19 January 2012

Ray Davies: Genius of Music

Music. A magical thing, isn't it? How tiny invisible waves can inspire and stir the emotions of many. But perhaps the most magical thing of all is the talent of the people who make it magical.

Sadly, the music industry of the modern world mistreats and forsakes great and magical talent. It manufactures endless reams of electronic noise, usually consisting of the same beats and chords over again in an extremely repetitive manner, with an excessively wavery voice, a pathetic attempt at a melody, slapped over the top. And the most astounding thing is that it dominates the charts, usually at the expense of talented musicians who aren't given the time of day by many people.

So, what does one do in this situation? Well, the archives of modern music throughout the 20th century are full to the brim if you look in the right places. And where better to look than the output of Ray Davies, front man of the Kinks. Why them, you may ask? Well, many people usually think to the Beatles, the Stones or the Who when asked about greatest music of all time. And to put it simply, Ray Davies is a musical genius of who it is difficult to rival. And why is that? - A question asked by the majority of people who have never really thoroughly discovered the Kinks, who as expected would be puzzled at the choice. Their most well known song is definitely not their best, and their best songs are definitely not their most well known. So, I will show you how he is possibly of the the greatest rock and pop musicians of all time.

The Kinks shot to fame in August 1964 with "You Really Got Me", written by Ray. The song went straight to number one, and was so successful that the band, a supporting act, even managed to upstage the Beatles at a concert in Brighton, before the song was even released! The song introduced the first mainstream use of guitar distortion which proved to be a big influence on other music. The band churned out hit after hit, however compared to his later work, Ray's songs were pretty mainstream and ordinary. That was until mid 1965, when his musical direction split from what everyone else was doing, and remained so forever.

Firstly, the speed of which is his music changed into sophisticated songs bursting with genius in both sound and word was very fast. Ray began wrote You Really Got Me in early 1964, and, even though it was released in June 1965, by the end of the year he wrote "See My Friends" which not only introduced Indian influences to pop music but also contained intelligently ambiguous and highly sophisticated lyrics. And, after this song his music became even more sophisticated with each release. Therefore, in just a under year he transformed musically and lyrically into something amazing. Compared to the Beatles' and the Rolling Stones' musical progress to this standard of several years, this is outstanding.

Secondly, what makes this man a genius is the content of his songs. Instead of soppy love songs his lyrical content spreads across an exceptionally broad range: everything from sarcastic jibes, to witty remarks, to heartfelt laments of loss, to quirky observations of life, to questions about himself and a beautiful insight into his enigma of a personality. And perhaps the greatest thing is his ability to combine these sophisticated topics with beautiful melodies which linger in your mind for weeks. Some brilliant, mind-capturing examples include:

Waterloo Sunset (1967)

Sunny Afternoon (1966)

See My Friends (1965)

Of course it was immensely difficult to pick just three...

Also, his personality has the strange eccentricity belonging to genius's. Never flaunting himself at the camera and the paparazzi, he has led an incredibly private life outside his work. He always has something intelligent to say when something significant happens and is not afraid to say what he thinks. His comments are sometimes quite eccentric, and his quirky behaviour on stage is nothing less than so, such as his brilliantly unique gestures or words. But clearly, he has an incredible mind, sadly not possessed by many musicians who, a lot of the time, only seem to care about how many fans they have and how much money they're making out of them. It seems that he belongs in the world of highly intelligent academics rather than that of musicians.

Finally, the amount of respect and admiration Ray Davies commands from his followers is phenomenal. I couldn't even begin to count the amount of times I've heard him being referred to as a "genius", with the appreciation going so far as to create a Facebook group on the subject. Instead of mindless flattery, many comments made about him by the fans consist of detailed praises about a particular song, or an album, or the man himself. And what's more, the music community also heap their praises. With Oasis and Blur citing them as a massive influence, almost every rock band out there will also state the Kinks as an influence, with some almost worshipping him (especially Damon Albarn and Pete Townshend). Even members of the Beatles have expressed admiration! In Dave Davies's (guitarist of the Kinks and brother of Ray) autobiography he mentions Paul McCartney wishing to have written "See My Friends" and in Ray's autobiography, X-Ray, John Lennon is shown to have adored "Wonderboy" and to have had it played repeatedly at a nightclub. Another source reveals him saying that he wishes that he could harmonise like the Kinks. And Pete Townshend of the Who has made comments of worship over the years.

In reference to See My Friends: "'See My Friends' was the next time I pricked up my ears and thought, 'God, he's done it again. He's invented something new.'

 "The Kinks were ... quintessentially English. I always think that Ray Davies should one day be poet laureate. He invented a new kind of poetry and a new kind of language for pop writing that influenced me from the very, very, very beginning."

Perhaps the most memorable moment was when he bowed down to him on stage at the UK Music Hall of Fame induction and told him he loved and adored him and his music. You pretty much can't get more appreciative than that....

Looking at all of the comments together on Ray, only a genius can amass such real and wholesome admiration and praise. Ray Davies, undeniably a phenomenal genius of music, should be cherished forever, and I command anyone reading this post, to go out there at once and listen to as much as you can! Long live Ray Davies!

Disclaimer: I do not own or profess to own any image or video on this page, nor do I seek to use any of it for personal gain.


  1. Great post, Ive loved the kinks since 64...they always got the short end of the stick thru-out their great career...there are hundreds of great unknown kinks songs that the general public has NEVER heard...in my book the kinks are better than the latter day stones (loved the early stones until 70)...better than the who and right there with the beatles...gstk

  2. the kinks are great!

  3. God save the Kinks!

  4. I've always told friends that I could write a thesis on why the Kinks are better than the Beatles. This is similar to how I would begin phrasing it. Great read!!

  5. When I first rediscovered the Kinks four years ago, I went around town for months playing nothing but album after album of the best music I had ever heard. I just couldn't understand how I (and much of the rest of the world) could have missed out on all this music. To me it's miles above the rest of the pop and rock music of the last forty years. It's thrilling. Nobody writes a melody like Ray Davies. And his lyrics are so clever.

  6. No one compares to The Kinks... period.
    Too many people view their 60's material as their best, but they would be sadly mistaken.
    The lyrical genius of Ray Davies along with the guitar mastery of brother Dave continued well into the 90's.
    You'll never find a band with material as consistently good throughout their entire career as The Kinks.

    Listen to the albums

    Give The People What They Want

    Think Visual

    UK Jive


  7. Ray may be English but I always felt that his lyrics spoke directly to my Midwestern sensibilities. And Dave's guitar skills grew over the years from power chord innovator to true virtuoso. Together they've made stunningly beautiful, poignant and edgy rock'n'roll, despite all their sibling squabbles. Listen to the albums Muswell Hillbillies, Schoolboys in Disgrace, State of Confusion (just a small sampling) or the song Rock And Roll Fantasy, then try to deny the Kinks their due as true Rock geniuses.

  8. The Kinks are the best band that ever was and probably the best that ever will be. GSTK

  9. I always loved the Kinks, I first saw them when they were on tour with the Dave Clark 5 in Philly possibly 1965. No matter what mood I was in the Kinks music made me tap my foot. Over the years they seemed to never get the credit due to them, & were always the underdogs & pushed out of the picture by the media. I'll admit Ray did bring this upon himself with some blunders on the groups career, but overall he has survived, it's just the media never thought the Kinks were hip compared to others..maybe that was the attraction , that they were so underrated or unknown to so many. Last of the steam powered trains....God Save The kinks