Thursday 27 July 2017

Music Interview: KINK DAVE DAVIES


TALES OF THE KINKS is a Rock ‘n’ Roll Horror story 
 that shapes three decades of Music History. Expelled from 
school at 15, and no.1 in the charts two years later, 
DAVE DAVIES’ hedonistic life-style of drugs, sleaze, 
paternity suits, paranoia, fashion subversion, a host of 
sexual contradictions and a stream of classic hits defines 
all that the 1960’s are best remembered for. 
 And that’s before he discovered UFO’s…! 

Now he tells all to ANDREW DARLINGTON... 

 KINK (Kink) n (4) a flaw or idiosyncrasy of personality, quirk 
(5) Brit, informal, a sexual deviation 
(6) US, a clever or unusual idea 
(Collins English Dictionary) 

Does Rock ‘n’ Roll stunt your growth? It does if you do it right. And Dave Davies does it more right than most. Dave is, was, and always will, be guitarist with the Kinks. In the Sixties, with his libido knock-knock-knocking up against the inside of his stylish Mod y-fronts, to be a Kink was the greatest high available. “I was very much a show-off, a cocky young sod... a wild and angry kid who suddenly had more money than I’d ever seen before, with an abundance of women and drugs at my disposal.” But the Kinks Kollective body language continued through into the late 1990’s. They are a band who span three decades of hits and fine albums, and are now revered and revived by the likes of Blur, Paul Weller, Kirsty MacColl, the Pretenders, the Stranglers, and hordes of lesser entities.

Dave’s book ‘Kink: An Autobiography’* is a glutton’s feast of kinky sleazoid confessions. Blurbed ‘a man, a band and an era’, it’s a scurrilous Soap Opera of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s rich and famous – and its sick and shameless, in a swirling Jacuzzi of frantic fun. It’s also a profoundly mood-altering substance. So is it real, or is it Memorex? “What helped me remember things was actually the music” he explains now. “It’s sort-of evocative of memory, isn’t it? It reminds you of certain things that happened. I wanted the book to be conversational, and yet factual. It was important for me to get it out the way that I did. And I enjoyed writing it.” Facts? Conversational? Well, yes it is. For example, “I was with a girl whose hymen was so difficult to break that for a moment I thought she still had her tights on!” Or then there’s the occasion when he’s so high on over-indulgence that suddenly and without warning he’s volcanically sick – all over a girl who’s giving him a blow-job at the time. Later, at a party in Hampstead he meets ‘a petite pretty black-haired singer called Lesley’. Back at her flat, asleep in her bed he’s awakened by a naked BLONDE who “licked my stomach and placed my penis fully into her mouth and began to suck on it like the Goddess of Whores. It was ecstasy.” They fuck all night. In the morning “I got dressed and wandered into the kitchen where Lesley was making coffee. The blonde was nowhere to be seen.”

That was all, apparently, a fairly typical week. “It was an amazing time. You can understand why there’s so much romanticism about that period now, can’t you? In 1965 I was walking on water. We could do ANYTHING. I couldn’t do anything wrong. Well – I DID! But no-one seemed to mind” he grins, playfully gleeful. “And I never seemed to be satisfied, despite all the women that I’d been with. I always wanted more.” Dave Davies sprawls in the swivel chair’s plush upholstery opposite me. We’re at Boxtree Books, his London publisher. He’s doing the gabfest for ‘Kink’, and he’s well into it. Stories flow. He laughs at his own jokes, then loses himself in anecdotes about women, music, drugs, UFO’s, aliens, long long weary American tours, and his bare-knuckle relationship with his songwriting arch-Kinkster brother, Ray.

But stardom? “Naw. Rock Stars are still just people playing guitars, y’know? They’ve just got posher front rooms now than when they started.” He’s either deceptively normal, or more two-faced than a gallery of Picasso portraits. In some way it’s this very normality that makes him exceptional. Except that most normal men don’t have pasts like the one laid bare in ‘Kink’.


