I thought I’d post the following while waiting for Spring to arrive…………
Like many 17 year old girls I used to cover my bedroom walls with posters of pop idols and the incredibly sexy Men from U.N.C.L.E but the day I heard “And in a dark brown voice she said “Lola”” they all came down and made way for the man whose words have had a lifelong influence on my life.
Those words of the now classic Lola flowed from the pen of singer songwriter Ray Davies one of the greatest social lyricists of our time.
His music influences came from the Blues, Country Jazz and his own sister who he idolised. She gave him his first guitar when he was 13 but she sadly died that same year. I think she would be proud at what he accomplished with that guitar.
He formed The Kinks with his brother Dave. He chose the name after he came across the word Kinky in an episode of The Avengers (I’d love to know what episode that was). In between famous fights on and off stage with his brother Ray penned songs that were timeless such as the iconic Waterloo Sunset and You Really Got Me. Although The Kinks had its share of screaming fans Ray never saw himself as a sex symbol although he did once have an affair with the lovely Chrissie Hynde.
Anything could spark a song from Ray, when he got annoyed with a fashion designer at a party who never stopped talking about clothes he went home and wrote Dedicated Follower of Fashion which lampooned the industry and its Carnabetian Army. It reached number 5 in the charts.
Probably one of his best known ‘social comment’ albums was Muswell Hillbillies released 45 years ago in November 1971. He wrote about the Demon Alcohol and Civil Servants in grey, both problems still relevant today. The front cover of the album featured the Kinks standing at the bar of the Archway Tavern in Hammersmith. This bar was like Mecca for me and I remember making a special trip to London to the bar to stand where my idol once stood. I expected to find several other fans all leaning nonchantly against the bar but sadly I was the only one. Still they did do a decent pint of Guinness there.
In later years Ray revisited his beloved America, the country that gave him his Blues influence. He is recorded as saying “Whenever you eat all alone, especially in New York, they give you the widower’s banquette – right in the corner all by yourself. One day I was at an Indian restaurant, and I was seated in the corner and getting no service. So I started taking notes and later told the waiter I was the restaurant critic for Time Out Magazine in London. They were very nice to me after that. If fact, I don’t think I even paid for the bill.”
That niceness was temporarily suspended when he was in New Orleans in 2004. He suffered a gunshot wound to the leg by a mugger who stole his girlfriend’s handbag. Ray chased him down the road. The mugger shot him, got in his car and drove off. Through a haze of morphine at the hospital afterwards Ray recounts how after showing him an Xray of his leg the Radiographer asked him for his autograph! Apparently celebrity trumps professionalism there.
2004 though was not all bad, leaning on a walking stick Ray went to Buckingham Palace to receive a CBE from the Queen for his services to the music industry.
And 12 years later he is still having a profound effect on the industry. Both Liam and Noel Gallagher cite him as one of their major influences as does Sting. He has collaborated with Crouch End Festival Chorus producing choral versions of his songs and created the critically well received musical ‘Sunny Afternoon’ playing currently in London and Brighton.
I’m pleased to say that I replaced the paper version of Ray with a real life sighting of the man. Living in Northern Ireland during the troubles not many bands came to perform there and it was only after I moved to England that I got the chance to see them live at our local concert venue. I couldn’t get anyone to come with me so I went alone and stood at the front 6 foot away from this eloquent musician I have idolised all my life and will continue to do so until I depart this world. No prizes for guessing what will be played at my funeral!
PS Since I wrote this post a few weeks ago the man has now been knighted!
Rock on Sir Ray xxx