When punk rock steamrolled through rock music in the late-Seventies and early-Eighties, many of the bands that inspired punk to react against were imploding. Led Zeppelin, Eagles and Jethro Tull were either breaking up or were about to break up do to the release of crappy albums that may or may not have been influence by an overindulgence of cocaine. And, while that was happening, three artists who were being touted as influences on the punk/new wave movements were flourishing. David Bowie had finished recording four of his most influential albums: “Heroes”, Low, Lodger and Scary Monsters. Simultaneously, former fellow glam and art rockers Roxy Music were flexing their New Romantics muscles by releasing Avalon in 1982. And, believe it or not, former first British Invasion rockers turned late-Sixties British society commentators turned late-Seventies, early-Eighties punk rock godfathers, were releasing some of their most vital music in a decade was The Kinks. From 1977 through 1984, The Kinks were on a new lease in rock life as they released seven consecutive albums that straddled AOR, hard rock, new wave, punk rock and timeless pop/rock that allowed a second generation of rock fans discover the band.
The Kinks, who had for practical purposes been whittled down to brothers Ray Davies and Dave Davies, had finally remembered how to rock out during this period. Additionally, the Davies brothers, who invented the whole brotherly rivalry schtick that the Gallagher brothers of Oasis would popularize in the Nineties, were communicating both personally and musically. Ray, the main songwriter, was the man whose lyrics allow the band’s music transcend time with his wry observations of post-World War II British society, and Dave was the hard-rocking guitarist who ultimately popularized the feedback sound of his guitar by cutting the cones in his guitar’s speaker in order to “improve” that static feedback sound he popularized on The Kinks’ initial hits of the Sixties. It was all of that work that got the original line-up of the band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, the fifth class inducted.
By 1983, The Kinks were hitting their AOR stride that made they seem poised for a break-out hit song. Sure, during the time prior, The Kinks appeared ready, but for some reason nothing really caught on. Between 1977 and 1983, The Kinks released four studio albums and one live album. And, what they got from their singles were several radio hits, like “A Gallon of Gas”, “I Wish I Could Fly like Superman”, “Destroyer” and, arguably their most enduring hit ever, “Father Christmas”.
In 1983, The Kinks released arguable their best album of the Eighties when they dropped State of Confusion. The first single released from the album was a song that hearkened back to their late-Sixties sound, “Come Dancing”. That single sounded like a perfect fit between much of the new wave or new wave-influenced singles of the year. Plus, The Kinks made an endearing video that probably spoke more to their English audience than us in the USA. Yet, the Americans embraced the pop brilliance of Ray Davies, while the critics were acknowledging the band’s, and particularly Ray Davies’, influence on new wave music that was popular at the time. Unfortunately, the other terrific singles that were released from State of Confusion never struck the nerve like “Come Dancing”, which ultimately became the band’s last US Top 10 hit.
In the wake of the failure of other songs released from State of Confusion only allowed a wedge to grow in size between the Davies brothers. A slow song by Ray, “Don’t Forget to Dance”, which mined a similar strip of nostalgia as “Come Dancing” did not catch on, as did the next song, the album’s title track which showcased Dave’s hot guitar work. In the aftermath, the Davies brothers continued to argue, literally have physical fights, and, ultimately, drifted apart, even though The Kinks continued to release albums into the Nineties, when the band finally imploded. After the band’s break up, the brothers released their own solo albums, though never at the rate at which they were creating Kinks albums.
Sadly, a few years ago, Dave suffered a stroke. Ray had not spoken to Dave for several years prior to the stroke and , unfortunately, has continued not to speak to his brother. You would think that grown men who were nearing the ends of the lives would let bygones be bygones and get on with the few years they have left.
Last year, Ray Davies released a fine album called Americana, which, like Robert Plant’s recent work, is totally in the sound of Americana music. Americana is the type of music at which musicians can grow old playing. But, The Kinks were an early force of nature that influenced three generations of musicians that delighted music lovers of any age. But, who wouldn’t enjoy one more album by The Kinks. I would love to hear an album by the band who gave us “David Watts”, “Lola”, “You Really Got Me”, “All Day and All of the Night” and “Waterloo Sunset”, to name a few.
C’mon guys! Cut the crap and make up! You’re brothers, for crissakes!