Voxes, Vees And Razorblades
The Kinks Guitar Sound
By Dave Hunter
The Guitar Magazine - January 1999
Widely credited as 'the first distorted electric guitar in British rock',
Davies' dirty amp sound on You Really Got Me has become the stuff of legend. One
popular myth has it the temperamental Kinks lead guitarist kicked in his combo in
frustration and, voila - instant tonal Valhalla. His own brother, songwriter and
Kinks mainman Ray, said, 'Dave was frustrated trying to get a good sound, so he stuck
knitting needles through his speaker cone ...' But who better than the man himself
to close the lid on idle speculation?
Photo by Steve Gillett
'No one else was there when I did it, so how would they know?' begins Dave Davies.
'I was getting really bored with this guitar sound - or lack of an interesting sound
- and there was this radio spares shop up the road, and they had a little green amplifier
in there next to the radios, it was an Elpico - I've got a picture of it on my web
site, and I twiddled around with it and didn't know what to do. I tried taking the
wires going to the speaker and putting a jack plug on there and plugging it straight
into my AC3O. It kind of made a weird noise, but it wasn't what I was looking for.
'I started to get really frustrated, and I said, "I know! I'll fix you!"
I got a single-sided Gillette razorblade and cut round the cone like this (slitting
from the centre to the edge of the cone), so it was all shredded but still on there,
still intact. I played and I thought it was amazing, really freaky. I felt like an
inventor! We just close-miked that in the studio, and also fed the same speaker output
into the AC3O, which was kind of noisy but sounded good.'
Early on Davies used a Harmony Meteor electric 'because it was the only guitar I
could afford - and it was semi-acoustic, which is why I used to get really good feedback
from it'. After the hits started rolling in, however, he could be seen wielding and
enviable array of exotic instruments, from a Gretsch to a Guild to a significantly
pose-worthy Gibson Flying V.
'I loved that Guild, and I took it to America in 1965 to do Shindig in the days when
you travelled with a suitcase in one hand and a guitar case in the other,' Davies
explains. 'We got off the plane and my suitcase came off, but no guitar - someone
had stolen it. Grenville, our manager at the time, jumped in a cab with me and we
went to this thrift store that had a bunch of guitars. I saw this triangular case
and said. "What's that?" He said, "You don't want that, it's just
some old crap ..." I opened it up and saw the Flying V - I was stunned. I said,
"How much?" the guy said, "$200." "Fine!" To be honest
I never really liked the feel - but it looked so good you got used to it ...'
By Dave Hunter - The Guitar Magazine - January 1999
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