In 2014, the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” turned 50 years old. Since that astonishing milestone, guitarist Dave Davies has only gotten busier. After returning to touring work in support of 2013’s invigorated I Will Be Me, he followed quickly with 2014’s Rippin’ Up Time, the 2015 live album Rippin’ Up New York City, and more performing.
Davies made his new album Open Road with his son Russ. To preview his upcoming show at the Arcada Theatre, Davies spoke with IE about working with Russ, The Kinks, and his brother Ray’s recent knighthood.
Davies and Russ have two previous albums together, under the names Crystal Radio and The Aschere Project. 1998’s Purusha and the Spiritual Planet and 2010’s Two Worlds? were experimental projects exploring heady notions about existence and spirituality. Open Road is more immediate and personal. “This time, we wanted to make a record of concise songs,” says Davies. “We wrote about how we felt looking [at] our own lives, and the world outside. We made a conscious effort to trim the ideas. Like Russ rightly suggested, sometimes you can say a lot more by using the right words, but less of them.”
The song “Forgiveness” features expressive blues-based soloing and a universally relatable plea for interpersonal healing. Fans can also interpret it as addressing the contentious relationship between Dave and his brother, Kinks frontman Ray Davies. “There are different levels of meaning, but the essence of it is about me and Ray,” says Davies. “It’s also about all of us. If we look in the mirror, we’ve all hurt someone and asked, ‘Why did I do that?’ In my own life, I’ve found the hardest thing to do is often to forgive yourself. We have to learn by it and move on. For Christ’s sake, let’s work this thing out. Whatever it is, whether it’s about me and Ray or you and your friend.”
Davies also indulges in mystical storytelling. The shoegazer-styled “King of Diamonds” was inspired by a title and musical foundation by Russ. The idea evolved following Dave’s visit to the Avebury Stones, Europe’s largest Neolithic stone circle. Davies was fascinated by a particular stone, and surprised to learn that it was called the Queen of Diamonds. “It’s one of the furthest Stones north of the circle. I traced the history of this stone and its myth. The Queen’s spirit would come out at night and wander the ancient stones looking for her counterpart, the King of Diamonds. I thought about this, and the connection to Russell’s idea. One day I went there at midnight, and looked up to the heavens. It was a beautiful starlit night, and I remember thinking that’s where the King of Diamonds was. I had this fantasy that the queen wasn’t looking up. She was looking around on the earth for her partner, but if she had looked up she would have seen him in the heavens.”
“Path is Long” finds Davies at 70 reclaiming childlike enthusiasm. “That peters away when you get older, and it’s always nice to try to tap that innocence,” says Davies. “That’s the thought behind that line, ‘In my heart, I am just a boy.’ We might get jaded, but inside us that innocence is still there.”
Davies was 17 when he lashed into the fiery solo for “You Really Got Me.” He remembers the inspirational forces that fueled his playing. “Eddie Cochran was my hero at that age. He could sing, he looked cool, and he played great. For that time, he was really ahead of his game. But [the solo] was just wild – close your eyes and jump. It was a moment of blind fury, with that youthfulness of enjoying life and just doing it.”
At Davies’ London concert on December 18, 2015, he was joined onstage by Ray for the first time in nearly 20 years for an encore of “You Really Got Me.” “I had asked Ray a couple of weeks before if he would come along for a song or two,” says Davies. “We never really heard back from him. I had thought about rehearsing maybe “Waterloo Sunset.” I became ill that week and nearly had to cancel, but on the morning of the gig I thought, ‘I’ve got to do it’ – that English sense of ‘carry on at all costs.’ I kept looking at me watch at soundcheck, wondering if Ray would turn up. He arrived toward the end of the act. He was very gracious, and it was a lovely moment.”
A March interview for ITV reported that Ray is developing a Kinks-styled album and intends to invite old bandmates to play. Dave says such a project hasn’t been discussed, but describes another recent attempt to work together. “Ray and I worked on some demos at the beginning of last year. We exchanged some ideas and I thought, ‘Well, maybe it could be a Kinks album.’ We might go back and rethink those songs. I don’t know yet.”
“We demoed some concrete ideas – three or four types of songs about characters. We got quite a way with them, but then Ray went to work on [Americana] and I started to get heavily involved in Open Road with Russ. So [Ray and I] both sort of thought, ‘Oh, we’ll get back to it at a later date.’” Asked whether he could reveal any detail about the demos, Davies replies, “No, I daren’t. There’s a saying in England; I don’t know if you have it here. I don’t want to put the mockers on it.”
On March 16, Ray was knighted at Buckingham Palace for services to the arts. Dave expresses brotherly pride, but bristles at any notion of addressing his brother as “Sir” at family gatherings. “No way,” he says, cheekily. “Absolutely not. But it’s respect and a nod to the Kinks’ legacy. It also reflects on our whole family. It’s never about one person. When you look through the history of the Kinks’ music, it’s primarily about family and where you’re from.”
– Jeff Elbel
Category: Stage Buzz