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Underappreciated Dave Davies autobiography - "Kink" - a fascinating read

Hyperion
Dave Davies' autobiography, "Kink," was originally published in 1996.
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BOOK REVIEW: Kink: An Autobiography by Dave Davies (Hyperion) 1996

“I was sure that the party would end at any moment, and I wanted to live it up while I could. I never planned for the future. Who would have guessed that the Kinks would survive?,” writes guitarist and Kinks co-founder Dave Davies in his 1996 autobiography Kink.

And yet, the core of the original Kinks, brothers Ray and Dave Davies, have played, recorded, bickered, fought and reunited time and time again – up to this very day, when the Davies brothers, along with original drummer Mick Avory, are reportedly “together,” battering about some songs, which is absolutely exciting news here in 2019, more than 50 years after Dave Davies “sliced the speaker cone of his little green amp and unleashed a sonic revolution with his guitar sound on their 1964 international hit ‘You Really Got Me,’ which influenced so many singers and bands in the years hence,” as Dave Davies notes in the liner notes to his 2013 solo album I Will Be Me.

But let’s go back to 23-year old Kink autobiography, which in my research on The Kinks for my 2018 book Rock Catapult: 1966 – The Launch of Modern Rock & Roll, proved a revelation.

A self-described “wild and angry kid” growing up in the north London suburb of Muswell Hill, Dave Davies when he and his brother Ray, who would sing and also play guitar and be the "face" of the band, started The Kinks, which took off in the midst of the "British Invasion" of America and the extraordinary popularity of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Who and many others who are admired and revered to this very day. The Kinks remain one of those exceedingly influential bands that mixed up their sounds and styles and love of the English life that was changing before their eyes and caught in songs like "Sunny Afternoon," "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" and "Well-Respected Man." 

Davies recalls injuring his eye while play-fighting with canes with his niece. Clearly his eye was injured, but young Dave was not going to miss the Duane Eddy concert that night and convinced his parents to take him to the hospital after the show. As things congealed for the group - Mick Avory had played in an early version of the Rolling Stones before joining the Kinks, Pye Records signed the band up and before long they were on package tours with the Dave Clark Five and the Hollies. Apparently, the DC5 were not particularly popular amongst the other rockers, Davies writes. 

Hearing "You Really Got Me" on the radio was a thrill, he notes, "It sounded and felt so real, so postitive, so powerful, seductive and hypnotic. As if the earthiness could cut through walls."

Apparently the band was not only popular with the spending-spreed teen set. The notorious East End London gangsters The Krays (Ronnie and Reggie Kray, immortalized in Morrissey's song "The Last of the Famous International Playboys"), still in prison for various crimes, including murder, wanted Ray and Dave Davies to play them in a film about their lives. But the Kinks were on tour and the roles in the 1990 film The Krays went to Gary Kemp and Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet, after it was decided that playing a role that glamorized crime was not a good move. However, Davies writes he had second thoughts, admitting: "Looking back, we should have done it." In fact, he adds that Ray Davies' former girlfriend, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, joked that the Ray and Dave were "the Krays of rock n' roll."

It is 50 pages in that Davies talks about a girlfriend of his admitting that she had slept with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Davies admits this turned him on and he wanted a menage a trois with her and Brian, but it never quite came together. While Davies admits to experimenting sexually, "I never really considered myself gay." Interestingly, Davies talks about the Swingin' London scene and hanging out with other rockers like the Yardbirds, the Animals, and the Searchers. It was that last band, which had a hit with "Needles and Pins," that featured genius songwriter/drummer Chris Curtis. Like Genesis singer/drummer Phil Collins in his recent Not Dead Yet autobiography (reviewed here), Davies also talks about Curtis' gay lifestyle,a lthough Davies does not mention being hit on by Curtis as Collins does in his book.

But Davies' main interest were women and there were plenty willing to throw themselves at him. He would eventually marry in later years, but sowing one's oats was the order of the day.

So, Davies lived the rock n' roll lifestyle to the hilt, while enduring his brother Ray's abusive behavior. It is, perhaps, an understatement, to say that Ray and Dave Davies had a tempestuous relationship. But Dave seemed to be on the receiving end of his older brother's abuse, noting that despite Ray writing beautiful, pastoral, English-oriented rock songs like "Waterloo Sunset," and "Till the End of the Day, " for which they are known for, or classic albums like The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society from 1968, featuring songs that had been initially inspired by Ray Davies' 1966 visits to Devon and the "intentional Englishness" of the lyrics and themes tackled by the band, which was due to problems they had back in the US. If America couldn't deal with the Kinks, they would embrace their green and pleasant land instead. 

"It was a weird paradox that Ray, who wrote (lovely songs) would later become so abusive to me, so cruel and creatively draining." Reading it, it's interesting to me how much Ray Davies and the late Lou Reed are alike (note my review of Lou Reed: A Life here).

