Wednesday, 1 February 2012

X-Raying ‘X-Ray’ by Ray Davies: Part Two: ‘Sex-Ray?’

Couldn’t resist the title – Sex-Ray sounds like a weapon in a porno version of ‘Star Trek’. Thought about ‘Sex, Ray?’ but this sounded like an invitation, which would be a bit impertinent although I can supply my own tape measure …

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.

RD declares an early interest in women (or ceremonial occasions) – the Queen, Eydie Gorme, Jill Kennington, his sisters but comes to some peculiar conclusions, such as:
‘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.

‘I believe that it is impossible to have sex with anyone you love and respect.’
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.

‘I thought about the newspaper stories of his sexual ambiguity. Maybe they were true after all. He had been born at a time when homosexuality was still illegal. Although not gay in my opinion, he had lived through the era of the closet queens and his songs were some of the first to sing openly about those poor tortured souls.’
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.’

‘Some men prefer the company of other men. It does not necessarily mean they are gay.’
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’)


  1. I read X-RAY back when it was published and thought it was *a great book*. You have composed a most intriguing, insightful, and well-written piece on the author of it which belies the notion of simply a passing interest in him. I find the last song reference rather interesting ("One More Time") as both Ray Davies *and* Chrissie Hynde have penned songs with this same (exact) title (hers preceded his by several years). Quite frankly, I am inclined to believe *they* were truly meant for each other (as in "true love"); their ongoing "private (?) conversation over the airwaves for all the world to hear" during the past 30+ years would suggest as much. Then again, perhaps, I'm just a hopeless romantic!

    1. Thanks for your comments. That’s interesting that they both wrote a song with the same title. Wouldn’t it be good if they got back together? I'm a romantic too. I’m no expert but I think perhaps Dave was right about them being too alike, both constantly craving attention from the other.

  2. Hi, sshh. In re same, song title: Being as how R.D. is such a punctilious sort, I would be hard-pressed to believe this was "just a coincidence" or an “accident” on his part that he explicitly copied *her*. Back together? My apologies, Dear, I was indulging in an episode of much-needed, exercise ioc sus, there, having been denied my customary morning glass of vinegar-and-cayenne and suffering mightily from abject withdrawal, as such. Getting back to “Rock-and-Roll’s Battling Bogarts”: 1980-1984, they were like two, magnificent flames---both burning far, far, too hotly, so they brought out the absolute worst in each other’s personalities and musical aesthetics, with but only their beautiful, and heavenly daughter as justification for so much, mutual, emotional pain. Perhaps, now, it *could* be different. Who knows? But, I’m all for new relationships, myself; people should always move forward, not backwards, when it comes to couplings, no? I mean, there’s a *reason* people break up. I would hazard to say, that R.D. will forever be smitten with C.H.’s voice, and, inimitable, “grrrrl” stage presence---who isn’t?! She’s undeniably *fantastic*. As a figurative artist, I find her face to be endlessly fascinating to study. I really enjoyed your *brilliant* article, moreover, I agree with you in re the whole “Julie Finkle” concept; “she” is simply “a literary device,” not a real person who actually exists in his life (and, if so, “she” would be *himself* for a true artist *needs no muse other than him/herself*). “Julie Finkle” is an ideological juxtaposition; the *perfect* touch of class to all of the crude, sex anecdotes and so forth he expounded on, both real and imaginary (which, you must admit, are all laugh-out-loud *hilarious*). How else could’ve someone like Raymond Douglas Davies, a rock star/sex symbol, and *most literate* of that set have written AND *ended* his book…?

  3. Interesting points and I’m sure RD would agree with you, that it’s better to go forward than go back, relationship-wise but then again, if they’re both older and wiser? Reading ‘Kink’, it seems that RD was badly hurt by their break-up so probably wouldn’t go there again. ‘These violent delights have violent ends’ and so on. Me, I tend to get mired in the past too much, a la Fitzgerald’s ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’ Will have to look up Chrissie’s ‘One More Time’. I really enjoyed the sex anecdotes - they were in a way less prosaically expressed than Dave’s. Great fun. Come on, Ray, write the next part.

