A Kinks reunion is ‘as close as it’s ever been to happening’. That’s from the mouth of Ray Davies in a recent interview. Maybe I was unduly pessimistic about the prospects in my last blog post on the subject. Perhaps 2014 is the year it could come to pass, with everyone prepared to patch up their differences for the fiftieth anniversary of their breakthrough in 1964.
For it looks like the rumour mill has ratcheted up another notch and all parties sound increasingly positive about the possibility of reuniting.
Of course the main bugbear threatening the enticing proposition is the rather intense version of sibling rivalry between brothers Ray and Dave Davies, which at times seems to border on the homicidal. Ray is rumoured to have once stabbed his younger brother in the chest with a fork for stealing one of his chips in a restaurant, after all.
Ray in a documentary avowed that he would do anything to help Dave but would never let him know that fact in case he took advantage. The German Boy by Patricia Wastvedt explores a similarly conflictual sibling relationship between sisters Elizabeth and Karen: ‘She [Elizabeth] would fight anyone to save Karen from being hurt and in the same moment could want to punch her.’
And Dave knows that Ray loves him and believes his brother to be a compassionate soul, whose compassion simply doesn’t extend to him. While I can imagine Dave’s more impulsive responses and wilder behaviours, together with his tendency to attack his brother in interview, are a source of constant infuriation for Ray. In a quote from the same book:
They have never said they love each other in all their lives, and what they are to each other is so embedded that Elizabeth can’t feel it, any more than she can feel her own bones and blood. … The edginess between them tips one way into closeness and the other into fury.
First Kinks bassist Pete Quaife, who sadly succumbed to kidney failure in 2010, offers some insights into the potential difficulties in a 1998 interview. When asked if Ray encouraged original material from him or Dave, he retorts:
Are you kidding? I would have been squashed with a size 16 boot if I had have even suggested they listen to a new idea from me! Ray wanted complete control of everything. He was a control freak. As for Dave, well, I think Ray felt obligated to listen to his ideas a little more because he was blood. But Ray sure as hell didn’t encourage it from Dave either.
And he believed Dave was unnecessarily insecure about his songwriting capabilities, especially compared to Ray. He didn’t need to emulate his brother – they would always have completely divergent approaches to their craft, Dave’s being more instinctual and natural. Pete’s of the opinion that Dave ‘felt he would never be as good a musician as Ray was. That’s funny, considering he was always a much better guitar player than Ray.’
Pete often acted as a peacekeeper, trying to calm things down before fists started to fly, whether between Ray and Dave or between the latter and drummer Mick Avory. And, asked what he would change if they could do it all over, he wishes, ‘That we’d put all the altercations and abuse out the window’.
But the competition, friction and tension could also be in part what fuelled the creative energy of the band. The Kinks could never be bland and complacent because, at war with each other, they were also constantly fighting for their place in the music industry.
As Ray says at the beginning of this exhilarating performance of ‘I’m Not like Everybody Else’, memorably featured in a Sopranos episode:
I like this song very much. It kind of sums up everything that we’re about, The Kinks. Because everybody’s expecting us to do wonderful things and we mess it all up usually.
Live versions of Kinks songs like this were often totally different animals from the studio tracks, mainly thanks to Dave’s virtuosity on his instrument. As Ray concedes,
There are certain bands that can thrash out chords but no one has that edge that Dave has. It’s totally self-taught and it’s brilliant.
The sheer indifference of a British music press who obviously considered the band redundant is confronted with good humour by Ray in ‘The Road’ in the couplet
And still all the critics keep saying
’Are they still around? When they gonna stop?’
It’s true in many ways – it’s a wonder they lasted as long as they did, what with the infighting and the battle to survive and stay relevant, right up to 1996 in some form or another. Ray explains this longevity, insisting that he’s most at home within the confines of a group:
If I was left to my own devices … I think I would have really truly disappeared up part of my anatomy because I do think too much … I miss being in a band. I was in a band for so long, years and years, decades.
Dave is currently playing regular gigs in the US with The Jigsaw Seen. But there’s evidently communication between the brothers about the potential for a reunion. Even Mick, who Dave at first didn’t want to be included, is now being called upon to comment, so let’s hope the younger Davies has reconsidered his initial moratorium on the faithful sticksman.
Dave has said, ‘It’d be a great shame if we don’t try and do something.’ But what was the one thing that had to happen before the spiritually inclined sibling would consider a reunion? The thing that he couldn’t do, that someone else had to, presumably Ray, the thing that’s referred to at the end of the Do It Again film. Now film-maker Geoff Edgers knows what it is; Dave knows what it is; but does Ray know what it is? And does anyone else have the faintest idea? Very intriguing. Has it happened now? Or doesn’t it matter any more?
I reckon the success of this venture will largely depend on Ray relinquishing control and recognising Dave’s right to be a partner in all decisions. The balance of power has shifted somewhat and both guys are equally vital to the project. It will also require wholehearted commitment from all parties. As Dave says in Jon Savage’s official biography of the band, ‘I don’t really function at my best unless I can put my whole heart and soul into what I’m doing.’
I’d like to think they could be reconciled enough for something great to come out of negotiations, that they could be as mature and enlightened as the characters in the bittersweet ‘The Informer’:
Isn’t it strange meeting you here
Two old friends
Just sitting down quietly drinking a beer
But knowing your past the way that I do
After all this time I’m surprised
You’d even come to this rendezvous
And that their rendezvous results in something amazing for all The Kinks fans who’ve kept the faith for so many years.
 Their first two singles that year, ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘You Still Want Me’, were followed by ‘You Really Got Me’, which hit number one. And let’s remember what Dave said about that first smash: ‘It’s not about wining and dining or middle class behaviour; it’s about ”I like you, I want to fuck you.” ’
 There could have been extenuating circumstances here, of course. Like how good were the chips and how many did Ray have left?
 I’m sure many of us feel this way about our siblings much of the time.
 But Pete was always a Dave supporter, remembering that ‘Working with Dave was always a pleasure. He never tried to do it all himself, he always asked for advice from all of us.’
 And this amazing song was originally a B side. This version, with its electrifying guitar, is on the live To the Bone album recorded at Konk.