' relationship is monitored on a daily basis and the Kinks have been restored to their rightful position as founding fathers of British rock. Are they touring a flower-strewn nation and enjoying their latest moment in the sun? Are they heck. No, the brothers have found a new way to conduct their private warfare, this time through the very public medium of autobiography.

Currently, The Kinks appear to be on hold while Ray tours his solo show, based on the layered, guarded reminiscences of his "unauthorised autobiography", X-Ray. Naturally, Dave isn't about to let Ray walk away without getting his tuppence worth in , even if he does spend most of his time these days writing screenplays and scoring movies - his account, Kink, is published this month. All bands argue, of course, but when the band members are related and the band has lasted 30 years, no is ever going to have the last word.

It wasn't always thus. Both brothers lovingly recall the front-room jams in Muswell Hill that created You Really Got Me, with Ray hammering away at the piano and Dave messing with his amp to fashion the song's crunching, distorted riff. That riff turned The Kinks into pop starts overnight. The first Kink's records still have the insinuating, feral power which inspired other British garage bands like the Who and the Troggs. Dave's was the instinctual, wild guitar, Ray's the coy, suggestive voice of something approaching reason.

No matter that Ray was writing wry, melancholia epics like Sunny Afternoon and Waterloo Sunset, in which Dave's contribution was less immediately apparent - The Kinks were their joint creation. Yet the brothers are at pains to point out that they were never really close as kids and Ray makes no bones about the fact that, in a family of sisters, he regarded his younger brother as a rival from the first. Early in X-Ray, the four-year old Ray runs out of the house, crashes face first to the ground and comes up bleeding yet smiling. "My last image of this dramatic little scene were Aunt Dollie's finely chiseled face as she tried to pacify me, then, my infant brother lying in his pram, abandoned by the rest of the family who were trying to mop up the blood. This was my first victory over my newly arrived adversary sleeping in the cot by the kitchen table. All the pain I was suffering was inconsequential. I was once again the center of attention."

According to Dave, Ray's been pulling the same kind of stunt ever since. Dave doesn't feature largely in X-Ray, but when he does, he remains a rival, an object of jealous scrutiny. Ray's response to pop stardom was to get married, have a baby and struggle to come up with more hits. By the end of the decade, he was immersed in legal battles, convinced that the powers-that-be were out to destroy The Kinks. While Ray bought a house when the Kinks took off, Dave bought a giant Scalextrix set. Ray grew up too quickly. Dave didn't grow up at all.

Instead, Dave spent most of the decade off his face, enjoying life to the full as a young pop god who seems to have had sex and drugs on tap. The quintessential '60's raver, he spends much of the kiss-and-tell style Kink indiscreetly reminiscing about such high-jinks as crapping in a hotel hand
basin in Wigan, throwing up over a girlfriend mid-blow job and nearly literally sharing a Parisian girlfriend with Brian Jones.

Amidst all this mindless hedonism, Dave portrays himself as a man with an original wound, a man ever haunted by his enforced separation from his teenage girlfriend and their child. As he enters the '70's, his youthful excesses and this original loss come to haunt him, and much of the latter part of his book dwells on the spiritual and psychic explorations with which he attempts to heal himself. If Ray only occasionally mentions Dave in X-Ray, Dave is constantly drawn back to the puzzle of his brother, who, he insists, is manipulative, uncaring and unbelievable mean. Even as save admires the sensitivity of Ray's songwriting, he shakes his head over his brother's emotional cruelty. "I am still totally frustrated and flabbergasted by Ray's detached and abusive attitude towards me - all the put-downs, the childish mind-games - when I know deep down that he loves me and that at heart he is a deeply compassionate person ... But I believe that Ray has never understood the true spirit or concept of collaboration."

To further his underlying argument, Dave emphasises his contribution to various Kinks albums, even revealing the moment in the '80's when he discovers that one of his songs can't possibly be released as a single because Ray's contract stipulates that the first three Kinks singles off an album must be Ray Davies compositions. The bad blood here is that old rock'n'roll bugbear, the question of credit. Yet while both Ray and Dave acknowledge the key importance of that creative womb back in Muswell Hill,
there's clearly no way that either will ever give the other their due or recapture that old, easy creativity. Locked in a lifelong struggle for dominance of a family and then a band, they've wound up replaying the same old fights like two kids arguing over toys. Sooner or later, most of us leave home; judging from their books, the Davies brothers have never been so lucky.

By Mark Cooper - Q Magazine - April 1996

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