One of the 8-tracks I stumbled on in that bag of goodies was The Kink Kronikles. It had a lot of songs on it. More than all the other 8-tracks I had. The Kink Kronikles is a double album of songs by The Kinks. I sort of remembered the band from the old British Invasion days, but they didn’t stick in my head.
I would play my stereo real loud out my back window while we were in the pool or just hanging out outside. The great thing about 8-tracks is they would just play over and over. Most of the time it was just background music, but this Kinks Kronikles thing would stick in my head. These songs would roll around my brain for days. I found myself waking up singing them. These songs were not the typical hard rock songs I had grown accustomed to. These were odd songs with quirky melodies and interesting vocals. I wanted to hear them over and over. Most of my friends would complain. Back then, I was too busy trying to fit in with the crowd and kind of kept The Kinks to myself. They didn’t fit in to the usual loud raucous rock that we were all hearing at parties. It was the beginning of a long closet relationship I had with what eventually became my all time favorite band.
The Kink Kronikles is, in my opinion, and many others, the greatest compilation double album ever released. It contains some selections from the golden age of The Kinks (1966-1970) along with some rare B-sides and some lost tracks from albums that were never released due to the constant label wars and legal issues that plagued their career.
The Kinks were a doomed band from the beginning. Emerging on the British underground scene as a blues band, much like The Rolling Stones, The Animals, and The Who. The only problem is they were the worst blues band on the scene. The early albums were spotty with a few gems, but mostly a poor attempt at R&B.
This gave them no choice but to explore their own styles. Ray Davies took on the reins as leader and soon discovered he had a knack for writing songs, and boy did he ever. He turned out to be one of the most prolific and influential songwriters in the history of rock music. His connection to the ordinary man is nothing short of genius. Even though he has been hailed as a Kronikler (see what I did there?) of English life, you could be an Aborigine and relate to his stories. A master storyteller and in fact, the creator of the VH-1 show “Storytellers”
However, when The Kinks tried to ride the coat tails of The Beatles success in America, they soon discovered that their punk kid attitudes and pissy nature didn’t mix well with the unions on the road in America. They refused to sign contracts. Refused to give up any publishing rights. They were true punk rock before the term was invented. But it was this “F” you attitude that banned them from America. They slunk back to England where Ray Davies proceeded to write, produce and release a string of masterpiece albums heard by few, but hailed by many critics as the greatest artisitic accomplishments of any band in rock music. They also enjoyed a cult of die hard fans here in America who started the famous slogan “God Save The Kinks”. And so it shall be.
Underrated, underappreciated and misunderstood, he was, and still is, one of the biggest innovators in the history of rock n roll. He is mentioned on the short list of influences by just about every artist. John Mendelsohn, revered critic, called Ray’s music “sardonic social commentary you can dance to.” A clever observation. Clever is a good word to describe Ray, and funny.
Ray Davies tells the truth no matter how painful it may be. He was never afraid to fail and explore different genres of music. He could sing about anything from the misery of parents of dead soldiers to hot potatoes.
The Kinks were a great band too. His brother Dave Davies is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock. The legendary feud between the brothers is real. I have seen it first hand. I once saw Dave throw his guitar at Ray’s head at a concert. Ray just ducked, picked up his acoustic guitar and started a new song like this was an everyday occurrence. Now, that is rock n roll. Mick Avory is a world class drummer and his definitive style gives the band it’s signature sound. Original bassist Peter Quaife was amazing and later, John Dalton did a formidable job. John Gosling joined the band on keyboards and was absolutely exquisite. They experimented with horn sections, female backing vocalists, all with precision and camp that has never been duplicated, only immitated.
People always ask me what my favorite Kinks song is. My answer is always the same: “whatever one I am listening to at the moment”
In chronological order, here is The Kinks – the Golden Era of masterworks”
Face To Face (1966)
Something Else (1967)
The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)
Arthur, The Decline Of The British Empire (1969)
Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround (1970)
Muswell Hillbillies (1971) (some Kinkofiles don’t include this one in the golden age. I do and this is my blog, so I make the rules)
These are perfect albums. I implore you to indulge. Inbetween these perfect albums, The Kinks label also released something called “The Great Lost Kinks Album.” This was a collection of alternate songs that never made it onto these albums. This only furthers the argument that Ray Davies could do no wrong. Good luck finding it, but it’s absolutely brilliant.
The Kinks went on to make many albums after this, many are also brilliant in their own way.
The RCA, theatrical years. (Everybody’s in Showbiz, Preservation act 1 and act 2, Soap Opera, Schoolboys in Disgrace)
The Arista years (Sleepwalker, Misfits, Low Budget, Give the People What They Want, State of Confusion, Word of Mouth)
There were some broken years afterwards with very spotty albums and they eventually called it quits.
I have seen The Kinks 14 times in concert and it’s not a rock n roll concert. It’s an event.
Ray Davies carries on the homage to the band with his non-stop solo touring and I try to see him every time.
Dave Davies suffered a stroke in 2004 and has not been the same.
A reunion is probably never going to happen.
God Save The Kinks