Friday, 14 September 2012

Brothers Beyond: 'Kink' - Dave Davies/'X-Ray' - Ray Davies

Dave makes smoking look cool

It occurs to me that I’m experiencing the 60s and 70s vicariously through Dave’s book. Such is my second-hand life.

So again I find myself digressing along a path I didn’t intend to take. You know how it is when you’re on holiday and you see a sign that says ‘KEEP OUT’ or ‘DANGER BEYOND THIS POINT’ (they had one of those at Niagara Falls) and it entices you to go exactly where you shouldn’t. The lure of the forbidden. Anyway, here are more thoughts on ‘Kink’, including some comparisons of how Dave and Ray remember and relate certain episodes in their lives.

In ‘Kink’, Dave more frequently (although not always) shows awareness of how other people are involved in or impacted upon by what he does or what happens. This reading highlights how two events can be perceived (or at least remembered) quite differently by the participants or observers of the time. It’s not that one brother is right and one wrong; it’s only natural that there should be these discrepancies but what they do and don’t include and the emphasis they place on these does help to illuminate facets of their personalities. ‘Kink’ extracts purple; ‘X-Ray’ green; others blue.

Normally you could say that school might come before sex and drugs and rock and roll but with Dave and Ray, they were to prove almost concurrent.

The fight
Ray is much more competitive than Dave. He likes to win. But the boys don’t only fight each other.
As schoolboys, Ray and Dave are both boxing in the same tournament. Typically, Ray doesn’t even acknowledge that Dave was also fighting while Dave watches Ray in action and lets us know how he feels:
‘I flinched at every blow, winced at every punch’ … ‘I was torn between my own joy over winning and concern and worry for my brother’ … ‘Ray had lost the bout but had won much respect and admiration from the crowd for the courageous fight he’d put up against a more seasoned boxer. I burst with pride.’

Dave wins his match, motivated by the desire to impress the teacher he fancies:
‘The joy of victory was nothing compared to the look of approval and pleasure I received from Miss Joshua.’

Ray comments that he’s rather unlucky to come up against a formidable opponent, Ronnie Brooks, reigning British school boxing champ, a fact Dave also includes:
‘the referee intervened to prevent what little brain I had from being spilled all over the floor’.

But each particular setback makes Ray more generally resolute:
‘I began to associate those flashing lights with defeat, and I was determined to avoid defeat in the future.’
Ray’s focus is more self-central; he doesn’t even seem aware that Dave was there. Or if aware doesn’t deem it relevant. I don't know whether this is because Ray is more single-minded about winning or whether he simply can't be bothered to watch his brother. The concern at this point seems to be all one-way.

Perhaps it was fortuitous that the young Davies brothers were encouraged to take up pugilism, given their later propensity for pugnacity and tendency to get into fights with each other and everyone else, this later possibly being the ‘mystery’ behind why they were originally banned in the US, Ray reacting in a Dave-type manner, unusually for him not rationalising the ramifications of his actions:
‘I believed America to be an evil place …I remember we were doing a television spot, I think it was for The Dick Clark Show – and this guy kept going on at me: “When the commies overrun Britain, you’re really going to want to come here …?” I just turned round and hit him, about three times. I later found out that he was a union official.’

Ray in underwear
I’m going to contradict myself here. Ray details some of his experiences with groupies in a similar way to Dave (although occasionally allowing another character to describe them, like a Vulcan mind meld, but they’re still his memories). And they’re explicit and raunchy. He doesn’t stint us on the viscera as I might have previously implied, for instance:
‘My head is banging against the door and the brunette is heaving back and forth, still with her head attached to my penis, her mouth slurping like a giant suction-pump’
although he does make this experience sound a little frightening. Note the lack of agency though – Ray is ‘acted upon’. For more on Ray’s sexhanigans, see ‘Sex-Ray’.

And Drugs
It’s that instant vs delayed gratification phenomenon again. It’s frightening – even after a friend dies of an overdose, Dave shows no signs of slowing down or giving up or even hesitating in his quest for the best high. After all, this is the Dave who filled in a questionnaire, putting his likes as ‘Money, clothes, cars’. Let’s face it – teenage Dave was pretty shallow. He wasn’t the Dave we know today, all sensitive and planet(s)-friendly. In the 60s, the spirits he was into were of a more liquid variety, usually taking the form of Rémy Martin.