“My girlfriend packed her bags 
and moved to another town, 
she couldn’t stand the boredom 
when the video broke down” 
 (The Kinks ‘State Of Confusion’, 1983)

Unlike me, Dave Davies is not circumcised. I know this because on page fifty-nine he writes “I took a girl back to my room after a show and while we were having sex I heard a loud snapping sound. At first I had no idea what it was, then I felt a pain in my crotch. I turned on the light and was shocked to see blood everywhere. The girl was smothered in it. The sheets were full of it. I examined my penis, and blood was pouring from it. I had split the foreskin.” A case of over-enthusiasm, or strenuous over-use?

“I was an angry rebellious kid, and I wanted to try everything, anything that was against the norm, whether it was getting high, or wearing outrageous clothes, or having sex with whoever I pleased. Everyone around us was experimenting sexually” he explains by way of justification. As if justification were needed. All this was, of course, during the amoral flesh-games possible between the advent of the birth pill, and the impact of AIDS, between the inauguration of the Permissive Society, and the kill-joy shut-down of Political Correctness.

During an Australian tour he is shown the ‘basic principles’ of hypnotism and begins practising on any willing person who comes along – including a nightclub dancer who had ‘gorgeous black hair that hung down to the crack of her arse.’ Once she’s under his hypnotic control “we proceeded through the various aspects of love-making slowly, freely, until dawn started to break. It was one of the most sensitive and magnificent sexual experiences I had ever had.” But she leaves the Hotel room still under trance. “I never caught sight or sound of the woman ever again” he muses uncertainly. “Was it a double bluff? Was she PRETENDING to be hypnotised and just got a kick out of it? Did she fool me? Or worse – is there still a hypnotised woman walking around out there?”

Then – as the Sixties give way to the Seventies, and the Kinks score a massive hit with the sexually ambiguous gender-bending “Lola”, things get even weirder. “By 1972 we had acquired a strong, if not unusual following as we continued to tour the States – straights, Gays, Groupies, Transvestites, Transsexuals. There was a group of outrageous transvestite dancers and singers called the Cockettes (a la ‘Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert’, 1994), who followed us everywhere.” Naturally Dave becomes an enthusiastic participant here too, experimenting sexually with male as well as female lovers. “It’s this whole thing about Rugby players in the shower, isn’t it?” he asks mysteriously. “It’s kinda like that. There’s a lot of admiration, mutual male admiration that goes on in sport. Did you ever see Richard Harris in ‘This Sporting Life’ (1963)? And did you see that Keith Allen thing about the Gay Footballer? It was a ‘Comic Strip’ piss-take about Gazza, when he was first coming onto the sports scene. In the sketch, he was a Gazza-type player, but it had all these Gay connotations. But yes, I think that if you consider it historically, in imperial Rome it was considered quite normal for people to be bisexual. And in ancient Greece too, wasn’t it? A lot of this male-male coupling thing comes out of mutual admiration as well. Sometimes it’s not so much directly sexual as respectful, or done in admiration. A wanting to get close, and these other things, y’know. Closer...” 

‘Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls’? “There was never any stigma attached to my interest in other young men. I’ve always felt that if you have a genuine respect and love for another person, who gives a shit if the partner is a boy or a girl?” But even these admirably laid-back sentiments can be playfully and mischievously subverted. Bored in New York, he and ‘friend’ Linda decide to temporarily swap clothes. She helps him with wig and full make-up. Delighted with the results they take a cab down to the Greenwich Village Club scene, “I’d dressed up in women’s clothes before, but never quite so publicly. It was very interesting the way men would look at me. I really got a kick out of the fact that no-one knew who I was. It was fantastic. I could observe the world from a totally different perspective. As a voyeur.” In a club called ‘Nobody’s’ at three in the morning they encounter Mick Avory – the Kinks drummer, and “he didn’t recognise me. The dirty old man was letching and leering at me. God, now I realised what it must be like for a woman! I continued to flirt with Mick in the dimly lit bar. I slowly stood up, spread my legs, lifted up my dress, and sexily guided my hand down the front of my underpants and grabbed at my crotch. Suddenly it hit Mick who I was. He was stunned, with mouth agape. You should have seen the look on his face. It was a treat...”


