Monday 23 April 2018

The Kinks: Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

You can buy 'Maximum Consumption - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Kinks' by clicking here


I don't know about you, dear reader, but so far this book/website has seemed awfully studio-bound: yes there are the odd live albums dotted round in the discographies but a touring life was usually as important if not more so to our AAA artists. Even we can't go through every gig they ever played however, so what we've decided to do instead is bring you five particularly important gigs with a run-down of what was played, where and when and why we consider these gigs so important. Think of these as a sort of 'highlights' covering from first to (in some cases) last, to whet your appetite and to avoid ignoring a band's live work completely! The Kinks were a particularly exciting live act, much of that excitement coming from the fact that fans never actually knew whether the band were going to hit the stage or not. Their biographies are full of endless non-appearances, bust-ups and rows which have seen them cancel perhaps more gigs than any other band – usually just when The Kinks were about to hit the big-time and promote one of their records that did once seem to be zooming somewhere up the charts. This was still true as late as the 21st century when yours truly went to see Ray Davies perform in Liverpool – and the singer turned up, two hours late, then left the stage twice during the first ten minutes to change his shirt! Even so, when they do turn up The Kinks are a lot of fun as can be heard on their four official live albums where they perfect the artform of the crowd singalong and the rocking riff and there are more than a few highlights to choose from for this top five…

1)  Where: William Grinshaw School, Muswell Hill, London When: September (?) 1961 Why: First Gig? Setlist: Various

Here is The Kinks’ debut, which strictly speaking wasn’t under that name or even their favourite choice of ‘The Ravens’ but ‘The Ray Davies Quartet’, in honour of their rhythm guitar player. It was Ray who’d got them their first gig at the school he attended alongside Pete Quaife and then-drummer John Start by asking if the fledgling Kinks could play at the school’s ‘Autumn Dance’ (this was followed up with a gig at El Toro Coffee Bar where the band are likely to have played as The Dave Davies Quartet, given that it was Dave’s favourite hangout of the time – the perk of not having a steady name was that whoever in the band got the gig got to name the band after themselves!)  For now The Kinks are, like many of their peers, a Shadows-style instrumental band and who take it in turns to play guitar solos on a wide variety of songs that show off just how eclectic the band’s record collection was back in 1961: songs known to have been performed at this gig include ‘Ventures’ songs such as ‘Perfida’, ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ and possibly their arrangement of Sam Phillips’ ‘Raunchy’; plus Shadows hits like ‘Apache’; Duane Eddy’s ‘Ramrod’ and ‘Peter Gunn’; The Ramrods’ own song ‘Riders In The Sky’, The String-A-Longs’ ‘Wheels’; Arthur Smith’s ‘Guitar Boogie’ and Gene Krupa’s ‘St Louis Blues’; Buddy Holly’s ‘Oh Boy’ ‘Rave On’ and ‘Everyday’; Cliff Richard’s ‘Move It’ and ‘Living Doll’; Elvis’ ‘One Night With You’; Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’ and ‘Memphis Tennessee’ The Everly Brothers’ ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’; Bobby Freeman’s ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’; Barrett Strong’s ‘Money’ and Ernesta Lecuana’s Spanish dance song ‘Malequena’. The latter is Ray’s stage spotlight which he plays with his hands behind his back, though it’s Dave’s take on Little Richard’s ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ that apparently sets the girls off screaming and re-ignites a lifelong rivalry between the brothers. For now Ray is the rhythm guitarist while Dave and Pete alternate the lead guitar parts between them. The school dance goes very well and the band are encouraged enough to look at playing pubs and clubs up and down London, nagging the Davies’ brother-in-law Brian Longstaff to book them into a weekly slot at The Athenaeum Ballroom in Muswell Hill. This band seem to have a future…

2)  Where: Camden Head London/Oxford Town Hall When: February 1st 1964 Why: First Gigs Under The Kinks Name and with Mick Avory Setlist: Various

