Welcome back on stage – Dave Davies!
Dave Davies makes a courageous return to performing in the UK after a decade of battling to overcome a stroke when he stages a concert at London’s Barbican on April 11.
The concert follows a highly popular and critically acclaimed series of shows in the US last year which announced to the world that The Kinks’ lead guitarist and vocalist was back and in top form.
Fittingly, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the revolutionary guitar sound that Dave created and that helped to propel The Kinks to international stardom. The power chord riffs on The Kinks’ first two hits, ‘You Really Got Me’ (UK No.1) and ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ (No.2), were way ahead of their time, and heavily influenced later rock musicians, particularly heavy metal and punk.
Dave produced the so-called dirty guitar sound by slashing the speaker cone on his amp with a razor blade, resulting in the vibration of the fabric giving off a “fuzz” effect.
The Kinks were one of the biggest acts to come out of the 1960s and developed into probably the most quintessential English band through elder brother Ray Davies’s songwriting. Dave’s guitar work was crucial to the sound.
As well as being a key part of The Kinks’ large catalogue of chart successes, Dave also had solo hits that included the 1967 UK No.3 ‘Death Of A Clown’ and ‘Suzannah’s Still Alive’.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Beat, Dave – among other things – talked about how thrilled he was to be performing again, his part in the worldwide success of The Kinks, the brave fight-back from the stroke that initially affected his ability to play guitar, and how his spirituality helped him through his health problems.
The volatile relationship between Dave and Ray, The Kinks’ frontman. lead singer and main songwriter, may have become the stuff of legend in rock music, but when you talk to him you find a warm and caring man who is passionate about his music and deeply thoughtful about life.
Inevitably, the question of a Kinks 50th anniversary reunion came up – and the answer is that something will definitely happen but nothing is being unveiled right now.
“I don’t know what form it will take. We have been trying to work things out.
“We will be doing something – whether it is a show, a recording, a film – but I’m not going to tell you what right now.
“We’ve both got other things on the go, but we do want to do something for the 50th anniversary.”
Meanwhile, fans have a golden opportunity to catch Dave at his special one-off concert at the Barbican performing the classic hits of The Kinks, plus some of his own solo material.
“I haven’t played in the UK for years and it will be wonderful to play in London near where my family come from,” said Dave.
“My Mum and Dad came from the Kings Cross area. So I’m really looking forward to performing at the Barbican.
“We were absolutely surprised at the tremendous reception we got at the shows in the States. The first night was at The City Winery, New York. Now, New York has always been good to The Kinks whenever I’ve played there, and that first show at The Winery was very emotional.
“I didn’t know whether the show would turn out rubbish or be good, but the crowd were absolutely wonderful, and after the gig, I was just totally overwhelm-ed by emotion because people were so supportive, loving and caring. What an audience – it was almost unnerving.
“So in the end I thought maybe I can still do it! It was such a joy to be back up there on stage with such a wonderful audience.
“We were looking to do some shows in the UK and then we met a promoter who wants to help us.
“When the Barbican came up, I thought: ‘I’ve always wanted to play there because it’s really at the heart of London’s culture – it’s a wonderful place to play.
“I’m feeling really confident about the band after the great shows in the States, so when the slot at the Barbican came up I thought let’s do it. Plus, I’ve been trying to remember when it was we worked out that guitar sound, and it might have been around now or April back then. That makes the Barbican even more special.
“I had been working on this guitar sound with a razor blade, the speaker, and this little Elpico amplifier which became known as the Little Green Amp. Incidentally there is a track called the ‘Little Green Amp’ on my new album.
“I was kind of messing around with this and playing kind of bar chords on it – and it sounded like 25 baritone and tenor saxes blasting away. I’d always been a big fan of some of the guitar work by The Ventures and their rhythm guitarist played just the three strings that comprised the bass notes, and not the whole chord.
“So I was just playing around with things and Ray came out with notes on the piano that were almost like a jazz riff. Ray and I were fans of people like Gerry Mulligan and a lot of jazzers, the blues guys and so on.
“I translated that onto the guitar through this little amp and we both looked at each other and thought what’s that! Then Ray went away and wrote some words and we restructured it.
“So that is the way ‘You Really Got Me’ was born, and it really felt like it was the way forward. It was like a door opening and going through it. It was the breakthrough for us as well as opening up doors for other guitar players.
