Monday, 30 July 2012

Reflections on 'Kink' by Dave Davies

Hardback cover
I’d originally entitled this ‘Kink’ vs ‘X-Ray’ but realised that this helped to perpetuate a sense of competition between the brothers. I know that Dave doesn’t want to play that game. And the two books relate in a complementary way, one illuminating some of the shadows in the other but still retaining the chiaroscuro: put them together and you get the full picture.

You might think from reading their autobiographies and from their constant skirmishes that all the Davies brothers have in common is a love of malted milkshakes. Dave makes his own version with Horlicks and Haagen-Dazs. Music brought them together despite their differences and kept them together through thick and thin. There are many of us who hope (against hope) that one day it will again.

'I probably shouldn't tell you this, but Ray phoned up someone at our office and said: Have you seen Dave's book? They said they'd seen bits and pieces. He said (adopts serious, pained tone): You know, I think this is going to be the end of the Kinks this year.'
This comment manages to imply that the Kinks have an end every year. Not sure whether Ray’s reaction is caused by Dave’s personal criticisms of Ray (as prevalent as his appreciation of his talent) or the fact that Dave’s revelations will somehow affect the reputation of the band, leading to its dissolution.

This started off as an attempt to compare Kink with X-Ray, focusing on certain events covered in both books to see how different the brothers’ perceptions and preoccupations are. But, for the moment, I want to concentrate on an overview of ‘Kink’, and in particular, what it says about the early days of the Kinks.

Dave at eleven, thanks, Frank!
I have already written about X-Ray and stated that it’s in no way a straightforward read. Dave’s book is much more open, more even-handed and seems at first glance much more transparent. But you should never judge a book by its cover or rely on your first impression. As I delved further, I realised that Dave happily disclosed much of his bad behaviour, was occasionally remorseful but sometimes proud. He's able to hide in plain sight, by appearing to ‘show and tell’ but the book does not 'tell all', Dave understandably remaining reticent where some family relationships are concerned. Nevertheless, Kink still provides more detail than X-Ray, particularly on the things that mattered to Dave back then (girls, cars, fashion) with the added advantage that it hasn’t been mixed with fiction (these are the facts as Dave remembers them) and that it takes us beyond 1973 into the 90s. Ray is rumoured to have another book in the pipeline and we can be sure it will be hard to fathom but fascinating. Oh and Dave’s includes an index which helps any reader, reviewer, confirm facts, names, dates, as they go or as they return (something which Ray’s ‘work of faction’ mitigates against) and photographs, including one of Dave as a very cheeky-looking eleven-year-old. I bet he could get away with murder, something confirmed by his mother’s comment ‘you were such a lovely little boy, but what a sod you were’. I don't know if I can write that in a blog. I think it’s ok if I write it with an English accent.

Dave spends a while talking about each album as it occurs: the inspiration for certain tracks, how particular effects were achieved, which tracks were his favourites and why. It’s made me revisit some songs and listen to ones that were new to me (being a relatively recent fan). More on this aspect in the next blog.

Dave’s style is very natural. Like Dave. There’s no additional storyline, no framing device, no omnipotent Corporation. He’s purely and simply stated what happened and when and how he felt at the time. Occasionally he goes off track, but normally when trying to explain or describe something extraordinary. He writes more articulately than I thought he would before I met him (sorry, Dave, I know better now). At the close of the book, he starts to ramble a little and this could possibly have been kept in check by a zealous editor but, as I’ve been known to ramble myself, I’ll forgive him.

‘It’s a miracle we survived it at all.’
Once you’ve read Dave’s book, you can totally identify with this quote on the back cover. No kidding. It is a miracle that Dave survived. Someone must be watching over him.

Dave from Tumblr
‘He was withdrawn and thoughtful. I did the partying; he wrote about it.’
The book is partly a celebration of an era (the 60s and 70s when the Kinks were at the height of their powers in the UK), the new freedoms, the permissive society, the drug culture, the fashion. Dave’s right: he lived the life, embraced it with open arms (and, let's face it, when Dave was young, he wouldn't have been satisfied with just an embrace), apparent in footage from the time, like this rendition of ‘I’m a Lover Not a Fighter’ (my marvellous friend described him as ‘a force of nature then’) or 'Beautiful Delilah', he often appears more assured and comfortable on stage than Ray (sometimes endearingly gauche), who was to come into his own later; Ray remained detached, sampling a little at a time while considering, observing and commentating. As the quote suggests, Ray experienced things vicariously through Dave. He didn’t have to go over the edge himself but, as in his recurring nightmare (described later), allowed Dave to launch himself over the precipice. If he hadn’t let go, Dave’s momentum would have taken them both.

The Scotch of St James
‘It was a very hazy time for me really, because I was always out of it. I was always getting crazy and going around the clubs and having a great time, falling over with Eric Burdon at the Scotch of St James’s.’
According to Jon Savage’s excellent book on the Kinks, when ‘You Really Got Me’ went to Number One, Dave embarked on a binge that was to last three years. He began to care about designer labels, know the names of posh drinking clubs, and was seduced by the trappings of his own fame.