“Still we watch the re-runs again and again
 we sit glued while the killer takes aim – 
Hey Mom, there goes a piece 
of the President’s brain...!” 
(The Kinks ‘Give The People What They Want’, 1981) 

“While I was out carousing and living it up, Ray was content to observe. I did the partying, he wrote about it.” The tension between the Davies brothers – Ray and Dave, ignites the centre of the Kinks’ furious energies. As it did for Don and Phil Everly. As it does for Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis. To Dave, Ray is both ‘a puzzling dichotomy’ and ‘a fucking arsehole’. I watch them on stage in Leeds last year, or perhaps the year before last. They do a song called “Phobia”. Ray describes it as “a serious Rock ‘n’ Roll message song”, then proceeds to climb up onto the speaker cabinets behind the band. Adding “I’m into psychology. I don’t know why,” as he prowls down the front gesticulating inanely behind the Bouncer’s heads. The song’s chorus goes “everybody got phobia, What you got? – PHOBIA!!!”

It’s easy to probe phobias and try some cheap psychology to explain the Davies brothers. A large warm Muswell Hill family in the late 1940’s. Six sisters. Then Ray, and finally... Dave. DIY psychology says, initially, that Ray – as the firstborn son, receives all that gushing female attention. Until Dave – younger and cuter, came along and ‘stole a bit of his space in the limelight.’ Resentments and jealousies are not always rational, and they can go deep. Secondly, Dave – as subsequent recipient of all that female nurturing, grows to take female pampering and compliance for granted. He adores women (“I loved to sneak a peek at my sisters dressing and undressing...”), and knows exactly how to exploit their affections. Sexual morés, and addictions also go deep. On stage in Leeds Dave sings his solo hit “Death Of A Clown”, and his writing contribution to the Kinks ‘Word Of Mouth’ (1984) album – “Living On The Thin Line”. He plays a Fender guitar that has Seaside Postcard girlie legs climbing all the way up the strap.

“...As I reflect back on this crazy life, I’m still trying to figure out what happened between us then, and what continues to go on between us now. Maybe I’ll never know.” As kids Ray and Dave share a bed, and invent their own private gibberish language. And the Kinks sound gets accidentally – and almost fatally invented during a rainy afternoon in the Davies front room. Dave is sixteen. He wires his guitar through a series of cheap cannibalised amps... and blows himself across the room when the super-charged first chord short-circuits.

He idolises Eddie Cochran, and sees guitarist Duane Eddy live at the Finsbury Park Empire in 1963 (“my devotion to Duane Eddy was not misplaced”). Dave’s own first band – the Ramrods, ends in a brawl at a US Air Base backing a black body-building contortionist on a bill that also includes a couple of over-the-hill Strippers. The band gets renamed The Ravens after a Vincent Price Horror movie, then the Bo-Weevils after the title of an Eddie Cochran ‘B’-side. A singer called Robert Wace wangles them some Society dates on condition that he can sing with the group. One night he comes on, gets as far as the first chorus of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On”, and accidentally smashes his front teeth out on the mike. At the last minute, Ray steps in to take over vocals – for keeps. Wace does stick around long enough to contribute the group’s next name change though. The Kinks. “I thought the idea of being called the Kinks was silly, but it was a saucy name for the time. The Profumo Affair was all over the news then, establishing the names of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, and phrases like ‘Kinky Sex’ were starting to appear in the tabloids.”

Brian Epstein comes to watch them. Promises he’ll call. Never does. Instead they follow their first two failed singles with a riff-heavy “You Really Got Me” with a sound so raw it bleeds, and suddenly this ‘scruffy inexperienced bunch of kids’ are no.1 on the chart, and the madness begins. “A lot of the girls I met were quite young, but very willing. Young girls were prepared to do anything to be with their adored stars. By March 1964 when we went out on our first package tour with the Dave Clark Five I was already quite experienced with women, at the ripe age of seventeen.” 

