Let’s all raise a glass, to the rock stars of the past. Those that made it, those that faded, those that never even made the grade. Those that we thought would never last.
Singers come and go, and stars fade away. They vanish in the haze, and they’re never seen again.
But you can’t stop the music playing on.
-- Ray Davies, The Kinks, ‘You Can’t Stop the Music’, from A Soap Opera - 1975
For the first ‘Featured Artist’ in this fledgling blog, I am happy to present one of my favorite bands as well as one of the greatest rock bands of all time, The Kinks. Often overshadowed by the other members of that ‘Big Four’ (Beatles, Stones, and The Who) of 60’s British Invasion Bands, The Kinks were every bit as good, talented, and influential as the rest of that lot, but due to their own quirky musical directions, they never were as popular. The musical legacy left behind by the Kinks is amazing, and they have been important influences on everything from hard rock, heavy metal, punk rock, progressive rock, country rock, alternative country, rock opera, and even musical theater and show tunes. But most important was the music itself. Never taking an easy path, The Kinks always went their own way, creating a diversity of styles and sounds (and often alienating previous fans in the process), but always maintaining a characteristic ‘Kinkness’ to their music. Started in 1963, lead by Ray Davies as songwriter/lead vocalist/rhythm guitar/keyboards, his brother Dave Davies on lead guitar/backing vocals, Mick Avory on drums, and Pete Quaiffe on bass, The Kinks burst on the music scene in a big way in 1964 when Dave stroked that power guitar riff heard ‘round the world, marking the opening to ‘You Really Got Me’, and The Kinks were off and running. Probably more so than most artists, The Kinks musical career is usually divided into several distinct periods: from their early success as a British Invasion Band (1964-1965); their glory years of pop creativity and diversity (1966-1972); their much maligned theatrical incarnation (1973-1976), in which they expanded to an eight-piece band with horns, clarinets, etc. and produced and staged elaborate pop operas; their return to rock, commercial success, and sold-out arena shows (1977-1985), and then the inevitable years of declining fan interest (1986-1996).
It appears that the Kinks are currently undergoing one of those periodic ‘resurgences’ in popularity. Recently there’s been more press and interest (and blog rantings) for this 45-yr-old band than would be expected. This is most likely due to the usual causes in this day and age, namely, 1) one of their old songs has turned up in a hit Movie Soundtrack (In this case, ‘Juno’), and 2) their music is featured in one or more TV commercials (actually, several). Sadly, the third option, 3) that the group is reforming and touring again or releasing a new album, is not happening (yet), but Ray Davies, the musical mastermind behind the Kinks is touring and has recently released a new album, Working Man’s Cafe including some very ‘Kink-sounding’ songs). And all this is great, as it exposes new people and a new generation to the great music of The Kinks, and renews interest in those that knew their music but somehow ‘forgot’ about it. So, great, let’s have more Kinks revival stuff. However, what has irked me to some, is that in all the new talk and discussion of the Kinks and their music, the same old biases and misinformation has been propagated and spread around all over again. What I mean, and what I keep hearing and seeing, is the notion that, yes, the Kinks were a great ‘60’s band’, with a catalog of songs that rival anyone from that period. However, as one blogger wrote, if you really want to like the Kinks, you must not listen to any of their music made after 1972. That is, they were only ‘great’ from 1966-1972. Of course, this is total nonsense. This was a great band all through their career. Ray Davies is certainly one of the greatest rock-era composers, and the Kinks produced great music at all stages of their career. True, they did make a few albums that were relatively much weaker than others, but even these always contained at least a few great songs. They may have veered away from mainstream popular music, and certainly rock, at various times in their career, but they always produced interesting quality music. Although band personnel changed over the years, Ray and Dave were always at the core of the group and despite some intense personal struggles between them, always kept the group moving forward. Many of the later albums, including Sleepwalker, Misfits, Low Budget, State of Confusion, Word of Mouth, and even Think Visual, were all excellent albums, and the live reworking of their catalog of songs on To The Bone (1996), the last Kinks album, showed that they still had it after all those years.
So, we are celebrating the Kinks all this month (and forever, really). In various posts on this blog, you can find downloads of Classic Kinks concerts from the ‘60’s to the ‘80’s, information and commentary on the band, some tips on assembling your own library of Kinks music, a guide to the various Kinks albums, and my own version of the ideal Kinks compilation collection – a top 100 of all the best Kinks songs throughout their career. So, I hope this will be helpful to newcomers to The Kinks music, and of interest to the dedicated fans, too. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into The Kinks, and through it can explore their music more fully.
To purchase albums by The Kinks, or just to get more information on titles available for purchase, click here for Amazon.com, or some other authorized sales site.
For more information on The Kinks discography, songs, lyrics, and all Kinds of other things about The Kinks, visit the excellent unofficial Kinks Web site at http://kinks.it.rit.edu/ , run by Dave Emlen.
If you have time, please comment on what I have here, let me know what you think, of the Kinks, your favorite Kinks songs, of the blog (so far), and my commentary. Was any of this helpful in any way? I would appreciate any comments, discussion, or disputes you may have with my opinions and choices here.