‘I close my eyes and smile and thank God that I’m still here and that there’s nothing I have missed.’
No chance of that, Dave. He captures the hedonistic spirit of the times in a way that Ray doesn’t, possibly because Dave was more in tune/step with them. He quickly realises that his success opens doors and bursts through them, while Ray hesitates on the threshold. Dave’s account floods colour into a picture that was monochrome in X-Ray, as he is prone to none of Ray’s ambivalence. In my analysis of X-Ray, I described it as predominantly ‘Impressionist’ but Dave’s tales are the details taken from that painting. Everyone knows the devil is in the detail.

'His clothes are loud, but never square' ('Dedicated Follower of Fashion')
Dave’s devotion to consumerism is at odds with the Dave we now know, but he’s refreshingly forthright about it while occasionally suffering slight misgivings, choosing to revisit Muswell Hill in 1969 in his Austin Mini rather than his Citroen Maserati. He later criticises the owners of a shop called Lord Jim that gave him credit when he was at the top, but want cash once the Kinks have fallen out of favour. He sees them as traitors because of this. I like a quote from the unlikely source of Shania Twain here. She said that it made no sense that people only wanted to give her free things once she was rich enough to actually afford them. She didn’t accept them.

‘Sorry, Dave. Come back when you have a hit record.’
‘I threw his clothes at him, told him what I thought of him, then kicked over some clothes-racks before I stormed out of the store. … Before he had had his tongue so far up my arse that he could barely breathe, and now he was treating me like this.’
Dave doesn’t seem to have come across fair-weather friends before and appears to have enjoyed all the kow-towing that preceded the come-down. ‘A Long Way from Home’ is critical of this type of behaviour:
‘… you think/That money buys everything …/ I hope you find what you are looking for with your cars and your handmade overcoats’

Dave enthusiastically documents his voyage into excess with the same no-holds-barred approach in which he over-indulged at the time, with the same intensity which he invests in this 'Milk Cow Blues'. So many times he doesn’t know what drugs he’s taking, how he gets home, who he’s with. He’s led a charmed life. I know plenty of people who’ve experimented to a much lesser degree and are still ruing the consequences (it’s usually the family that bears the brunt). I’m not disapproving although I think he took way too many risks despite proliferating warning signs – his friends George Harris and Ewin Stephens dying from overdoses, his own experiences. Poor wife Lisbet was long-suffering:

‘As she placed the food in front of me, I collapsed on the table, smashing the plate and knocking the table to the floor. There was blood all over the place.’
She pours his drugs down the drain.
‘I struggled with her and tried to pick the dissolving drugs out of the sink with my fingers …set about dismantling the U-bend’.

They were great boots!
But these deaths and episodes only seem to register momentarily with Dave; he says he’ll be in touch with George’s Mum and wishes he had got his favourite boots back from Ewin. He seems more distressed about losing the boots than he does about Ewin’s death, indicative of his preoccupations at the time.

‘They had been hand-made at Anello & Davide, thigh-length in tan leather with a large Cuban heel and a narrow Spanish-style toe. They were skin-tight and came right up to my crotch, with a loop strap at the top of each boot where I could thread a belt.’
It’s obvious that he really loved them. Even the picture captions confirm his interest: ‘Note my lace shirt’, ‘my trademark gingham shirt’. He was a total fashionista then.
Although this seems callous, it’s possibly also a self-defence mechanism. If he stops to think, he’d have to stop … . It’s almost as if he believed he were untouchable, invincible. He rushes headlong into more danger, blithe, oblivious.

As usual, I have a lot more to write, but will include here an example from the two books because I mentioned it earlier.

Brotherly love
It’s interesting that both brothers believe that they will have to look out for or protect the other one and they come to this realisation through some sleep-induced phenomena.

‘I realized that night even though I was the younger brother, I would somehow have to fulfil the role of the older one and keep a look-out for him.’
This is Dave’s comment after witnessing Ray sleepwalking. It’s very similar to Ray’s: 

‘As I looked over at my brother sleeping peacefully in the next bed, I knew that I would always have to protect this interloper even though I could never quite forgive him for spoiling my solitary but idyllic existence’.

‘I had a recurring dream. My brother and I were playing on the edge of a cliff. David Russell slipped over the edge and I grabbed him as he fell. There we would stay, one brother literally holding the other's life in his hands. As the dream turned into a nightmare, I felt my sibling’s hand slip from my grasp, and the pathetic cries from my falling brother caused me to wake, shouting and sweating.’

‘I always end up letting him fall.’
Whether this is through lack of strength or lack of will is not made clear. It’s possible that this was a portent of their future dynamic, Dave always plummeting over the edge as Ray reached out to stop him.

As children, they reject each other and find their brotherly connection with their nephews, who are of a similar age: Ray with Terry (Rose and Arthur’s child) and Dave with Michael (Dolly and Joe’s child).

More in next blog about the three Rs: relationships, responsibility and respect. See Dave Davies - Kink - Man Behaving Badly.

(Thanks to for the gif(t))

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