Ray Davies pursuit of breaking his band/career in the US is chronicled in his book Americana The Kinks, The Riff, The Road. After reading his journeys through America, it seems he’s still questioning at what price does success come and what is success. When did he take the time to make a home? Was his eye on the prize at the expense of a personal life?
Early in the Kinks career circa 1965 they are banned from performing in the US.
The American Federation of Musicians refused permits for the group to appear in concert and it’s widely believed due to their sometime violent behavior and band disputes. Dave Davies and Mick Avory had it out on stage in Wales and Dave wound up with 16 stitches in his head. This time period was a prime creative period for the band. In 1964 they released You Really Got Me followed by All Day And All Of The Night, Tired of Waiting For You, Well Respected Man and Sunny Afternoon. They are all classics.
After the ban was lifted, Ray was determined to prove the band was worthy of US audiences. They toured relentlessly sometimes at the expense of other territories.
In a switch from my reading assumptions, this book got better the second half. This is Davies second book (the first was X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography) and his theme is focused. I didn’t read X-Ray. Usually musician autobios tend to lose focus the second part when all spirals into a drug induced haze. Not the case here. It was refreshing not to hear about drug addiction. He barely touches on the famously documented band member feuds. It’s about the music, the marketing and conquering the US.
Characters play a big part in the songwriting and life of Ray Davies. He comes across as a bit of character himself. Ray is a great storyteller. In this excerpt from the book, he sums up his inspirations:
Some of my songs are sometimes better company than real people. Many musical characters inhabit my world: they are good, bad, kind, mean, and sometimes mischievous. I usually write a theme song in my head for nearly every person I encounter in the real world. They exist as part of my musical memory so that afterward I cast them in my own musical version of life, which is often more truthful than reality. Long-term friends are usually accompanied by a good tune. On the other hand, people that don’t bring a good theme song with them rarely stay in my life. It’s a form of “musical schizophrenia” that evolved in my childhood; these imaginary musical allies are sometimes more credible than the real people I encounter. AS a child I was very quiet, very secluded and it was music that helped me relate to and confront the real world- without music I would probably never have interacted with people.
Whenever I see someone from my own musical universe, their unique musical theme slips into my head, a theme that represents my perception of their true character. After a while the real person I know blends into the imaginary person I have invented. As sometimes happens in life, often the real person you know disappears-you lose touch, they move on, you move on. But if I need someone, all I have to do is remember their theme song-and some strange musical voodoo brings them to life.
Points that resonated:
His relationship with Clive Davis led to great success while on Arista Records.
When Ray questions whether it’s worth being a musician, he develops his storyteller solo show. His friends and acquaintances point out to him how important songwriting is to him.
His relentless quest to find a “home”: He lived on W 72nd St in NYC, moves back and forth to Europe, eventually lands in New Orleans where he is shot trying to catch a thief and now he lives not too far from where he started his life in North London.
He ends the book with this passage: