Formed in 1963 by brothers Ray and Dave Davies, the Kinks were one of the most influential and loved bands of the 60s. Brilliantly witty and insightful, Ray Davies is one of England's finest contemporary songwriters
The Kinks first hit single was their third release in August 1964. "You Really Got Me‚" with its dirty, buzz saw guitar riff was punky and shocking. The angry, tangled guitar solo is often said to have been played by hot shot session guitarist Jimmy Page. It was massive. Number 1 in UK and as part of the 1964 English Invasion in USA, it reached number 7. The follow up "All the Day and All of the Night‚" was the same chords played in a slightly different order. It still sounded fantastic and repeated the success of its predecessor. The laconic "Tired of Waiting‚" was their next single. It was a UK number 1 and their best USA seller to date.
Always a very English band, from 1964 to 1970, Davies penned a host of superb songs about English life, English attitudes and English society. Songs like "Well Respected Man‚" "Dedicated Follower of Fashion‚" "Sunny Afternoon‚" "Dead End Street‚" and the classic story of Terry & Julie in "Waterloo Sunset‚" all set a new standard of song writing that few of his contemporaries could match.
Although the Kinks albums sold well enough to be top 5 in UK and top 50 in America, it was with their singles that the band made their real, lasting impact. 15 consecutive hits in UK from '64 to '69, most of them being top 10, was an impressive run of form.
Sometimes waspish, sometimes a little fey or camp, the songs lilting melodies often hid a nostalgic or even cynical viewpoint.
The state of Britain as Davies saw it found expression in late 60s albums like Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur (the decline and fall of the British Empire).
However, their success didn't last into the new decade. It started well enough. 1970's "Lola‚" was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic, even though Davies was required to change the lyrics from Coca-Cola to Cherry Cola. And there can have been few better hit singles about cross dressing.
But Davies' disillusion with the state of modern Britain began to be mirrored by Britain's disillusion with the band. The hit singles dried up and albums stopped selling. 1972's Supersonic Rocketship‚ was their last hit for 11 years in UK and they began releasing concept albums with forgettable long titles like Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround part one!!! They didn't sell well.
Things were somewhat different in America though, where their albums continued to chart, albeit modestly. They were also a popular live act.
February 1977's Sleepwalker album saw them back in the top 30 in USA. A heavier rockier set, it was followed by Low Budget which reached 11 - their best album chart position in USA ever. Their re-emergence in the late 70s was due in no small part to Van Halen's sizzling reworking of "You Really Got Me‚" reminding everyone how great the Kinks were.
They went out on massive tours and, as the 80s, dawned they found themselves more popular than ever. Now more of an AOR rock band, they released a double live album, One for the Road, in July 1980. This, along with the next two albums, Give the People What they Want, and State of Confusion, all went top 20 despite being fairly run of the mill middle-of-the-road rock albums.
They scored an unlikely big hit with Come Dancing‚ in 1983. Their first top 20 in 11 years in Britain was a last gasp of nostalgia for days gone by from Davies. It was their last UK hit and last sizeable US hit too.
They stayed on the road and released insignificant albums and singles throughout the 90s.
The Kinks 60s work remains highly influential. Paul Weller is a long time admirer. Chrissie Hynde was so influenced by the Kinks that she married Ray Davies! Many of the mid 90s Brit pop bands, especially Blur would cite Davies as a major influence. Every generation seems to rediscover the Kinks and long may they do so.