Both Reed and Ray Davies are exceedingly smart, witty and talented singer/songwriters, able to, as Dave Davies writes, "feel for the plight and frustration of the underdog, able to offer great insight and compassion." But still be "venomous, spiteful, and completely self-involved." Indeed. Many a great band has had members who are equally, if not more talented that the "front men" or women and get tossed to the curb time and again. This was Dave Davies' plight as the Sixties merged into the Seventies and the band's hits were drying up, although 1970's "Lola" was a big hit, even if the BBC made them knock the Coca-Cola product placement in the song lyrics and change it to "cherry cola." 

All the while, Dave Davies admits to being worn down by it all. As for his brother Ray, whom his mother admitted would never fully embrace him as he should, was bipolar.

"On the road I felt scattered and confused," writes Davies, noting this change took hold in 1971, some six years after playing and being on the road. "I was drinking very heavily. In an effort to get to the root of my problem, I started to read up on the occult, books on mental health, schizophrenia, black magic. I really thought I was going insane."

And it didn't get much better. The band ended up in Los Angeles, with Davies drinking wine and taking mescaline. The high strangeness factor was "I had with me a strange dark little woman whose name I can't remember. She continually ran errands for me. Maybe she was a homunculus conjured up from my mind, for she seemed half-reptile, half-human. Maybe she popped in from another dimension. Wherever she came from, she was a strange person indeed. After those few days I never saw her again. Weird."

Dave Davies' 1983 Warner Bros. album Chosen People, partly inspired by his paranormal encounters the prior year. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

Davies' interest in the occult and New Age ideas would remain into the 1980's, as he goes into great detail about a truly astonishing experience he has while on tour. In a hotel room in Virginia in 1982, where he feels a pressure in his head and then hears voices from "five distinct intelligences." As he writes, "The intelligences took complete control of my being. They showed me a hidden side of life, a view of a world, within a world." While the intelligences did not explicitly say who they were, Davies said they were his lifelong spirit guides and that they were on Earth, on our physical plane, as the nurturers and watchers of humankind. 

He notes that they showed his the "World of Ethers" and the "Etheric Planes" and when he gets to a concert, he says that holding his guitar he could see "mischievous demon-like creatures impigning themselves on the auric bodies of the unsuspecting crowd, impressing them with negative images and thoughts." Davies looked out over the crowd as this was happening and it alarmed him. But the etheric intelligences then "poured a brilliant beam of white light through my forehead and out to the crowd. The results were startling. The same people looked more pleasant. The negative energies had vanished." 

I noted Lou Reed, earlier, and when he was in the Velvet Underground he was interested in the "white light" as well, as written about by New Age occultist Alice Bailey. It is said to have inspired the title of the band's 1968 album White Light/White Heat, which featured the powerful song of the same name.

"This energy that these beings had somehow stirred within me transformed my consciousness into a state of spiritual expansion where I seemed to touch universal consciousness," Davies writes.

In the liner notes for Chosen People, Davies thanks Sir George King and the Aetherius Society, which is an international organization devoted to spreading the teachings of advanced extraterrestrial intelligences that were channeled through the aforementioned British adventurer George King. One of the topics the Aetherius Society studies in depth is that of UFOs, something Dave Davies takes seriously and discusses his UFO observational journeys in the English countryside in the 1980's.

Decade is a sampling of previously unreleased songs from Dave Davies' solo material in the 1970's. (Red River/Green Amp Records)

Davies writes about King and the Aetherius Society in Kink, while also quoting Alice Bailey's writings in his book Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle, imparting this wisdom: "The etheric or energy body of every human being is an integral part of the planet itself and consequently the solar system. Through this medium every human being is basically related to every other expression of the Divine Life, minute or great."

And it was this belief system that helped Dave Davies in this stage of his life. In fact, shortly after Davies' encounter with the etheric intelligences that helped open his third eye, the Kinks recorded a latter-day hit album, State of Confusion, in late 1982, which featured the hit "Come Dancing" and the lesser-known song "Don't Forget to Dance," which is a beautiful song, opening up with Dave Davies' delicate guitar stylings, that are his signature when he slows things down. 

What is weird is that in the middle of writing this review this morning, I heard "Don't Forget to Dance" on the radio, a song I don't ever recall hearing on the radio, ever. I took it as a good sign.

Kink is very heartfelt and honest and real. From a deeply thoughtful musician who loves his craft and loves humanity, from what I read in these pages. And while this book is two decades old, there is much to take from it from a guy who has influenced guitarists (with his signature Gibson Flying V electric guitar) as well known as Eddie Van Halen and many, many others. 

And while I loved the book for Dave Davies' musical memories, I have to say the material in the second half of the book about his spiritual awakening was what really gripped me. And despite recent health scares, along with those of his brother Ray, word is that the Kinks may truly get back together. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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