Eighteen months or so later and The Kinks are a much more professional unit. So much so that they’re having to have a long hard think about their day-jobs. At this point Ray is working (briefly) in a publishing office before giving it up to become a full-time student, Dave (even more briefly) is a stock-room assistant at a music shop, Pete is an assistant to the editor of prestigious London fashion magazine ‘The Outfitter’ and John Start is working for his dad’s jewellery business. Start decides that The Kinks aren’t going anywhere and he doesn’t want to end up working for his dad for a living so leaves to become a surveyor, the band hiring temporary drumming replacement in Mickey Willett, a drummer with more experience than the others thanks to a stint in ‘Tommy Bruce and the Bruisers’, an unlikely named group who scored two top forty hits in 1960. The Kinks also briefly feature a local lead singer who went to the same school on lead, but Rod Stewart (yes that one!) and his aggressive style never quite suits the glorious ramshackle nature of the early Kinks and instead he and his band will become the band’s biggest rival as they play gigs around Muswell Hill. The band’s new drummer Mickey gets bored and decides not to take part in new managers’ Robert Wace and Grenville Collins’ quest for stardom, resulting in a three-single contract with Pye Records. The band need to get serious with such a prestigious offer – and fast. So they give up their day jobs, Ray gives up art college and they hire a new drummer in Mick Avory after spotting his advert in Melody Maker (‘Drummer: young with a good kit, read, seeking pro-R and B group’). Realising that they need to make an impression, The Kinks take time out to rehearse, stripping down their act down to basic R and B songs their drummer already knows in preparation of their debut just three days after Mick starts working with the band. What’s more, this is also the first time The Kinks appear under their ‘true’ name, after months of alternating between ‘The Ravens’ and ‘The Bo-Weevils’. The band hate the idea at first, which is thought up by their management for two reasons: it’s X-rated notoriety and the fact that, as the shortest name on the bill, the band will really stand out on all the concert posters. The transformed Kinks take part in a triple bill of local musicians which, through carelessness, isn’t properly advertised and most of the audience is made up of the other acts on the bill cheering the others on. It’s not as big a splash as the band want, but they soon gain ‘word of mouth’ and take off locally, their sound transformed by this early milestone gig. Songs performed include a bunch of early tracks that will appear on the band’s debut album later in the year including one token original in Ray’s instrumental [15] ‘Revenge’ and cover songs [11] ‘I’m A Lover Not A Fighter’ [19] ‘Got Love If You Want It’ and [25] ‘Louie Louie’ as well as various Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley cover songs. The band make a splash with someone though as illustrious DJ Brian Matthew happens to see a flyer for the gig and reports to the nation on TV programme ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ that ‘band names are getting weirder these days – would you believe I even heard about one that are calling themselves ‘The Kinks’!

3)  Where: Capitol Theatre, Cardiff When: May 19th 1965 Why: Shambolic symbolic gig - with cymbals! Setlist: Unknown (but this is the setlist played a week or so later in Berlin): ‘Bye Bye Johnnie’ [25] ‘Louie Louie’ [12] ‘You Really Got Me’ [19] ‘Got Love If You Want It’ [9] ‘Long Tall Shorty’ [26] ‘All Day and All Of The Night’

Many of these ‘concert’ articles in this books record a gig that went wrong for different reasons, either onstage or behind the scenes. This one, though, is legendary and was the most notorious day in Kinkdom. Though the real arguments in The Kinks were always between the brothers, the other members frequently got it in the neck too. Back in 1965 all the band meetings tended to go Ray’s way: Pete didn’t care and was Ray’s old friend anyway, but Mick’s nonchalant acceptance of everything Ray said over Dave was really getting to the younger sibling (and will for the next twenty years!) Overworked, over tired and over emotional, Dave had it out with Mick during a drinking session the night before the gig, which ended in a drunken fight which the drummer supposedly ‘won’. The guitarist wasn’t about to admit defeat though and continued his argument from the night before. Dave had already kicked over Mick’s drums as he was setting them up backstage and after the opening song he mutters an insult to Mick (remembered by the drummer later as ‘you play so bad, why not use your cock instead of your fingers’!) who responds by kicking over his drums and hurling his drum pedal at the guitarist. The audience gasp as Dave is knocked out cold and Mick – regaining his senses – thinks he’s killed his Kinky kolleague and legs it out of Cardiff’s Theatre, sure that the police will be out to arrest him. Ray and Pete, meanwhile, are left on stage, trying to attend to a bleeding Dave who is later carried off, unconscious, to Cardiff Royal Infirmary where he receives sixteen stitches. Rock and roll careers were finished for less in 1964 and it seems unlikely the band will ever work together again (certainly The Kinks don’t finish the end of the tour, the first of many that will get cancelled/postponed across their career). Somehow, though, The Kinks’ management (who to be honest have been more of a hindrance than a help so far, signing the band on a meagre salary to Pye, putting them with egotistical producer Shel Talmy and asking Ray not to make [12] ‘You Really Got Me’ a single) spring into life: they tell the police it was a ‘stunt’ that went wrong, coax a nervous Mick into hiding out the storm at the home of a friendly journalist in Keith Altham and allow Dave to recuperate at sister Joyce’s house given that reporters are camped out at the Davies’ family home. Somehow the drummer and guitarist make up and Dave is keen for Mick to stay in the band – as his ‘punishment’ Mick is sent out to lie to interested reporters that it was all a ‘mistake’ and a gimmick ‘that went fine the night before when we played in Taunton!’