The hits continue – the raucous “All Day And All Of The Night” (No.2, 19th Nov 1964), “Tired Of Waiting For You” (their second no.1, 18th Feb ‘65), the Carnaby Street anthem “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” (no.4, 31st March ‘66), “Sunny Afternoon” (a third no.1, 7th July 1966), the satiric “Well Respected Man” (an America no.15 in Feb 1966), then the wistful melancholia of “Waterloo Sunset” (no.2, 25 May 1967) where ‘Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night’ – in myth it becomes Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, in reality it becomes a perfect elegy for the Sixties London dream, and many more. “We could do anything. It was like one night we were last-minute booked to do a ‘Top Of The Pops’. This was when ‘Top Of The Pops’ was done live in Manchester. We went to the airport, but there were no seats left on the plane. So they immediately took ten people off the plane so they could put us and our entourage on the plane to fly us to Manchester to do the show! You could do literally anything you liked.” 

But within the group, things were changing. “Over those first three or four years with the Kinks, Ray and I didn’t have any problems” he considers carefully. As though he’s explaining it all to himself, as well as to me and you. “I think things started to go wrong with me and Ray personally, after his first marriage ended. When he felt the world had caved in on him, and the world had let him down, kind-of (Ray’s marriage to Rasa effectively ended 12 June 1973). When that support is taken away, it’s kind-of like ‘What the Fucking ‘Ell? What am I doing here?’ I think that was a much bigger hole in the Kinks career than people realise. I also think Ray changed a lot when he felt we were being ripped off by Music Publishers. Which we were. But Ray probably felt it more because he wrote most of the songs. And it makes you a bit bitter. I understood. But I was always a little bit too optimistic for me own good. I used to think if it’s done, it’s done. What can you do? But it really made Ray more thoughtful. Less trusting. More paranoid. A bit bitter and da-da-de-de-da-da. But maybe that helped his writing as well? So you don’t know. You can’t know.” 

In ‘Kink’ he writes “in spite of it all, I love my brother. Maybe that’s all that’s necessary. That it was the love between us that helped to make it all happen. Us against the world.” 

But hey, this is getting to read like a Music Magazine. Let’s hit the sleaze button.


“Whisky or gin, that’s all right, 
there’s nothing in her bed at night. 
She sleeps with the covers down 
hoping somebody gets in, 
it doesn’t matter what she does, 
she knows that she can’t win” 
(Dave Davies “Susannah’s Still Alive”, January 1968) 

Does Rock ‘n’ Roll arrest your character development into an eternal adolescence? It does if you do it right. When Right-Wing politicians fulminate about the root causes of sexual permissiveness, the break-up of the family and the break-down of social discipline, all – they claim, the product of the 1960’s, they’re attacking all the things that the Kinks at their finest, most perfectly represent. In hits that still sound almost virally infectious. For Dave ‘The Rave’ Davies, the Sixties must seem like Paradise Lust, the greatest high available. For the rest of us, it’s either a second-hand memory you’re a little envious to have missed out on, or an endearing nonsense you’re glad you’ve grown up out of. 

But even as the Sixties nose-dives into extinction Dave scores a run of solo hits, “Death Of A Clown”, “Suzanah’s Still Alive”, and “Lincoln County”. He takes a debauched promo trip to do German TV, which starts out with booze and Diana Dors lowdown (‘her mirrored bedroom ceiling, her lust for men, and general sexual antics’). Then the soundcheck, drugs and complimentary whores in the Hotel, “one of the girls undressed me and laid me on a couch. This voluptuous woman began to give me a massage... my mouth was so dry I could barely speak and my head was reeling, but I felt wonderful. She moved her hand down to my stomach and stroked and kissed my abdomen with the gentle and sensual ease of a consummate artist. I felt her mouth on my penis, it felt as if her tongue was inside my head, touching and stimulating every nerve ending and sensory centre in my brain.” Eventually, for the actual telecast, he’s so blobbed out of it he’s unable to stand, and has to go through the motions of miming to his hit sitting on a stool. 

