While the Davies brothers avoid seeing each other in person, even when discussing the treatment for the upcoming Kinks movie (initial face-to-face encounters proved, shall we say, less than fruitful?), Mick Avory’s friendship with Ray Davies is one that seems thankfully to have endured.
This may be more down to Mick’s personality than Ray’s. Pete Quaife, original bassist and founder band member said: ‘Jim Rodford and Mick Avory are the two most down to earth guys you’ll ever meet in your life.’ I don’t think a truer word was ever spoken.
After overhearing Pete camply referring to him as a ‘beautiful butch beast’ (according to Ray’s unauthorised autobiography X-Ray) at his audition, Mick was motivated to inquire whether the band he was considering joining consisted of some kind of sexual deviants.
Unreassured, Mick went away to think about it and Ray watched him pack his drums away into a delivery van:‘I thought how sad he looked, and hoped that he would join the group because in many ways he was a little like I was before I had joined a band: all lost and looking for some friends to play with.’
Mick started to emerge from his shell and entertain the others with stories of his days as a Sea Scout allegedly engaging in somewhat dubious scouting practices with the scoutmaster and by christening Paul McCartney ‘Pull My Cock Off’. It’s apparent that Ray believed the new member was starting to fit right in. And Mick obeyed Ray’s command to slam the drums as hard as he could, though his hands were often bleeding at the end of rehearsals.
But the drummer’s tendency to take a backseat in any dispute continued to rankle with Dave. Although taken aback by their meteoric rise to stardom, Mick remarks: ‘Ray and Dave were the nucleus of it, really. I didn’t feel as though it had had much to do with me.’ Why then should he interfere when it came to making decisions?
Dave rationalises: ‘There’s bound to be some conflict with a lot of talented people in one area … if none of us had any personality, no one would get any work done. There has to be a certain amount of friction to do anything creative.
‘On stage Mick and I have a lot of respect for each other [excepting the altercation below, details in last blog], and I think our opposing ideals and views stimulate us. Mick can be very abrasive at times, but basically he’s a very pleasant, sociable sort of guy.’
He continues: ‘I love Ray very much and I love Mick in my own sort of way, but I like my own independence, and I don’t like to be imposed upon by other people whether I love them or not.’
In the runup to the infamous drum pedal incident (during a performance of ‘Beautiful Delilah’, above), Dave recalls that he and Mick had grown quite close, sharing a house, when the Davies brothers argued in the car after a gig in Taunton. Back at the hotel he remonstrated with Mick for not standing up for him, expecting some loyalty from his housemate. Dave claims Mick hit him first in a punch-up that a roadie then had to break up, not before Mick had given Dave two black eyes, meaning that Dave had to wear sunglasses for the next show.
The precaution of providing the warring duo with separate dressing rooms the following night in Cardiff did nothing to allay the tension, Dave still feeling outraged and betrayed. Hence his verbal assault on Mick and petulant attack on the drumkit, leading to Mick’s fabled near-fatal retaliatory violence. Mick comments: ‘We knew that was the end of that particular tour.’ Dya think? And Dave admits: ‘I didn’t want Mick back in the band after that.’
But Larry Page convinced them to stay together in order to break America. The two became friendly once more after that. But relations were always going to be strained.
Pete remembers that he’d been dubbed ‘the ambassador’ because of his stabilising influence, often stepping in to calm things down when fights broke out. ‘If we had have cooperated and worked things out, who knows? I might have stayed with the band and maybe things would have been different. They probably didn’t recognise my peacekeeping abilities until after I was gone.’
And, on the ill-fated US tour, demonstrating how Ray and Mick were beginning to get on, in response to a TV show’s demands that the band perform dance routines, Ray says, ‘Mick and I danced with each other [cheek to cheek, naturally]. Of course they banned it. They wouldn’t let two men dance with each other on television.’
But Mick has some unforgettably colourful memories, which he shares with fans at Kast Off Kinks gigs. This one begins,
‘Back in the old days, The Kinks weren’t like other bands. As a consequence, we used to get strange people following us. Nutters and kranks and misfits, dropouts, junkies, homosexuals, transsexuals. We were like flypaper to all those sorts of people.’
He doesn’t seem that bothered that ‘No one normal seemed to like us.’
This led to him getting approached while in Sainsburys by a rum cove in a feather boa, fishnet tights and codpiece. The exchange runs along the following lines:
He said, ‘Hello, what’s your name?’
I said, ‘Michael.’
‘That’s a nice name’
‘What do you do?’
‘Play the drums, don’t I?’
‘That’s nice. You can bang my drum any time.’
I said, ‘I don’t wanna bang your drum.’
‘Come on, don’t be so standoffish.’
‘I’d like to see you again, Michael.’
I said, ‘Oh, would you? Well I’m in here every Tuesday shopping.’
That wasn’t what he meant.
Explaining that he was part-owner of a club in Soho, the flamboyant stranger invited Mick to come over one night. And bring a friend. When he added that the club had a dartboard, snooker table, everything, Mick could no longer resist. But thought, ‘Who can I take there? All my mates were builders and plasterers and they wouldn’t understand. Maybe Ray? … Ray likes unusual people.’
Persuading Ray to accompany him, the two ingénues encountered ‘half-naked waiters with their bottoms hanging out’ and transsexuals lounging on chaises-longues.
For a normal, red-blooded male of that period, Mick seems extremely open-minded and we have him and his catholic choice of company to thank for the inspiration for ‘Lola’.
Ray recalls in X-Ray an Avory anecdote about masturbation, involving Mick falling asleep afterwards, with his trousers and underpants round his ankles. ‘He found when he woke in exactly the same circumstances that his mother had left some tea and biscuits on his bedside table while he was asleep.’
Mick is much the same now and seems to take everything in his stride. He still gets approached by strange people wherever he goes. Besieged by half-rabid Kinks fans outside Konk, the unsuspecting Kinksman was totally unphased and imperturbable. With casual aplomb and good humour, he patiently submitted to multiple demands for autographs and photographs. He stayed cool and relaxed throughout, answering no doubt asinine questions in his characteristic deadpan manner. He’s one of those people – a spaceship could land behind him and he wouldn’t react so as you’d notice and his voice would never alter from its even inflection.
The Dave of today is still a much more mercurial proposition. At the last satsang weekend in September 2012, one minute he’d be warmly affectionate and tactile and the next cool, aloof and rather distant. But maybe that was just me. More on that next time.
 Mick’s job at the time was delivering pink paraffin.
 Interesting how alike their assessments of each other are, if you read the last blog.
 I’d back the south Londoner in a fight with a north Londoner every time.
 He called Mick a ‘useless cunt’ among other insults. Not much respect evident there.