Happening on the promo video for The Kinks song ‘Starstruck’ from 1968 on YouTube, I was struck by how happy they looked together – where did it all go wrong? If there was tension then, it’s well disguised. Their playfulness with each other, the smiles they exchange, all seem genuine and the mood light-hearted and carefree.
Mucking about in the park, Dave Davies appears comfortable and relaxed but in other performances, if brother Ray smiles at him, I become aware of the way Dave always hesitates before daring to return the smile. And then it’s in a wary, suspicious manner, as if he’s a child who expects to be told off. Partly relieved to have got away with something but knowing that he’s bound to be held to account for whatever it is sooner or later.
In fact, even during ‘Mr Pleasant’ in 1967, Ray turns and smiles indulgently at his wayward brother, to receive an answering grin that’s even at this stage just a little unsure. It’s like one of those energy-saving bulbs that starts out muted and dim, taking a while to reach its full dazzling wattage.
‘So, come on, give us a smile’: Ray coaxes a grin out of Dave.
During the 70s, the prelude to the reluctant smile graduates into a look of incipient unease, like someone driving who has heard sirens approaching in the distance, and is anticipating having to take evasive action at any moment.
Ray too has a wonderful smile and he actually smiles a lot on stage, more than you might expect. Though he can switch instantly between winsomeness and a viciously accusatory glare, especially when something goes wrong. For instance, during this 1982 Rockpalast performance of ‘Add It Up’, an admittedly trenchant diatribe against an ex-partner, at 43.03 in, he turns the hard stare on someone.
At this point in their career, Dave still looks like a sixth-former, albeit one recovering from alcohol poisoning the night before, while Ray’s looks have matured from the girlishly coyly appealing to something a little more sexily robust and masculine.
This new persona also marks a new aggressiveness, quite a contrast to the sweetly demure long-haired effete Ray of the 70s, although I’m pretty sure most of that was just audience perception. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Dave is sometimes nervous of the smile, as if it’s that of someone lulling him into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under him.
On other occasions there’s something almost subservient, even servile, a metaphoric doffing of the cap, in the way Dave interacts with Ray, shooting him the odd brief apprehensive hooded glance. Just to check he’s not wielding an axe and coming in his direction.
At 2:51 in this 1973 Whistle Test performance of ‘Lola’ there’s a brief exchange of smiles; and another one at the end.
Also see the tentative, shy and charming smile Dave bestows on Ray at the end of ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ also in 1973, no doubt crossing his fingers that Ray didn’t realise he’d forgotten some of the words.
‘Then he’ll leave you with a smile’: Dave bashfully flashes his gnashers.
And even later in the day, in 1977, Ray smiles at Dave but the latter just blanks him, refusing to acknowledge him and withholding his own smile at about 1.32 in,
which must really hurt because it’s such a beautiful one, like a blessing. Memories Ray probably can’t recall of prelapsarian, halcyon days … .
But then by the end of the set there seems to be some kind of tentative rapprochement, despite the fact that Ray’s just referred to Dave with his customary dismissive pejorative as ‘Dave ‘Death of a Clown’ Davies’, as I can confirm he was still doing on his 2012 UK tour.
Relations between them are never going to improve while Ray continues to snipe at his younger brother in this juvenile and spiteful manner. It doesn’t behove someone of his advancing years and means that fans can kiss hopes of a Kinks reunion farewell for the moment.
But then Rob Lowe’s observation about the emotionally retarding effects of stardom on the young may be apposite in the case of the Davies brothers. In his autobiography, he remarks,
‘There is a school of thought that believes your emotional maturity is frozen at the exact age you become famous.’
So Dave and Ray may be doomed to be eternal teenagers emotionally; perennially interacting with each other like moody and overindulged adolescents.
For an insight into which aspects of The Kinks inspire most curiosity, see my last blog on looking up the band on the worldwide web, below:
Lyrics from kindakinks.net.
 Rob Lowe, Stories I Only Tell My Friends.
 No wonder Drew Barrymore had her fair share of problems growing up.