4)  Where: Empire Theatre, Sunderland When: March 15th 1969 Why: Last gig by original line-up Setlist: [50] ‘Til’ The End Of The Day [83] You’re Looking Fine [115] Picture Book [117] Last Of The Steam-Powered Trains [118] Big Sky [110] Act Nice and Gentle [101] Harry Rag [43] A Well Respected Man [86] Dedicated Follower Of Fashion [98] Death Of A Clown [84] Sunny Afternoon [104] Waterloo Sunset [12] You Really Got Me [26] All Day And All Of The Night

Details are sketchy even for Kinks experts like Doug Hinman and Johnny Rogan, but it seems likely that this back-to-bottom-of-the-bill low key gig was the last performed by the original Kinks line-up before Pete Quaife quit for good. The bassist had been feeling disenchanted with the band ever since a car crash the year before and Ray’s perfectionism (and time-wasting) had been driving him mad. What’s more, The Kinks seemed to be over, at least commercially: very few fans came out to see their ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ and there isn’t even a decent list of what The Kinks were performing in this period (which seems daft now ‘Village Green’ is so often heralded as the band’s ‘classic’ LP (we’ve cobbled this line-up together based on two period gigs which includes many of the ‘Village Green’ songs for the sake of ‘completeness’ but it may well be wrong or incomplete).  It’s an odd and unusual gig to end on: Sunderland Town Council figure that the time is right for music-hall to make a comeback and include rock and roll acts in place of the old Victoriana music on an everything-goes bill that includes traditional Northumbrian bands and a ‘Russian cossack’ style dancing troupe. Eye-witnesses recall Ray beginning the gig in emotional form and asking the lighting director to turn a blue filter on the audience and screams ‘I love you’ – it seems likely, given what we learn later about his feelings of the band in this period, that it was his way of saying goodbye to fans just in case, as he feared, The Kinks were about to die out without Pete there on bass alongside him. Pete, however, seems to have been his usual nonchalant self and made no mention of his leaving the band.

5)  Where: Iron City, Pittsburgh When: August 7th 1993Why: (Almost) Final Gig Setlist (Possibly): [43] A Well Respected Man [86] Dedicated Follower Of Fashion [200] Sweet Lady Genevieve [305] Do It Again [50] ‘Til’ The End Of The Day’ [319] Welcome To Sleazy Town [158] Lola [278] Low Budget [295] Come Dancing [164] Apeman [352] Over The Edge [286] Destroyer [348] Phobia [193] Celluloid Heroes [349] Only A Dream [98] Death Of A Clown [26] All Day And All Of The Night ‘Regatta My Ass!’

