The Kinks Inducted Into Ultimate Classic Rock Hall of Fame
It all started with a couple of power chords fed through a modified guitar amp. Actually, it all started with an underwhelming cover of Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ in February 1964. But no one really remembers that, and it doesn’t matter. So, it all started when Dave Davies struck the first distorted chord of ‘You Really Got Me’ and his brother Ray stepped up to the mic to deliver one of rock’s most defining songs.
Without ‘You Really Got Me,’ the Kinks may have disappeared into rock’s dusty corners – just another forgotten name buried in ‘Nuggets’-style compilations of ‘60s garage bands. But the song gave the Kinks, and more importantly Ray Davies, the encouragement they needed to expand their music, and the ‘60s’ occasionally limited worldview, to become one of the pivotal bands of the past 50 years and the first group to be inducted into Ultimate Classic Rock’s 100% fan-voted Hall of Fame.
The Kinks rode the same wave of Beatlemania that carried bands like the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Yardbirds to local success and to U.S. shores. At first, there wasn’t much to distinguish them. ‘Long Tall Sally,’ their debut single, was a bust. But half a year later, Ray wrote ‘You Really Got Me,’ Dave plugged in his guitar and history was made. From the opening power chords that churned away for more than a little more than two minutes to the sloppy, electric solo that shaped everything from heavy metal to punk in the years to come, ‘You Really Got Me’ was messier, nastier and just plain louder than anything else on the radio in 1964.
Davies spent the next year writing songs along the same lines, with slight tempo variations: ‘All Day and All of the Night,’ ‘Tired of Waiting for You,’ ‘Till the End of the Day.’ But where his peers did their best to hide their Britishness by copping American accents or immersing themselves in American music, Davies embraced his heritage. ‘A Well Respected Man,’ which came out a little more than a year after ‘You Really Got Me’ hit, was the first of his Very British songs, the story of a proper gentleman told in English Music Hall style. It’s both satire and tribute – a line that Davies would straddle throughout his career.
By 1967 the Kinks had moved deeper into the strictly English territory that would define their middle, most creative period. Their first truly great album, ‘Something Else,’ was released in September and included ‘Waterloo Sunset,’ one of Davies’ all-time best, a pastoral portrait of Victorian lifestyle that gave way to the Kinks’ best album the following year, ‘Village Green Preservation Society,’ an album-length dissertation on the same pastoral subjects.
Neither album sold well, but Davies continued in this vein, writing heady concept albums for the Kinks over the next several years that touched on subjects ranging from the music industry to Victorian culture to class consciousness. Quality varied and sales were dismal, but ‘Lola’ stemmed from this period and became a Top 10 hit in 1970, the band’s first big hit in five years.
In 1977 Davies revisited the power-chord rock songs he abandoned a decade earlier, and over the next few years the Kinks became arena concert giants, playing their old hits and polishing ‘60s nostalgia for fans. They even managed to score their biggest single since 1965’s ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ when the big-band-biting ‘Come Dancing’ reached No. 6 in 1983, thanks to MTV’s constant airing of the video.
But they soon faded into the background again, and not even the nostalgia seemed to matter at the point. The band carried on for a few more years, until they released their final album in 1993 and officially broke up three years later. Both Ray and Dave Davies have released solo records since the split that evoke and honor their Kinks years, a period best represented by the early singles and on a handful of classic albums, including ‘The Kink Kronikles’ compilation of late ‘60s and early ‘70s songs, an excellent starting point.
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