There are no Black Holes in Muswell Hill. But Dave was creating his own. It was “as if I were being devoured by a dark psychic swamp that was dragging me into its secret world in all its subtle and insidious power.” People he’d Clubbed with – Keith Moon and Brian Jones, didn’t make it through. Yet Dave survives the nightmare of what he calls his ‘psychic death’. He gives up meat, drugs and excess. And tunes into a New Age consciousness wide enough to include UFO-chasing openness to X-File’d millennial possibilities. 

“We have to take a big step into the world of the unknown – now, before the door is closed on us completely” he informs me. “We are living in the 21st Century, and we’ve got so much at our fingertips to actually help create real change in the world. We have everything from metaphysics, to cyber-technology, yoga, and yes – drugs too, if you like. Astrologically, what’s happening is that the outer planets are moving. Saturn has moved into the sign of Sagittarius. It’s really boring if you’re not interested in it, but I find it significant. And to cut a long story short, these things are influencing people to do things. Something big is gonna happen! And I think all the ideas about revolution that everyone was talking about in the 1960s will actually happen in the early years of this new century. It makes more sense now. There are people in Big Business Corporations who were taking acid when they were sixteen or seventeen. There are still people around who were part of that Sixties culture – like you and I. While, I saw a programme on TV the other day about a group of young people who had come through today’s ‘E’ subculture. They were talking about feeling the transmission of love between people. That’s not crazy. Alright – so it’s a chemical going off in the brain, making the nervous system and the brain do this. But is that so bad. They’d decided to set up their own little group in which they were trying to manifest without drugs those feelings of love that they’d experienced from using those things. Now, in that sense, a positive good has come about by their use of drugs. And I applaud that. So there’s certain elements out there now that just need to be pulled together...” 

The 1960s and the 2000s are, it seems, umbilically linked. And by more than just hippie numerology. The two eras share the same restlessness. The same sense that something momentous is about to happen, but no-one knows quite what... apparently. “We NEED to get into the world of the unknown” he emphasises genially. “I did an interview the other week, and we were talking about UFO’s. I was talking about aliens and messages from outer space. This, that, and the other. And the guy thought I was crazy. Yet he probably goes home and watches the ‘X-Files’ on television. So that’s alright, OK? Because we’re detached from that. But the thought of us being ATTACHED to it, that’s a very different psychological process. I think in a way, in a sense... oh,” his voice drops to a conspiratorial intimacy, “I’d better shut meself up. There’s a lot of things I shouldn’t say!” 

Why? Because he knows things it is not safe to divulge, secrets known only to him, Mulder and Scully? Or because his Press Agent is watching him in case he goes too far? 

Dave Davies is a legend in his own Mod y-fronts, much of his anecdotage reflects back on his own (neglected) importance. Mick Jagger comes backstage to bawl and strum “You Really Got Me” to him, badly. Paul McCartney complains to him that the Kinks invented Eastern tunings (on their hit “See My Friends”) before the Beatles got around to it. Jimi Hendrix quizzes him about how he got his amped-up guitar sound. And even within the Kinks “I always felt like Ray’s older brother. He always seemed so fragile, so sensitive.” 

But just when that (defensive?) arrogance begins to become tedious, or when you fear alien ectoplasm is cramping your prose-style, the likeable good guy keeps breaking through. “It would be interesting to see how historians in fifty years time – if there IS a fifty years time! how they will view all these things” he muses. “I’d like to think the Kinks will have a little place of their own...” 

“Thank you for the days, 
I don’t regret a single day, 
believe me...” 
 (The Kinks “Days”, 1968)

Boxtree Books Ltd ISBN 0-7522-1695-3 
 £16.99 Pan Paperback - 1997

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