  4. Happy Monday, sshh. In re "older and wiser...": Indeed, as Muhammad Ali so sagely put it, "The man who views the world at 50, the same as he did at 20, has wasted 30 years of his life." ["Playboy" - Nov. 1975] I'm fairly certain, if they did re-unite in this day and age, that we wouldn't be seeing any footage of public spats on TMZ. I enjoyed D.D.'s book, KINK, but found it *far more difficult* to follow (talk about a "timeline all mixed-up," as you commented on, in Part One of your X-RAY article). R.D.'s timeline, for me, made perfect sense, as the anecdotes issuing forth from the crusty lips of the half-cocked, septuagenarian, R.D. character flowed logically up and into the early 1970s, conversely, with D.D.'s "stream-of-consciousness" (as it were) auto-bio, I felt as if I were riding on the back of some stoned, cosmic rabbit jumping from one year and decade to another. Envisioning all of these Pop-Rock blokes in Mod Bod finery on one paragraph, only to be forced to “reset” to hideous '70s or ‘80s fashion, then back again to Carnaby Street, with a side “trip” to love beads and bell bottoms was awfully hard on the ol’ inner, movie camera, I tell you. Despite this, however, it *was* great fun and would've been *a perfect rock-and-roll memoir* had he left out all of the personal jabs towards his older brother; that, I found extremely distasteful, and petty, especially, since The Big One had portrayed the little one so fairly, and with *genuine respect* in his own book. Like yourself, I’m looking forward to the continuing, convoluted adventures---both real and imaginary---of R.D.D., but, I would *really* like, more than anything else, to see him mount a new production of “80 Days” someday. *Absolute pure genius*, that was.

    1. I know what you mean about Dave’s book – it starts off ok but the further you go, the more confused things get. It seemed that he would suddenly just go off at a tangent or ramble on about something that didn’t seem relevant. I know that it’s very difficult to follow a timeline in any kind of biographical writing; there are so many possible detours and diversions that it’s hard to keep on target. I do admire him for continuing into the 90s. Ray’s book is already so dense though, it’s just as well he stopped there. Dave does express respect and awe for Ray’s talent and empathy for his problems but is pretty harsh on his personality. As I said in another blog, ‘if you prick him, doth he not bleed?’ Ray, on the other hand, is fairly dismissive of Dave’s input, the focus on Dave being more or less limited to his sexcapades and prodigious partying.

      I’ve not heard anything from ‘80 Days’. I only started liking the Kinks halfway through last year so have a lot of catching up to do. It’s brilliant. I’m always discovering new songs.

    2. >>I do admire him for continuing into the 90s.<< Yeah: THANKS to The Big One; left to his *own* devices, the little one would’ve missed EVERY, professional Kinks’ deadline from 1969 on---and wouldn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it all out of. If it weren't for R.D., keeping a big brotherly, tight reign on the finances of DAVRAY Music LTD, etc., the little one would've *blown it all* on limousine rides and crates of Dom Pérignon for that old bastard, the London taxi driver-cum-"Dr" (major eye-roll, here) Giorgio Kingpin, the Flounder of The Aetherius Thothiety (he had a lisp, I understand---it was *supposed* to be “The Asserious Society” or *something* like that). Golly, Dear Lady Sshh---it just occurred to me---am I gonna have to enlist in the services of some, big, beefy bodyguards (hmmm---yum) to protect me 24/7 from all of these kozmik, Kinkdom fanz (“davotees”) for these rather, dismissive---but well-deserved---ruminations of mine…? Must I invoke, "The Holy Circle" (trust me, it's holier than *any other*) to protect me from the “powerful” incantations from afar; the Hekatian rituals and “sex magick spells” of countless, wildly-masturbating, "Witchiepoo" weirdettes who comprise the basic core of the little one's "Harem Scare ‘em"...? Am I about to implant in your fertile imagination the traumatic vision of a bunch of loony, FAT, white skinned-with-stretch marks-carbuncled-warty-pustuled-varicose veined-middle-to-senior aged---NAKED---human (?) forms engaging in a wild, ceremonial orgy of Anti-Mavarla Ordo Templi Disorientis proportions to END all proportions (and, I *DO* mean “proportions”)…? Alas---Mavarla The Magnificent may not be here, tomorrow, or in the days to follow, Dear Lady, to reply to anything you may elect to insightfully address in this decidedly, most, delicious exchange which you have so very graciously deigned to engage me in, this past week. Hear that sound in the distance? It’s the sound of two hands clapping…and two cheeks commanding the commencement of hundreds of hoochie-koochie “men” and “women” to slap on their “praise music” CDs and pray before many a purty altar, done lit all bright-like, with candles aplenty---all forming a mental (and, I DO mean “mental”) picture in their “minds” of me being transported to that imaginary river, with those imaginary, cement blocks tethering me down into that imaginary death…believing with all of their farts and souls that such said “exercise” will “manifest” into genuine fruition. In your dreams, kooks.

