- Ray Davies
- Dave Davies
- Jackie Leven
- Timothy B. Schmit
- christian kane
- Citizen Cope
- Doll by Doll
- Fleetwood Mac
- George Harrison
- Kinks reunion
- Don Henley
- Grant Hart
- Buffalo Springfield
- Chrissie Hynde
- Gene Clark
- Gordon Lightfoot
- Ron Sexsmith
- Rusty Young
- Shakey Graves
- Aimee Mann
- Bob Marley
- Bob Mould
- Carrie Underwood
- Cillian Murphy
- Colin Blunstone
- Conchita Wurst
- DB Sweeney
- Dawson’s Creek
- Hans Matheson
- Hüsker Dü
- Jared Leto
- Kurt Cobain
- Take That
- The Shield
- Vincent Kartheiser
- violent femmes
Wednesday, 1 February 2012
X-Raying ‘X-Ray’ by Ray Davies: Part Two: ‘Sex-Ray?’
No wonder I’m having trouble coming to any conclusions. In ‘Fancy’, Ray sings,
‘No one can penetrate me. They only see what's in their own fancy, always.’
It’s probably true but I intend to have fun trying. Far be it from me to infer anything here about the choice of the word ‘penetrate’.
Sexuality, orientation and love
Ray is such an incredible tease. I mean, you can tell that from watching him perform, flirting with everyone in the audience, and sometimes Dave (see ‘Slum Kids’, about 3.48 minutes in, (dis)gracefully camping it up), leading us all on. There are tons of hints and suggestions about which team he might bat for but they are all as insubstantial as gossamer and likely to disintegrate when touched – there’s nothing tangible or concrete. I’ll investigate some quotes from the book to see if they shed any light on Ray’s predilections or merely cast more deceptive shadows.
‘Even as a child, I was a dirty old man.’
He goes on to confirm this with the following quote about his unsuspecting sisters:
‘Attractive girls who innocently played with me as I took every opportunity to look up their skirts’ (while still in his pram).
It’s hard to believe this although it’s one thing that he has in common with Dave; both of them were sexually aware of their sisters from a young age. There’s an element of the voyeur about Ray. Still, I can't be sure whether this is just a red herring to prove red-bloodedness, if you know what I mean.
‘The Queen’s Coronation was very erotic … I possibly had the first hard-on of my life on Coronation Day’ (aged 8).
There’s no doubt that somewhat unlikely events turn him on.
‘That was the first time I was even remotely ‘turned on’, and it was not by what I had seen but rather by what I felt due to a complete lack of inhibition on the woman’s part.’
The teenage Ray watches a neighbour sunbathe naked, titillated by the fact that she obviously doesn’t mind who watches her: observer rather than participant.
‘Subsequently, whenever I met a woman, I measured her sexuality by the distance between her chin and the tips of her nipples.’
It’s unclear here exactly what he means by ‘sexuality’: a woman’s sex appeal or her appetite for (or ability at) sex. It’s so strange that I don’t disbelieve it. I’m left wondering whether he assesses this by eye or carries a tape measure so that he can check before deciding whether a woman is worth pursuing. The reporter’s reaction is swift and scathing: ‘I thought he was a perverted, over-lustful, degenerate, sexist weirdo.’ But the Ray in X-Ray is never this quick to label and disapprove and in fact, rarely reacts negatively to any of his friends’ peccadilloes, tending to accept people as they are; his ‘young’ self plays devil’s advocate here.
‘The conquest is the most important element, not the execution because after the conquest you are in control. Then you can do anything you want with that object – because that’s what they are. … That’s when you begin to detest them.’
It’s evident that Ray needs to feel as if he’s in control and exercised this need over the Kinks career as well as over his love life. Perhaps once his band mates had capitulated, become subordinated to his will, he ceased to respect them or simply lost interest.
As an Aries, I sympathise. Arians tend to want what we can't have then unexpectedly get it, after which, we don’t want it any more. But it isn’t pure bloody-mindedness; it has more to do with insecurity, fear and low self-esteem.
Oh, Ray. Perhaps said simply to provoke controversy, this could also mean that RD believes that once someone has deigned to have sex with him, he can no longer respect them, either because he doesn’t value himself highly enough to be worthy of their submission (therefore they are poor judges of character) or because they immediately lose their worth once they become attainable. Their value was dependent on their refusal to submit. The combination of these could possibly explain why Ray hasn’t had much success in long-term relationships. Not that I can talk.
Although there are countless descriptions of encounters with girls, of one kind or another, named and unnamed: Cindy, Roxie, Savannah, Anita, Miriam, etc., Ray lives by his creed, tending to idolise and idealise women then dismiss them once they surrender to his desires. He fights shy of any depiction of his marital relations but the overall sense is of desire thwarted and in such a way that he’s made to feel guilty for even having it.
‘Not a poofy type, are you?’
he challenges the researcher when they first meet although he declares he’s not prejudiced with a favourite saying:
‘One up the bum, no harm done as they say in versatile circles.’
The compulsion to mention this so early in the book is telling, implying that this is something he has given some consideration; he goes on to define queer as opposed to gay:
‘One does it because it’s his natural bent, as it were [queer]. … The other does it because it is fashionable [gay]’.
One minute, he seems almost reactionary and quite old-fashioned, the next, refreshingly non-judgemental. Note his playful use of ‘bent’.
‘When you are in despair, any arms are welcome. It doesn’t matter what sex they belong to. People place so much emphasis on gender. Love is love.’
These beliefs are similar to Dave’s. They’re more alike than they think.
I understand this too. Reciprocal affection, a tiny gesture, can be very powerful. Although I’ve had some extremely demonstrative boyfriends, the most romantic thing that ever happened to me was at a Matthew Sweet gig during the terribly moving, somewhat suicidal song ‘Someone to Pull the Trigger’ when a random guy next to me, a stranger, took my hand for the duration of the song. Affection and closeness can exist independent of sexual desire.
