Friday, February 3, 2012

Five Reasons Dave Davies Is the Most

As founding Kink Dave Davies celebrates his 65th birthday today, let’s take a look at a few reasons why we think he’s the most…

Slashing the Fart Box

Guitar distortion had been a tool of Rock & Rollers since before the genre even really began (check out Ike Turner’s work on Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” in 1951). Yet many credit “You Really Got Me” as the first instance of fuzzed-out guitars because the sound Dave Davies achieved on it was so unique. He’d been experimenting with guitar sounds since the age of 16 when he nearly barbecued himself by linking his little Elpico amplifier to a 60-watt Linear, a Vox AC 30, and a radiogram. When one of the wires crossed the transformer at the back of the Linear amp, Dave was blown across the room in a puff of smoke. That taste of electricity only electrified his curiosity, and he kept searching for the ultimate crunch, which led him to put a razor blade to the cone of his Elpico. He shredded it, and something new was born. While brother Ray was messing around with a new two-chord riff on the piano, Dave plugged into the amp he’d rechristened “the fart box” because of its funky new sound. Suddenly, the jazzy number called “You Really Got Me” came into focus as a monstrous rocker. Before long, the cagey techs at Gibson had commercialized Dave’s cro-mag amp modification with its first fuzz pedal, the Maestro Fuzz Tone and Rock & Roll forever changed for the heavier.

Got My Feet on the Ground

The fuzzy weight of The Kinks’ early hits dissipated as the ‘60s boogied on, and Ray’s delicacies, such as “Waterloo Sunset”, “Autumn Almanac”, and “Days”, replaced power-chord pile drivers like “You Really Got Me” and “Till the End of the Day”. For many Kinks fans, this period was the band’s finest, yet they never shed Rock & Roll completely. This is largely due to the increasing involvement of Dave Davies. As Ray’s songs grew more tender, Dave balanced them with the raging voice he was developing in nasty stuff like “Love Me Till the Sun Shines”, “Creeping Jean”, “Mindless Child of Motherhood”, and “Rats”. It is telling that Ray handed the heaviest number on the largely fragile Village Green Preservation Society, “Wicked Annabella”, to his younger brother. Dave’s raw, ragged voice was a potent counterpoint to Ray’s quavering whisper. His guitar work remained forceful even on the softest tracks. Dave was capable of ethereal beauty on occasion (“Strangers”), but he would always be the Rock & Roll heart beating inside The Kinks.
Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Between the sharp yet conservative mod styles of the early ‘60s and the “Showering and shaving is for pro-establishment scum” aesthetic of the late ‘60s, fashion exploded in a rainbow of vibrant shades, dazzling patterns, and daring shapes. Clothing choices traditionally limited to women were now fair game for the lads, who could be seen sporting great floppy hats, and according to “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, “frilly nylon panties.” Ray may have intended his toe-tapping tune as a chastisement of trendy clothes horses, but brother Dave could have only regarded it as a celebration considering how he attempted to out-do his fellow fashion followers. Photos of Dave circa-1967 will reveal a chap dedicated to only the most outrageous of dress and grooming. Upon a figure sporting plank-sized muttonchops, the most severe hair-part this side of Oscar Wilde, and mascara-drenched eyes, Dave draped lacey Edwardian blouses, tinted goggles, flowing scarves, yards of paisley, skintight tartan trousers, and a stripy stove pipe hat. Like his buddy Brian Jones, Dave was confident and physically beautiful enough to always carry off the wildest fashion with utmost dignity.

There Is No Life Without Love

Brian Jones and Dave Davies nearly shared more than forward fashion sense when the Stone and the Kink flirted with a sexual liaison in the mid-‘60s. The potentially historic union was never meant to be, though Dave did not hold back when it came to other boys. During an age of adventurousness and experimentation, and years before pop stars like Elton John and Freddie Mercury stepped out of the closet, Dave Davies was freely engaging in bisexual dalliances with Swinging London figures such as Long John Baldry, who’d talk Elton out of an ill-conceived hetero-marriage and inspire the epic “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”. Dave Davies largely defines himself as heterosexual, but is unabashed about his affairs with men in his autobiography Kink. While old-guard rockers like Little Richard were futilely attempting to stamp out their true selves with the dried-out Band-Aid of religion, Dave Davies was doing as he pleased and didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought.

This Is Where I Belong

Ray’s dominance of The Kinks was a sticking point between him and his brother, so you’d think Dave would have been over-enthused by the prospect of a solo record. This was Pye Record’s scheme to capitalize on Dave’s budding songwriting skills, as evidenced by his hit “Death of a Clown”, without unbalancing the power within The Kinks. Dave generally was allotted a track or two on the band’s L.P.s à la George Harrison. The formula worked well, so the label decided it made sense for Dave to branch into some extra-Kinks activities with an album of his own. The project was something of a ruse from the start, as Dave’s backing band was none other than The Kinks and Ray was on board to produce. In effect, Dave’s “solo” album would really be a Kinks album. But the record was not meant to be, largely because Dave preferred proper Kinks records despite the inflated role of his older brother. Pye continued to push for the disc, and Dave obliged by forcing out songs to his dissatisfaction. Much of his work during these sessions was stellar—“Mindless Child of Motherhood”, “Creeping Jean”, “This Man He Weeps Tonight”, “Lincoln County”—but his heart was never in it and the label eventually lost its zeal too. Although Dave would pursue solo projects with greater commitment in the years to come, he was perfectly happy remaining in the band. Fortunately for the rest of us, Universal Music finally released these sessions as Hidden Treasures late last year, indicating that he could have had a great solo career had he not been so loyal to The Kinks. The wait may have been tough for fans, but Dave’s loyalty is just further proof that he’s the most.
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