The thing that catapulted us down this unusual path was the BBC4 documentary Kinkdom Come which, along with the Imaginary Man one about Ray Davies, motivated us to listen to more by this astonishing band, the Kinks, and, ultimately, to take this trip to Dave’s: the final frontier.
The other day I read another blogger’s review of Kinkdom Come and the writer accurately sums up what I also took away about Dave:
Throughout, Dave comes across as an honest, gentle soul, slightly lost, beautifully innocent, almost ethereal, as if he is a visitor from some other galaxy.*
This impression lasted throughout our first encounter with the man himself. So, once again, we set out to explore strange new worlds in a spiritual sense but with a now more familiar and trusted companion.
We found our first evening wandering the streets of Dave Davies’s little town magical in its own quiet understated way. In the pre-twilight sunshine, itself a 1970s Kodachrome beatitude, a host of unassuming yet captivating singing sparrows accompanied us down the road, flitting from front garden hedgerows to rockeries to fences, in a sublime portable chorus, only to abscond one by one whenever a camera was trained on them. It was like being transported back into the past since sparrows have become something of a rarity in our south London suburb.
And we were similarly enchanted when Bill whistled in that little shop and postcard star Rodney the collie, who only understands commands in Welsh, obediently trailed in to meet and greet his new fans.
The sun continues to grace us all weekend, bar a few raindrops that first night. We spend the evenings in the local pubs. In one boozer on the last night I notice boxes of LPs on a table near the bar and start looking through them. Whereupon the obliging barman says he’ll put on any that I pick out and on my command immediately goes into a backroom that’s wall-to-wall vinyl to produce a double album of Kinks hits. My kind of place though the regulars’ looks could define ‘askance’ once certain of us start to dance.
On the second afternoon at Dave’s we have the dreaded (for me) talking stick ceremony. It seems to creep up on us all of a sudden. I wouldn’t say I’m incapable of doing what I’m told (after all, I do basically abide by the terms and conditions) but my insubordination at times borders on the pathological. I’d much rather interact by asking questions, interrupting, making a sarcastic remark or contributing an aside. When I’m granted actual overt permission to speak, I find I simply can’t do it. I’m in a distinct minority, however, and everyone else seems to enjoy this opportunity to share their thoughts.
Dave himself is not always completely forthcoming and teasingly declines to tell us the name of his angel (who he can see in the room with us) or his dragon, in case it gets ‘broadcast all over the world tomorrow’ and remarks that there are ‘spies amongst us’. Ahem.
How does he choose which information to withhold? It’s completely arbitrary is my guess. Some people might consider seeing angels at all a sign of mental disturbance but, given that, would it really matter to those folk what the angels in question called themselves? But I respect the fact that Dave might just want to keep some things private. Though I promise I can keep a secret if told something in confidence.
I wonder if he can see if anyone else there has an accompanying angel. ‘That’s an interesting question,’ he muses but doesn’t answer it. I suspect not. Definitely not in my case, my angel’s probably still waiting on the wrong platform at Paddington, or standing outside the station toilets trying to beg 30p off someone to get in.
Dave believes in Jesus but I don’t think as the son of God, rather as a gifted mystic prophet, whom he calls ‘Master Jesus’. We learn some interesting things about the experience in his hotel room that led him to explore different spiritual teachings but, despite questioning him further in the group, I was unable to fathom the exact provenance of the guidance. Did someone thrust a book of Vivekananda into his hand? What made him turn to Israel Regardie in his hour of need? Was he particularly susceptible to any outside influence that seemed to promise answers at that desperate stage in his life?
To his credit, he’s continued to search for a solution, not just to improve his own spiritual well-being but in an effort to help change the world generally. There’s no doubt of his good intentions and, contrary to what some may think, these weekends are not an ego trip for him but a genuine attempt to help others find the right path. Not in a didactic, I know better than you manner – it’s more a case of we’re all in this together so let’s try to understand each other and make things better.
So also on the second afternoon, we meditated and concentrated our thoughts on the world healing session, with the help of a beautiful device that looked like it could make candy floss while possibly delivering electric shock treatment (apparently an energy field consciousness calibrator or EFCC, I see from the website). I don’t recall Dave mentioning these terms – perhaps he rationalised that too much information might alienate the sceptics among us. I can imagine his ‘note to self’: ‘Don’t scare off potential postulants with a lot of incomprehensible jargon.’ Well, actually, his note would have been more down to earth: ‘Keep it simple for this lot or they’re likely to panic.’
And so to the music. As far as I remember, though I wasn’t totally sober this time around, this is the set we actually got, though perhaps not in this exact order.