We normally go with a band’s final gig at this point (which was, as it happened, a performance in Norway on June 15th 1995) but it seems much more Kinks to end with yet another gig that went wrong. The Kinks have signed with yet another CD label (Columbia) to make their final LP ‘Phobia’ and the signs are good. But as recording drags on and the old problems in the band resurface the group find themselves plugging away on tour without an album to sell – and when ‘Phobia’ comes out it’s soundly ignored, with the poorest sales of any Kinks studio set to date. The band are tired, dishevelled and disheartened, as well as being annoyed that their latest management has booked them into so many unlikely and small venues. What’s more, Ray Davies has broken two toes shortly before going on stage, but like a trouper carries on to the end of the gig (but doesn’t help his humour). Tempers have been raised for ages but finally spill over at this American gig, which takes place in a tiny theatre that’s barely attended and where the music all night is drowned out by the sound of locals attending a much bigger event at Pitsburgh Regatta down the road. The Kinks play some of their fiercest, rockiest tunes in their attempt to drown out the sight of fireworks and the sound of a party that once used to be ‘theirs’, finally getting through the gig without incident. The tiny crowd applaud for an encore but the band are fed up and rather than play [12] ‘You Really Got Me’ as planned, a snarling Ray comes out from backstage with his acoustic guitar in hand. He then proceeds to make up a song for the audience on the spot, about how fed up and angry he is that people are turning up to – literally – see their money go up in smoke for some fireworks rather than seeing The Kinks, which includes the memorable chorus ‘regatta, my ass!’ Ray walks off to the sound of gasps, though a reporter from the Pittsburgh paper loves it and votes it his ‘top concert of the year’ in a 1993 look-back article!


Sometimes when artists pick up that musical baton they pay tribute to their heroes by covering their favourite songs. Here are three covers that we consider to be amongst the very best out of the ones we've heard (and no we haven't heard them all - do you know how many AAA albums out there are out there even without adding cover songs as well?!) The Kinks have always been a favourite with bands of all stages in their career: out sixth-form used to reverberate quickly to the strains of [50] ‘Til’ The End Of The Day’ even though the morons playing it always got the words wrong and wouldn’t listen to me when I told them it was one of my beloved 1960s songs so why were they beating me up for listening to uncool music? (‘Nah, it’s a modern song, gotta be, it says so much about modern life innit?) Later bands love the subtleties of songs like [84] ‘Sunny Afternoon’ and [109] ‘Waterloo Sunset’ that can be done in so many ways, while to this day many acts that have been going decades somehow keep finding their way back to the Davies songbook (though I must admit I’m getting a bit sick of [130] ‘Days’ being their song of choice when there are so many other classics to enjoy). We’ve skipped for all these perhaps over-obvious songs for this section which mostly concentrates on The Kinks’ return to fashion in the era of new wave when the rawness of the early Kinks combined with their later refusal to play the rock and roll game everyone else did made them the perfect band for resurrecting. No space this issue for anything from the two Kinks Kovers sets this time though: look out for both ‘Shangri-La’ (1989) and ‘Kinks Kovered’ (2002) if you want to hear more (the first is better and more eclectic, though neither is as good as, say, The Hollies or many of the Beatles cover sets sadly).

1)   [88] ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ (The Chocolate Watch Band, ‘The Inner Mystique’, 1968)

The fledgling Californian band were very Kinks – they were too punk for the psychedelic era they grew up in and too colourful and weird to be punk, like The Kinks of 1966 and 1979 being mixed up in a liquidiser. Naturally their most popular track, then, was a Kinks kover and a choice that works for both sides of their nature. On the one hand this roaring, prowling, aggressive cover is far more direct than Dave Davies’ take on his brother’s lyric which is cold and aloof – this one is angry, hurting and desperate, the difference between a proud housecat and a scared lion. But it’s also a lot more psychedelic than The Kinks’ take, with some chiming Rickenbacker guitars and a hazy, surreal production that makes everything in the song sound like it’s floating and not direct at all. The band do a few things to the arrangement: they reach the screaming peak of the title being yelled over and over much quicker, before slowing the song down and throwing in the ‘forgive all my sins’ verse in after this and then going louder still for the drum-heavy finale which repeats far more times than the original. They also change switch the third line: from ‘Once I get started I got to town’ to ‘once I get started you can hand me down’ (it could be that their Californian ears struggled with what Dave’s Muswell Hill accent was singing in the days before the internet when you could look these things up or that ‘go to town’ was just too ‘English’ an expression!) The Chocolate Watch Band were a great group who sadly never capitalised on their early success with this song, splitting up three albums into a short career of which this was the closest they ever came to a ‘hit’ song. Very different yet almost as good, this is a klassy Kinks kover of a then-obscure B-side.

