As Joseph O’Connor said himself, it is best for an interviewer to stay impartial, but that was never an option here! Joseph admitted to having a poster of the Kinks on his wall when he was growing up and being a massive fan. Joseph delivered a wonderfully flowing introduction reminiscent of his pieces for radio, in which he described Ray as the ‘Dickens of Pop’ due to his songs being stories of the common man.
The interview was wide ranging and started with his early years. He was born in 1944 in London, at the end of the war. It was a time of poverty with rationing widespread, although he said they didn’t realise it at the time. While there was very little exciting music on the radio, he listened to as much Jazz and Blues as he could, and this had a large impact on his musical style.
He later went to Art college, and said he could have ended up a frustrated art teacher if not for music. He formed The Kinks with his younger brother Dave in 1963 and the band went on to have amazing success with a number of classic songs such as ‘You really got me’ and ‘All Day and All of the Night’. Joseph O’Connor recently interviewed David Byrne, and he said that he would have given all his songs to be able to write one as perfect as ‘Waterloo Sunset’, which is high praise indeed!
Ray also spoke of the Kinks ban from the US which lasted four years, and occurred just as the band were establishing themselves. He said it was a time in America where there was fear of the unknown, and talk of the ‘English invasion’ had them worried. The band were known for their rowdy live performances and on stage fighting. One immigration guard asked him was he ‘a Beatle or a Girl’ due to his long hair, and his reply was that he was a girl and so was his brother!
There were many stories of the wild times on tour, and the security guards/ minders who travelled with them. Big Tony was told to break his arm if he had more than three drinks, and the next minder Big Bob was to throw him out the window! He described being on tour being as a military operation and the discussed the amount of organisation that is required to hold it all together.
Ray also showed a short movie that he recorded while living in New Orleans. He went to the home of Jazz to be inspired to write music. The house he lived in was beside a school and he woke up each morning to the sound of the brass band practising! He later went on to write some music for them. Ray was shot in New Orleans while chasing a man who had stolen something from one of his friends. He told of the pain of the incident and his recovery.
Davies has lived a fascinating life, with stories of meeting John and Yoko at the local grocery shop, to his various escapades on tour around the world. He talked for an hour and a half on the night, but really could have gone on for much longer, and there would have been no complaints from the fascinated crowd. He did take out his guitar for one song at the end of the evening, but he left the crowd wanting more!
Ray Davies book Americana is available from Sterling Publishing.
The Dublin Writers Festival continues until May 25th.