First night setlist
All Day and All of the Night
Where Have All the Good Times Gone
Set Me Free
Tired of Waiting for You
See My Friends
Too Much on My Mind
Are You Ready, Girl?
Flowers in the Rain
I’m Not Like Everybody Else
Living on a Thin Line
This Man He Weeps Tonight
Sea of Heartbreak
Green Amp song
Get Back in the Line
Milk Cow Blues
You Really Got Me
Next night – more or less the same but with
Remember the Future
Dead End Street
This Man He Weeps Tonight
Sea of Heartbreak
Flowers in the Rain
Not played though on list
Love Me Till the Sun Shines
One Day at a Time
Not played though played last year
Rock Me, Rock You
The band (Dave, David Nolte, bass, Jonathan Lea, guitar and Frank Rawle, cajon) rattle through the first couple of numbers at breakneck pace as if to bed themselves in and it sounds good and it feels really great to be back. The decibel level is also just right for such a small space – loud enough without being overwhelming. It was a bit crushed last year but this time we have more room to move.
Dave delivers a pleasingly plaintive ‘Are You Ready, Girl?’ and a rambunctious ‘Fortis Green’, brimming with affectionate nostalgia for a lost era. He sends out messages infused with longing, drenched in soul-searching remorse, like ‘Flowers in the Rain’ and ‘This Man He Weeps Tonight’. The sad, oddly self-possessed resignation of ‘Get Back in the Line’ is counterpointed with the poignantly depressed but still hopeful ‘Strangers’. Naturally we get crowd pleaser ‘Living on a Thin Line’, with its pessimistic statement on the state of the world. He prefaces an uplifting ‘Death of a Clown’ with the not-too-serious appeal, ‘Do I really have to play that one?’ I’ll leave you to speculate as to the response.
The set is disrupted by a little too much audience interaction, with rising alcohol levels leading to people taking advantage of the informal atmosphere to shout out for their favourites. And Dave may be a little too concerned to ‘give the people what they want’. I worry that the frequent interruptions result in us getting bits and pieces of unrehearsed requests rather than fully rehearsed numbers in their entirety. But it does yield the brilliant bonus of an emphatic ‘Dead End Street’, though attempts to mime the lyrics of the second verse to Dave prove woefully inadequate. And also results in ‘Remember the Future’, a new song Dave had tried out on us in September, a slower-tempo country-style number beautifully tinged with Dave’s trademark regret.
But I miss ‘The Lie’, ‘Love Me till the Sun Shines’ and ‘Rock Me, Rock You’ in particular as well as all the possibles that got left out on the night – see setlist from first blog. Also reliably informed that ‘Animal Farm’ was rehearsed and sounding good. And that Dave had been more relaxed in rehearsals.
Now and then Dave’s vocals falter a little in his upper range on a couple of numbers, perhaps the result of his empathic experience of other people’s symptoms. An asthmatic weekender is channelling a bad cough and cold his way, together with problems breathing. But all in all a couple of great gigs.
The highlight for me both nights is the gloriously energetic, bass-driven ‘Milk Cow Blues’.
After the gig on the last evening, when I point out some minor grammatical error in something Dave’s written on an auctioned t-shirt (I’m an Aries, shoot me), he charges me with being good at school. I can’t deny it. I actually liked school and yes, I came first a lot. Though never in anything remotely practical. He reiterates his hatred of school and assures me he was never academic. But, you know, he’s a rock star and I’m just your run-of-the-mill underachiever. I won’t say failure or complain that my job can sometimes be frustrating and boring as it was pointed out to me by singer-songwriter Lee Griffiths recently that at least I’m not standing in the street for hours on end holding up a placard advertising a pizza place. Not as yet anyway. It’s good to get a reality check. Thanks, Lee.
Well, that reminds me that there was an auction of some Dave-related memorabilia, for charity; and Kate had also thoughtfully got each attendee a gift, which she also distributed on that second afternoon.
I see that they are planning to ‘do it again’ in September.
For an alternative view of the weekend, see
 I don’t think he was prevaricating – either he couldn’t see any others and didn’t want to break it to us or it just didn’t occur to him to answer. Maybe he didn’t think it was his place to reveal that other people had them too.
 Though Mabel the white Persian cat might not agree as she makes for the backdoor to begin an immediate woodpigeon chase on exit.
 Somebody should buy Dave a t-shirt that says ‘Handle with Care’. The sensitive soul seems to have interpreted a casual throwaway comment from last year as a criticism. ‘I thought you didn’t like that one’, he protests when asked for ‘that new one that you played last year’. Although he may have been winding us up.
 Although I did see one outside my local Co-op just the other day. As I cycled up he gave me a big grin and when I left the shop and remounted my bike, he turned to smile at me again. So maybe it’s not such a bad deal after all.