2)  [97] ‘David Watts’ (The Jam, A-side, 1978)

Often forgotten now by reviewers who often refer to The Great Kinks Revival of the late 1970s, The Jam in Britain beat Tom Robinson and over in America The Pretenders to the crown of the first great Kinks revival. You can see why this song would have appealed to Paul Weller’s first band: it’s a sarcastic sideswipe against the rigid class structure of Britain and the unbreakable stranglehold the rich seem to have on everything good (no wonder neither band did well in America until long after their heyday as these are very English concerns). ‘David Watts’ has everything: money, privilege, brains, beauty and power and if you’re an ‘underdog’ Kinks or Jam fan you hate him on sight: he doesn’t even notice that he has all these gifts or do anything good with them. Ray, though, still sounds partly in love with the person he can never before, even with his tongue firmly in cheek for much of the song; Paul and co, though, clearly hate his guts, taking all the beauty of the song and turning it into s swampy stompy rocker that marches up and down in protest at the unfairness of it all. Both London bands (though The Jam were Woking to The Kinks’ Muswell Hill) you can hear the solidarity at play here on a cover song released as a double ‘A’ side with another terribly Kinks-like Weller original ‘A’ Bomb In Waldorf Street’.

3)  [69] ‘I Go To Sleep’ (The Pretenders, A-side, 1981)

Chrissie Hynde was such a Kinks fan that she was the only journalist in America to rave about their ‘Misfits’ LP in 1978 and such an extreme Kinks fan that she became Ray Davies’ girlfriend. Somehow she also found time to front a rock band and The Pretenders were for a time as big as The Kinks at their peak. They came to fame with a tidied-up version of Ray’s neurotic Kinks track [18] ‘Stop Your Sobbing’, but cute as that song is it rather misses the point of the original: she almost sounds happy as she sings it, as if trying to gee up the crying boyfriend, whereas Ray’s reaction was more neurotic. Much better, to my ears, is Chrissie’s second Kinks kover from three years later, which he heard on one of her boyfriend’s unreleased demo tapes from 1965 and fell in love with (you can now hear it for yourself as a bonus track on the ‘Kinks Kontroversy’ CD and very beautiful it is too). Spooky, slow and solemn, Ray’s original demo is sparsely pretty but Chrissie’s interpretation is a whole different thing: it’s a full-on arrangement that’s deep, raw and slightly out of control. You wonder, too, if she chose this song to highlight the differences that were becoming apparent in her relationship with the much older Ray, summed up here by the thought that she can sleep but he can’t, ‘imagining that you’re there’ as he wrote himself to sleep in the other room, imagining all sorts of problems in their relationship that she didn’t see (yet). The explosion into a rock number in the middle eight (‘I will cry! I will love you till the day I die!’) sounds particularly good on this turbulent recording, taking the sleeping narrator by the shoulders and shaking them awake, demanding they feel all the things wrong the narrator does and have trouble going to sleep too. Instead all Chrissie gets for her troubles is a muted horn part snoring in its comfortable sleep. ‘Sobbing’ made me wonder, but ‘Sleep’ proves that Chrissie really did *get* her boyfriend’s work and she remains perhaps his best interpreter outside The Kinks.


‘The Kinks’ (1964)

‘Kinda Kinks’ (1964)

'The Kink Kontroversy' (1965)

'Face To Face' (1966)

‘Something Else’ (1967)
'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society' (1968)

'Arthur' (1969)

'Lola vs Powerman and the Money-Go-Round' (1970)
'Muswell Hillbillies' (1971)

‘Everybody’s In Showbiz’ (1972)
'Schoolboys In Disgrace' (1975)

'Sleepwalker' (1977)
‘Misfits’ (1978)
'Low Budget' (1979)

'Give The People What They Want' (1981)
'State Of Confusion' (1983)

'Word Of Mouth' (1985)

'Think Visual' (1986)

'UK Jive' (1989)
'Phobia' (1993)

Pete Quaife: Obituary and Tribute
The Best Unreleased Kinks Songs 1963-1992 (Ish!)
Non-Album Recordings 1963-1991
The Kinks Part One: Solo/Live/Compilation/US Albums 1964-1996
The Kinks Part Two: Solo/Live/Compilation Albums 1998-2014
Abandoned Albums and Outside Productions
Essay: The Kinks - Why This Band Aren’t Like Everybody Else
Landmark concerts and key cover versions



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