Confused, you will be. The fact that the reporter mentions ‘sexual ambiguity’, only to conclude that RD isn’t gay could be an attempt to put any rumours about this to rest but why bring it up only to discount it? Ray has to tantalise us with the possibility. Songs like ‘Lola’ and ‘On the Outside’ illustrate his affinity with sexual ‘misfits’: cross-dressers, transvestites, closet queens. In ‘Mirror of Love’, as Belle, he teases us with:
‘You're a mean and obscene lover/But you are my dream lover/'Cause even though you treat me bad/You were the best man I ever had’.
There’s a degree of compassion for and perhaps identification with ‘those poor tortured souls’. Of course at the same time, he’s obviously had relationships with women and fathered children. But, boy (or girl), does he look good in make-up! And neither he nor Dave were averse to dressing extravagantly on stage (to illustrate a character, such as Mr Flash or a video story, in drag for ‘Dead End Street’).
‘I gazed in wonder as his beautiful half-open mouth drew air in and out … I admired his perfect features, soft olive skin, silky chestnut eyebrows poised just beneath a proud, long forehead.’
The intimations begin with this description of his feelings for his nephew Terry (although they are a similar age), in the bed next to him whom he obviously has a crush on. The fact that he feels comfortable divulging these suggests that he’s not worried what people might think, that he’s either secure in his own masculinity, or happy to imply otherwise. Or it could be an unresolved conflict that he never fully confronts and doesn’t feel the need to. However, I’m not someone who believes that so-called straight men can't find other men attractive. My brother once told me that even he fancied Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire.
You can't help but feel there was at least some unrequited (or even requited but not acted upon) passion for Terry and that this was partly responsible for the depth of the despair he felt when Terry and his family decided to emigrate.
Of ‘Waterloo Sunset’, Ray has said,
‘It was a fantasy about my sister going off with her boyfriend to a new world.’
Perhaps I’m reaching but my theory is that Terry is, in fact, Terry and that Julie is Ray; in a fantasy world, he is Julie Finkle – the perfect audience he’s always been searching for. After all, he and Dave used to be girls (see this promo for ‘Sitting in the Midday Sun’).
‘Terry said that when he met me at the hotel in Adelaide, he didn’t know whether to shake hands with Dave and me or to hug us. I said that if he had kissed me I would have returned the compliment.’
The fact that their love has not been acted upon, that there has been no consummation and maybe it isn’t needed, has allowed Ray to continue to respect Terry and allowed this love to endure. It’s interesting that he doesn’t report Terry’s reaction to this, leaving us to wonder what it was.
RD seems to combine humour and offhandedness (the ‘one up the bum’ type of saying) as a defence mechanism, as a way of hedging his bets. He’s saying, he isn’t gay, but if he were, would it matter? He could feel his orientation is fluid, malleable and that it’s not really significant anyway. It’s hard to fathom his motives; I don’t believe that he’s afraid of what people think. This is evident when he confounds expectations in interviews and songs and in his affected, effete, somewhat camp, even effeminate, persona on stage. Like in this interview from a much later period:
'I also got the best blow job of my life in the toilet at that place - a wonderful guy'.
It’s as if he’s constantly daring us to speculate. So speculate I will as I’m being led round in ever-decreasing circles by the ringmaster.
‘The fat cowboy explained to RD that he was a closet queen who was after some rough homo action and considered RD too effeminate for this purpose’.
He would rather take the girl Ray is with outside and ‘suck her dick’; she’s more macho than Ray. Echoes of ‘Lola’ here (‘I'm not the world's most masculine man’). Ray seems merely amused by this; we don't know whether he would have gone with the cowboy if he had been chosen.
‘Suddenly he grabbed me and held me close to him, without seeming to know or care who or what I was.’
This illustrates his earlier assertion.
‘Will you hold me for a second? … I don’t want to be intimate or have sex with you, all I want you to do is show some affection … I am not a queer and I do not want your body.’
God, how sweet.
‘Then RD closed his eyes and kissed me gently on the lips.’
‘As a human being, I was a little sickened.’
As a human being myself, I don’t understand how anyone can reject or be nauseated by tenderness. Ray obviously believes this to be a possible reaction, one that he might have had himself in the same situation.
‘He was old, but not past it sexually.’
If he says so himself, which, of course, is exactly what he is doing. Bless.
‘If you’re not prepared to humiliate yourself in order to give somebody else a moment’s pleasure, I don’t believe that you’ve actually lived.’
Does he actually believe that to give himself to someone would necessitate a degree of humiliation? In the sexual act or in the act of relinquishing control or admitting subordination? Or do you simply have to be prepared to do it? Makes you wonder what he would consider to be humiliating but this is never expanded upon although the lyrics to ‘Headmaster’, for instance, convey more a sense of delicious anticipation for the coming punishment than any real fear: ‘Don't tell all my friends I bent over/ … Headmaster please spare me I beg you/Don't make me take my trousers down.’
This is his comment after trying to barter 'that little whore' Dave away to David Watts (as a joke, I’m sure). The latter evidently has more of an interest in Dave than just his company. And Ray knows it.
So, I’m no clearer. How about you? Ray is a man who has affection for other men, or at least responds to their affection for him, not necessarily with any physical demonstration but by rewarding them with his trust (for instance, Colin Wadie, a bachelor in the circle, who shows concern for him). Why should gender make any difference? I think Ray loves both men and women but he has sex with women and, in doing so, destroys his love for them. Or perhaps theirs for him, in the case of Rasa and Chrissie Hynde.
‘Why is true love so difficult to find?’ (‘One More Time’)