In the US, a girl called Norma convinces Dave to try acid.
[Acid is the street name for LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), a semisynthetic psychedelic drug, known for its psychological effects, which can include altered thinking processes, closed and open eye visuals, synesthesia, an altered sense of time and spiritual experiences. Good news is that it’s non-addictive and not known to cause brain damage, although in rare cases adverse psychiatric reactions such as anxiety or delusions occur.] [I don’t really understand what synesthesia is so if anyone can enlighten me, please feel free.]
‘Before me I could see the universe and all it contained and I was rushing at the speed of light into what seemed the very heart of it.’ … ‘I examined a chair and could sense the pulsating radiations from its atoms’ … ‘I would be suddenly lifted into mystical realms of ecstasy’ … but this elation doesn’t last: ‘Hopelessness pulled at the core of my being.’
This trip has a lasting effect on Dave. Overcome with sadness and anxiety, he tries to counteract this with first wine then sleeping pills. Good thinking, babe. Later he goes on stage:
‘Halfway through the show, I couldn’t stand it any more, so I left the stage, put my guitar in its case, and left the building.’
Naturally, Ray isn’t that sympathetic although just as volatile and unpredictable himself.

‘By 1971 I had lost my confidence to play live and was mentally in very bad shape’ … ‘I was again in despair and continuing to experiment with hallucinogens’ … ‘I spent the entire time in my room drinking wine and taking mescaline’
[Mescaline is a hallucinogen obtained from the cactus peyote. It produces rich visual hallucinations but the full spectrum of effects serves as a chemically induced model of mental illness. It is used as a recreational drug and also to supplement various types of meditation and psychedelic therapy. Users typically experience visual hallucinations and radically altered states of consciousness, often experienced as pleasurable and illuminating but occasionally accompanied by feelings of anxiety or revulsion. Other effects include: open and closed-eye visualizations, euphoria, dream-like state and laughter.]

Then a girl called Diana (there’s always a girl) introduces Dave to Angel Dust:
[Angel Dust is the street name for PCP, a recreational dissociative drug, formerly used as an anaesthetic, with both hallucinogenic and neurotoxic effects. It is significantly more dangerous than other categories of hallucinogens.]
‘It seemed fine when I was lying down but trying to walk was really difficult’ … ‘it was intended to be used when you were so drunk and stoned with everything else that it would be the only thing that could effect any noticeable difference’ … ‘God, it was wretched stuff.’

Dave with Flying Vee
It’s no wonder that Dave sometimes didn’t feel very well. Ray hasn’t really commented on any of these strange and disturbing interludes or the effect that any of this had on him and the band, whether through lack of interest or out of discretion, I can't say although he does mention the altercations that sometimes ensued as a result. Nor does he admit to having succumbed to any of the mind-altering substances out there, except for alcohol. Of the Cardiff fiasco (see below), he writes:
‘Dave had been hanging around with Brian Jones … and as a result started mixing drink and drugs. Everybody was relieved when, after several run-ins with the police and punch-ups outside clubs, he returned to live with Mum and Dad.’
That Brian Jones has a lot to answer for.

‘The year was 1963, and what I had on my mind mostly that year, besides girls and football, was guitars.’

Green amp set-up
Green amp
‘I always loved to mess around with amplifiers.’
‘When I was sixteen, I discovered how to make my guitar scream.’
Dave starts his book with a description of the sound he achieved with these different amps (the Elpico green amp – 10 watt says Dave, 8 watt says Ray, the 60-watt Linear, and Vox AC-30: a tale, recounted in vivid detail, involving razorblades and electric shocks (and knitting needles according to Ray). You know the one. Ray also recalls using this little amp at an early pub gig, where the band was dragged offstage but the amp played on.

‘It wasn’t called heavy metal when I invented it.’
Both recognise how important this was; it’s natural that Dave covers some of it more thoroughly than Ray (whose version is condensed and not quite accurate) because it was he who instigated the mutilation of the amp and it reinforces how integral he was to the distinctive guitar sound which was to jumpstart the Kinks career and influence so many other musicians.
‘As it vibrated it produced a distorted and jagged roar … the original set-up was so crude that the main amp's hum was almost as loud as the sound I had created. A sound was born, but I didn't know it at the time.’
Dave has just written a song called ‘Green Amp’. It would be great to get hold of a copy of the lyrics. Will hopefully hear it again at the September Satsang. Wonder if he'll try to reproduce the amp's sound.

They then use this strange multi-amp set-up live.

It works well on ‘You Really Got Me’, the guitar all crunchy, but Dave calls the first attempt to record this ‘a disaster’:
‘After we threatened to pack the whole thing in if they released it, Robert and Grenville lent us the money to go back in the studio and record it again. I think it cost £200’ (a lot of money in those days, or even today)

Ray recalls this differently. He’s the one who objects and insists it be re-recorded when it sounds too smooth, determined to recreate the raunchiness they achieved live on the track. He does mention Dave:
‘At the time Dave had a girlfriend called Linda who put my feelings into words when she said that it didn’t make her want to drop her knickers’ …
‘I threatened to leave the band and never have anything more to do with the music business again but nobody took any notice.’

Luckily for us, Ray eventually gets his way and they redo the recording:
‘Dave’s eyes squinted and his face broke into that arrogant sideways smile that I had learned to love and hate over the years. … He gritted his teeth and sneered at me before turning away to play his solo.’

If Ray hadn’t been so stubborn so early on, they maybe wouldn’t have had their first hit and the course of their career might have been very different. In a recent interview, Shel Talmy has said:
‘Ray was always difficult. I didn’t have a problem with anybody else. Ray was moody, and I think it’s fair to say jealous from the outset that I was the, quote-unquote, producer and that he wasn’t. We were obviously close in age, which made it even more difficult … but hey, we worked it out.’
This might be a reference to that first encounter.

As they were, 1960s
'Well, the road's been rocky along the way’ (‘The Road’)
The Cardiff Incident (sounds like one of those 70s thrillers my dad watches, like ‘The Philadelphia Experiment’) or Where Have All the Good Times Gone, already?
‘Mick tried to slice Dave’s head off with a cymbal during “Beautiful Delilah”
‘I looked at Mick and shouted at him, calling him a useless cunt. I said his drumming was shit and they’d sound better if he played them with his cock. I sneered at him and kicked his drums all over the stage’ … ‘he hit me over the head with one of his cymbal stands’
It was a stand not an actual cymbal that did the damage. He says he had half a dozen stitches in his head. Ray increases the number but I can't remember to what.
In Jon Savage’s book, we get Mick’s side of the story:
‘Everyone misinterprets it and says I hit him with a cymbal. If you hit someone with a cymbal, you decapitate them. I only had a high hat left from my kit to hit him with so I hit him over the head with the pedal end.'
This might be the memorable occasion when Dave is said to have spat in everyone’s faces but I’m only guessing. Happy days.

Pete and Jonah’s car accident 1966
Dave gets a call at 3 am from Grenville. Pete’s ok but
‘Jonah … was in a bad way, with fractures to the ribs and pelvis, acute stomach lesions and, worst of all, severe injuries to his face and jaw.'
Dave goes to see them both in hospital and is obviously concerned:
‘I was particularly upset about Jonah because I had grown up with him and we were good mates. His family ran the newspaper shop a few doors down from us.’
Ray hears about the accident in a news report before ‘Grandstand’. It’s not clear why no one tells him personally. Maybe they didn’t dare. He acts like this is a slightly annoying inconvenience but one that can be got around on their scheduled TV appearances as these are usually mimed anyway. Pete is missing from this ‘Sunny Afternoon’ from around the time and Ray looks pretty pissed off.

I think these comparisons show that Ray was detached from those around him, almost remote, in a way that Dave never was. Dave is much more emotional than Ray; Dave makes me emotional when I’m with him. But Ray retains that distance for safety’s sake and so that he can observe and judge and make a considered decision. Dave’s decisions are rooted in his feelings. (See ‘Man Behaving Badly’.)

I’ll end with a quote from ‘Kink’, something Ray’s second wife, Yvonne, said to Dave:
‘If Ray was bit more like you and you were a little more like him, then both of you would have been better off.’
It takes a woman.

Last word
I know that if Dave thinks I look cold, he’ll offer me a sweater to wear; I don't know about Ray. I think he would probably say ‘Why didn’t you wear something warmer?’ I'd love to meet him and find out.

To come: The third Dave Davies Satsang weekend retreat; the Kinks trail in Muswell Hill and Highgate complete with surprise guest appearance from an original member of the Kinks.

Thanks to Wikipedia for drug descriptions and Frank Lima for amp set-up picture.