The Kinks - The Kinks (1964)
Updated: May 9
Released October 2, 1964
Recorded August 1-September, 1964
The Kinks were more raw and rough than the other British Invasion bands of 1964. Their early sound incorporated a harder-edged showcase of American blues and R&B than The Beatles and the Stones. They were the punk version of British rock at the time. Brothers Ray and Dave Davies first formed a band in North London in 1962. Before formulating the Kinks, Ray Davies worked with The Ray Davies Quartet, the Dave Hunt Band (with Stones drummer Charlie Watts), the Hamilton King Band, and the Ramrods. After several name changes, the Ramrods became the Ravens and signed with Pye Records. After a few more personnel changes, they finally settled on the name the Kinks. Fun fact, Rod Stewart, a classmate of the Davies, sang with the group briefly.
After releasing less popular singles, the group released two versions of "You Really Got Me." The song became a huge hit and was notable for the early usage of guitar power chords and the signature distorted guitar sound created when Dave Davies sliced his guitar speaker. The song was one of the heaviest tunes to that point, and an argument can be made that it was one of the earliest punk songs.
After the release of several singles, the group offered their self-titled album showcasing Ray Davies on lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and harmonica, Dave Davies on lead guitar and lead vocal, Pete Quaife on bass, and Mick Avory. Some additional studio musicians were added, like guitarist Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin and Yardbirds) and keyboardist Jon Lord (Deep Purple). The debut album was well received domestically, reaching #4 in England and #28 in the U.S.
Following The Release
After touring in 1965, the band started to fight, and things got heated when Dave Davies kicked over Mick Avory's drum set on a gig in Wales. Avory then knocked Dave Davies unconscious when he hit him in the head with the hi-hat stand. The group also ran into an issue after an incident during the taping of Dick Clark's show Where the Action Is, in which an altercation was had between the Kinks and a member of the show's crew. The unpredictable nature of the group likely led to a U.S. Ban by the American Federation of Musicians. The Kinks and their attitudes then traveled to India, where Ray Davies wrote "See My Friends," one of the first rock tunes to showcase Indian influences. By the end of 1965, Ray Davies shifted from writing harder-edged rock to songs with more socially aware messages.
Although they still managed to stay relevant, things went south in 1966. Ray Davies had a mental breakdown, and Pete Quaife had a car accident and quit for some time. The group managed to hang around making albums, releasing singles with varying degrees of success, and touring. The group's U.S. ban was lifted in 1969, and the Kinks toured the U.S., but they were primarily booked for smaller venues; it was not a great success.
In 1970 The Kinks had a lift in popularity when they released the unlikely hit "Lola," a song about a romantic encounter with a transgender woman. That was a pretty progressive theme for the time. From 1970-1997 Ray Davies continued to reinvent the Kinks while pursuing solo projects. More personnel changes were made during this time, but the Kinks persevered through several stylistic trends. In 1990 the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. By 1998 the group had broken up, and the Davies brothers continued to focus on solo projects. All in all, The Kinks released twenty-four studio albums and four live albums.
(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)
Track 1- “Beautiful Delilah" is a Chuck Berry tune sung by Ray Davies, which starts the album with a bang. Chuck Berry might be the most covered artist of 1964 as he hugely impacted British Rockers. Even though Ray Davies is a little hard to understand, the song is a solid opener. Dave Davies' guitar solo is a full-out assault. It's sloppy and punkish. The lyrics are about a promiscuous girl who can't "be true."
Track 2- "So Mystifying" was written by Ray Davies. While not a hit for the Kinks, the Swedish rock group Hep Stars had a hit with the song in 1965. There is some pretty cool guitar work on this one played by Dave Davies, although there is some speculation that Jimmy Page played the main riff. Session drummer Bobby Graham replaced Mick Avory for the track, and Avory was given a tambourine to play instead. (+)
Track 3- "Just Can't Go To Sleep" should be my theme song. It's a poppy number for Ray Davies. The singer should try a Xanax or a THC-infused gummy.