“It was about a year and half later when they started to have fuzz boxes. I should have patented the darned thing! There were numbers like The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ after that with a fuzz box, so it changed music.”
Music critics agree that Dave was a revolutionary and inspired new sounds in rock.
“You Really Got Me’ and ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ were predecessors of the whole three-chord genre. The Kinks did a lot to help turn rock ‘n’ roll into rock,” says musicologist Joe Harrington.
Writer Bill Crowley says: “As lead guitarist and co-founder of the Kinks, Dave Davies is one of the most unpredictable and original forces in rock. His distinctive guitar style went on to have major impact on several key guitar-rock styles, including heavy metal and punk. Dave’s massive guitar sounds have inspired bands from Van Halen to Green Day.”
After the two tracks got The Kinks off to a flying start, the hits rolled on – ‘Tired Of Waiting For You'(UK No.1), ‘Set Me Free’ (No.9), ‘See My Friends’ (No.10),’Till The End Of The Day’ (No.8), ‘Dedicated Follower Of Fashion’ (No.4), ‘Sunny Afternoon’ (No.1). ‘Dead End Street’ (No.4), ‘Waterloo Sunset’ (No.2), ‘Autumn Almanac’ (No.3), ‘Lola’ (No.2) and ‘Apeman’ (No.5).
Dave has come a long way from being struck down by a stroke in June 2004 as he was coming out of a lift at the BBC where he was promoting his then new album “Bug”. It left him having to learn how to walk, talk and play guitar again.
“Performing again has given me a weird kind of confidence. I care very much about playing and making people feel happy.
“When you’ve been through something like that, lying on your back in hospital and you can’t even move your arm, it’s wonderful to be enjoying myself again.”
Dave is in no doubt that his spirituality helped him to recover from the huge setback of the stroke.
“Absolutely! When you are ill, you gather your thoughts on why am I here and what do I do next.
“In a sensitive state or time like that, you look to something to cling on to. It’s a real learning curve.
“My sense of spirituality helped me a great deal. They made a little room for me at the end of the hospital ward where I could meditate and do my little practices.
“I have a book out now on Kindle and they’re going to turn into a hard copy – it’s called ‘Heal’ based on some of the yoga and other practices I use in my meditation.
“So I hope that will help other people. It’s important to have that spiritual support. Your imagination can make or break you. That was the whole basis behind voo doo practices – once you get people’s imaginations in a negative place they themselves become negative.
“Conversely, if you have positive attitudes about getting well, running and playing and having a great time – an imaginary joy as it were – you will feel better and get better.
“The imagination and body are intrinsically linked.”
When I tell Dave that he has been an inspiration through my own long-running heart health problems, he reacts with great warmth and compassion: “Bless you for saying that. That makes me so happy to hear. Good on you, keep going.”
Since the early days, Dave has worked on many acclaimed records, ranging from ‘Death Of A Clown‘ to experimental Kinks records like “Village Green Preservation Society” and “Arthur” and the classic song ‘Lola’ in 1970.
In the 1980s, Dave released experimentally prescient solo work like the eponymous album titled “Dave Davies or AFL1-3603” named after himself and/or the barcode symbol face cover art.
Mainstream success continued with the hit Kinks albums “Low Budget” and “State Of Confusion”, as they re-attained the commercial success they previously had in America in the mid-60s before they were unfairly banned for four years.
In the 1990s, he released more solo work such as “Bug” and the compilation “Unfinished Business”.
Dave’s songs have been used in films by John Carpenter and Wes Anderson, who featured ‘Strangers In Darjeeling Limited’. The song has been covered by numerous artists including Norah Jones.
One of Dave`s most popular Kinks songs, ‘Living On A Thin Line’, was used in the American HBO TV show “The Sopranos”. A Kinks 50th anniversary celebration will have to take place without original bass player Pete Quaife, who died in 2010.
Original drummer Mick Avory left The Kinks in 1984. It is still unclear whether Mick will be part of the reunion.
Dave Davies of The Kinks
Special guests; Laura & Pixi. The Barbican, Friday, April 11. Tickets: £35.50 – £32.50 (plus booking fee).
Box Office: 0207 638 8891. Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS