Interview with Ray Davies: The Kinks Stand Alone

The Kinks were inducted into The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990 on their first year of eligibility. What are some of your other career milestones?

We first played the States in the 1960s at big venues like the Spectrum in Philadelphia, headlining dates with people like The Supremes, The Beach Boys and The Righteous Brothers, really heavy acts, opening for us. Then we were banned for four years from playing in the U.S. When we came back in the 1970s, we had to start out again at small clubs. The big milestone for us was when we finally could play those big venues like the Spectrum and Madison Square Garden in New York City again. I remember saying to the guys, ‘We finally made it back to where we should be!’

Why were you banned from performing in the States?

Union disputes, managerial problems. We had three managers who argued with the booking agents who booked us badly, that and work permit issues. Without going into too much detail, we were banned on mere technicalities. No one would book us.

Oh okay, so you didn’t do anything like Jim Morrison and pull your wang out onstage?

[Laughing] No, I’d like to say that but no. It probably would’ve been more entertaining…

A better story at least.

It was purely bureaucratic.

What’s next? If anybody’s music is naturally inclined towards a theatrical presentation, it’s yours. Any theater in your future?

I’ll do a tour in the new year of a play I wrote called Come Dancing based on the song. And, yes, there is a Kinks musical in the works.

Weren’t you an art student?

Yeah, music was just a sideline to keep my grant. I just wanted to make one hit record and quit. We had that hit [‘You Really Got Me’] and they just kept banging at the door so we had to do more stuff.

Where do you live now?

I still live in North London but I want to move back to the States next year. I was never actually a resident but used to come and stay for months at a time in New York. I tried living in Louisiana but that didn’t work out. I haven’t picked my new spot yet. There’s so many great places in your country.

Is the reason it didn’t work out in Louisiana because of the time you were almost killed?

Yeah. [laughs]

[Ray Davies suffered almost-fatal gunshot wounds in New Orleans when in 2004 he ran after a lone gunman during a robbery attempt and actually retrieved the purse of his girlfriend.]

That’s an amazing story. You come off as a heroic figure.

A very reluctant hero. Some people say that what I did was really stupid. So I guess it’s a mixture of heroism and stupidity, I think leaning more towards stupidity.

But you’re alive.

Aah, yes, I’m still alive.

What are you listening to these days?

Anything I can get. I’m saddened. I was hoping to hear some interesting bands. I mean, I think there’s better young bands in America today than in England. I don’t know why. It’s going through a bad phase in England because of The X Factor and things like that [BBC American Idol-type show] which is dominating our culture in England. There’s still some good little bar bands in America that I’d like to find out about. I still like to discover new talent. I just haven’t found anything in England lately. I’m hoping there will be some good stuff here. I actually, for the longest time, have not heard any new rock bands on either shore that haven’t been remolded from earlier generations. I mean, I’m sure there must be garage bands that started like The Kinks or The Who. There is a lineage there, but nobody’s come out with anything fresh and original since Nirvana!

My aptitude for new rock ‘n’ roll has totally atrophied and my adventurism now comes out in other genres like Salsa, Samba and Afro-Cuban.

Right, me too! Rock’s in a bit of the doldrums right now. I’d love to be proven wrong soon.

Catch Ray Davies on Nov. 19 and 20 at Town Hall and Nov. 24 at Wellmont Theatre.