Track 4- "Long Tall Shorty" is credited to R&B vocalist Don Covay and record executive Herbert Abramson, the co-founder of Atlantic Records. Dave Davies takes the lead vocals on this bluesy tune, with Ray Davies blowing some harmonica.
Track 5- "I Took My Baby Home" is another solid early Ray Davies tune about hooking up with a girl who had a "hug like a vice." This track and two others were omitted from the U.S. release. It is a catchy tune.
Track 6- "I'm A Lover Not A Fighter" is a fast-paced driving blues written by Cajun songwriter J.D. "Jay" Miller. It's another fine track that was left off of the U.S. pressings. The group were fighters and could be pretty violent at times, and their tempers were likely the reason they were banned from performing in the U.S. until 1969.
Track 7- "You Really Got Me" is one of the most impactful releases of the year. The album includes the second recorded version of the song. The first was more bluesy; this album cut is more hard-edged. Davies was adamant about recording this new version after the initial release, but Pye Records refused. Ray Davies threatened never to play the song live if they didn't rerecord. The label wasn't biting, so the Kinks management decided to fund a new version, and thank God they did. The song showcases one of the earliest uses of power chords and distortion and may be one of the first punk songs. In the U.K., "You Really Got Me" ranked number one, peaking at seven in America. Simply put, the song rocks! (*+)
Track 1- "Cadillac" was an often-covered Bo Diddley tune initially released in 1960. It proves that the Kinks can spell "C-A-D-I-L-L-A-C." The song is upbeat and includes the Mersey Beat sound that became characteristic among the British Invasion bands. The style mixed blues, R&B, skiffle music, and pop.
Track 2- "Bald Headed Woman" is one of two songs credited to the album producer, Shel Talmy, on this album. He actually provided a lot of support and material to the Kinks early. His other song on the album was "I've Been Driving on Bald Mountain." He must have had an interest in all things "bald." The Kinks were likely persuaded to include these songs on their debut. Talmy may have claimed writing credits for folk material like this one that had fallen into the public domain songs and collected the royalties. Dave Davies takes over the lead vocals on this one again. The tune starts slow before it picks up some serious steam. Deep Purple's keyboardist John Lord is a guest on this one—the Who also recorded this song in 1964.
Track 3- "Revenge" is a hard-driving harmonica-infused instrumental left off the American pressing. The only vocals include a nondistinct meditative chant.
Track 4 - "Too Much Monkey Business" was recorded by the Beatles in 1963, the Hollies in 1964, and the Yardbirds in 1964. The Kinks do a fine job on the Chuck Berry original, and Dave Davies proves he has some guitar chops.
Track 5- "I've Been Driving On Bald Mountain'' is another folk tune credited to Shel Talmy. The song begins with Jimmy Page playing the 12-string acoustic. It definitely sounds like a filler tune. Dave Davies sings this one. Ray Davies is the better singer.
Track 6- "Stop Your Sobbing" was written by Ray Davies after a breakup. It's a pretty well-written pop tune and was intended to serve as the follow-up single "You Really Got Me," but it did not have the same impact. The Pretenders rerecorded the song in 1979 and released the tune as a single. Around this time, Ray Davies and Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders began a relationship. In 1982, Hynde and Ray Davies planned to get married. They supposedly went to the registry office to file their papers and were told to return another day. They never did. In 1983, Hynde and Davis had a daughter, Natalie, who married Jim Kerr, lead singer of the band Simple Minds, in 1984.
Track 7- "Got Love If You Want It," was written by Bluesman Slim Harpo. Although it starts slow, the tune picks up and gets energetic. The song features Ray Davies' harmonica playing. “Got Love If You Want It” is a solid closer.
The Kinks is a strong debut album by one of the more interesting British Invasion bands. The record serves as a critical proto-punk album, and the Kinks deserve more credit for their influence on punk music and early rock and roll.