Top 10 Dave Davies Kinks Riffs
We’re not going to lie to you. Most of the awesomely tight power-chord riffs that Dave Davies played for the Kinks sounded pretty much the same. When you get right down to it, Davies — the younger brother of the band’s singer and songwriter Ray Davies — probably wrote three and a half riffs the entire time he was in the Kinks. But they rank among rock’s all-time greatest. Without the distorted crunch of “You Really Got Me,” there may never have been punk or metal. There certainly wouldn’t have been hundreds of rock ‘n’ roll classics based on the three-chord hammering Davies laid down on those early Kinks cuts. He relied on that style for most of his career, as you’ll see in our decades-spanning list of the Top 10 Dave Davies Kinks Riffs.
The first single from the Kinks’ first album of the ’80s borrows heavily from the band’s past. The lyrics make a reference to “Lola”‘s transvestite. And the song’s blistering guitar riff is a direct lift from the 1964 hit “All Day and All of the Night” (see No. 2 on our list of the Top 10 Dave Davies Kinks Riffs). No matter, it’s a fine way to kick off the ’80s.
“State of Confusion”
Like “Destroyer” (see No. 10 on our list of the Top 10 Dave Davies Kinks Riffs), the title track to the band’s 1983 album grabs its main riff from “All Day and All of the Night,” as well as a huge chunk from “You Really Got Me.” After more than 10 years of musically diverse, and mostly riff-free, concept records, the Kinks got back to what they did best by the end of the ’70s. So they were ready for their comeback when State of Confusion‘s hit single “Come Dancing” became their highest-charting song since 1965.
Ray Davies’ interest in Victorian ideals was at its peak when the Kinks released their seventh album in 1969. But there was still room occasionally for Dave to bring a killer riff to a song or two. “Victoria” doesn’t feature his typical power-chord crunch; instead, a warm, bluesy riff steers the song, the band’s biggest hit in more than three years.
“(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman”
The Kinks’ highest-charting album (it just missed the Top 10) signaled the group’s comeback after a decade of somewhat convoluted records and declining popularity. The LP — a sociopolitical stab at late-’70s financial crises — includes plenty of classic Kinks-like songs. This one, which chugs along a disco beat, features one of Dave’s signature riffs.
“Death of a Clown”
This 1967 song was originally Dave Davies’ first solo single (it made it to No. 3 in the U.K. but bombed in the States), but it was written by Ray and showed up on the Kinks album Something Else that year. “Death of a Clown”‘s guitar riff is solid, not spectacular. It’s on our list of the Top 10 Dave Davies Kinks Riffs because it’s Dave’s best solo song.
A quick glance at the Kinks’ album titles in the late ’60s — The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One — is enough to tell you what was going in with frontman Ray Davies at the time. But his increasingly precious concept records about Victorian mores left little room for Dave’s stinging power chords. Still, Dave managed to shoot off one of his greatest riffs in “Lola,” one of the Kinks’ all-time best.
Dave Davies’ most Kinks-like guitar riff in years showed up on a standalone 1977 Christmas single that’s become a holiday classic. “Father Christmas” is an awesome enough gift as is, with Ray singing about a kid who asks Santa to give his unemployed dad a job. Dave’s killer power chords are a bonus blast of holiday cheer.
“Till the End of the Day”
Dave Davies was on fire those first few years of the Kinks, cranking out one memorable power-chord riff after another in a string of hit singles. A combination of primal garage-rock thunder and British Invasion one-upmanship, Dave’s killer riffs defined a generation (or two or three) of budding guitar heroes. “Till the End of the Day” features one of his best.
“All Day and All of the Night”
Like its predecessor, “You Really Got Me” (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Dave Davies Kinks Riffs), “All Day and All of the Night” got to No. 7 on the charts. More importantly, it’s based on a basic chord structure similar to “You Really Got Me.” Neither song would be as great without Dave’s piercing riffs. His ripping solo is terrific too.
‘You Really Got Me’
Is there a greater guitar riff in the history of mankind than the one Dave tosses off within the first few seconds of “You Really Me”? Probably not. It definitely set the path for countless guitar-wielding kids over the years — all of them inspired by its seeming simplicity. The Beatles and Stones get more props for their contributions to rock’s legacy, but Dave Davies started a revolution here.