      In re “80 Days”: Indeed, please try to find a copy; you’ll enjoy it, immensely, am sure. Someone in Kinkdom (the eminent, Dave Emlen, for instance) likely, has one to lend or copy for you. There is a mixed-up and truncated travesty of an upload (w/60-70% of the musical's oeuvre) on YouTube which, egregiously, abruptly cuts off when R.D. is singing the last song (“Be Rational”)…cuts off! I don’t understand these fans and obvious, non-musicians who upload the works of others yet treat it all so callously, however, you can hear "Against The Tide" on it (a peach of an R.D. song) as well as, others. I am not “up” on these things, truth be told, but, as far as I know, there exists only a bootleg cassette recording; a demo tape which R.D. recorded 1987. There’s a nice, YT upload of the lush and lovely “Be Rational,” alone (look for the balloon) but, it, too, alas, is not, altogether perfect enough (for me); there’s a slight skip in the last second of it.

      Bless you, and, *thank you*, Dear Lady Sshh: I seldom have anyone---with genuine intelligence and humour---to play with, and, a girl like me gets awfully bored, keeping these considerations to herself, you know? Or, having to see them fly far, too high over the heads of, evidently, less adventurous, and/or lesser minds: You’re an *infinite joy*.

  5. Well, it was good hearing from you, Marvala. I hope this gets to you before you reach your watery demise. I’ll light a Dave-shaped candle in remembrance. No – two in view of our correspondence. Let’s not be cheapskate about it. I keep forgetting that this is on the net for everyone to see so I’ll say no more for now in case I get you in any more trouble and your effigy is mutilated prior to the final submersion. I’m sure that the cement blocks will be beautifully decorated if that’s any consolation. I'll check out YouTube for those tracks you mentioned.

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  7. *Happy Friday and Happy 2012 Valentine's Day Weekend*! Hope you've marvellous, celebratory plans (I do). I just want to assuage any fears you may have had that I’d been “hit” (so to speak). I have said my piece---definitively---in re all of the above, and in so doing, have selfishly taken time away from your *refreshingly-creative* and insightful (i.e., fearless) writing since I first read your post above, on Feb. 1st. I love what you’re doing with this KPS Blog because you’re leading others to *discover* this *fantastic body of work*, this comforting oeuvre of R.D.D.’s, where there is something for every one of us “misfits.” In this truly, bleak, “teenage wasteland” that is the current state of the music industry, you are performing a much-needed, public service. Mavy cannot resist one, *final* “dig,” however: >>I’ll light a Dave-shaped candle…<< Ahhh, you mean one shaped like a large phallus, like the ones ladies purchase for their "divorce parties," nowadays, yes? Think on me, fondly, Dear Lady Sshh, as you watch it...melt...down….

  8. >>I do admire him for continuing into the 90s.<< In re-reading this exchange, Dear Sshh, I just realized that I'd *completely misunderstood* your point, here (you were obviously referring to the *extent* of the "timeline" in his auto-bio, not his career, per se, but, alas, I fear my emotions got the better of me). My apologies to you. Again, *thank you* for everything; it's been most enjoyable.

  9. Oh God, is it Valentine’s Day? Have a good one. Shame that candle melted. Glad that you remain undetected so far, Mavarla. I was ready to scatter petals over the ocean while chanting syllables that as yet mean nothing to me. From one misfit to another.

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  11. Glad that you are still evading kapture by the Kink kohorts and painting. Sounds like your local HA are like a supercharged Neighbourhood Watch. Sorry that you seem to be living under siege in suburbia. It’s my birthday today but not celebrating till the weekend. I started the year with an unusual sense of optimism but now it’s only March and it’s already dissipated. Don't know why really. Perhaps it was misplaced to begin with. Very quiet here. Robins, blackbirds, doves and woodpigeons in the garden. The latter started as non-paying bed-and-breakfast guests but now they seem to have graduated to full-board lodgers. I do mention RD in my latest blog on Jackie Leven (an ‘80 Days’ song that I wouldn’t have heard but for you). Should be posting a piece soon on VGPS – just the performance of the one song.

    Don’t get dispirited.

  12. *Happy Birthday* Dear Sshh! I think I am able to say this in time but only, just, before the clock strikes 12 on your side of "the pond" (I am in So. Calif., Stateside). I hope your sister and your beau have shown you *a great time today*. More tomorrow (in another time and place). In "Fringe" we trust. Mavy

  13. I Love "Preservation Act". Wonderfull