Reflections: The Kinks’ Dave Davies
photo by Al Pereira
With a true Kinks reunion seeming more and more likely, the guitarist looks back on some other unfinished business from his heyday.
Before he talks about Decade, his new collection of previously unreleased 1970s material, Dave Davies wants to mention a party he recently attended. It took place in early October at the Proud Galleries in London, where an exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the release of The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society had just opened. The new “Super Deluxe Edition” of the album, which was also released in October, contains five CDs housing an assortment of remasters, demos and bonus tracks, but that’s not the only reason Dave was excited about the event: What still has him on a high was that it was the first time in decades that he, his brother Ray and Kinks drummer Mick Avory found themselves in the same room.
“I see Ray a lot when I’m in London, but I haven’t seen Mick in about 10 years,” Dave says. “It was a great night—a lot of people and good emotions.”
The late-‘60s, the focus of the exhibition, was a special time for the Kinks, the band’s former lead guitarist recalls. “Me and Ray were very close and the band [members] were very close, even though not long after that [bassist] Pete Quaife left. [Village Green] was an album of reflection and concern about the future and also about lost innocence, in a way. We were really trying to push things. It was a good time, musically, and a lot of fun.”
Dave’s elation about seeing his fellow ex-Kinks (Quaife died in 2010) invariably leads to a question about the reunion rumors that have floated around for much of the past year. Dave and Ray have famously been at odds for a good portion of their adult lives and, during the Kinks’ heyday, Dave and Avory came to blows more than once. Any serious talks about the three survivors giving it another go have been quashed repeatedly since they went their separate ways in 1996. But that was all before Ray turned up at Dave’s gig in London in 2015, jumped onstage and sang “You Really Got Me.”
Now, it seems, all is forgiven. After a handful of dodges and denials, the brothers have both gone on record as being on board with some kind of new Kinks activity. What form that might take—and when it might happen—is still undecided. “We haven’t worked it out yet,” says Dave. “The first thing is to try and get some recording done. Ray has some old tapes that have some tracks that have never been out before, some Kinks tracks that we can shape. And we’ve co-written a couple of songs. We’ve explored the potential a bit. It’d be great to do something. If it feels right, then it is right; that’s how we always look at things. We’ll see what happens.”
In the meantime, Dave isn’t sitting around waiting for the green light. The 13-track Decade, consisting of songs he wrote and recorded between 1971–79—a period when he was not contributing much new material to the Kinks’ albums—is a project that’s been on his mind for some time. “Every so often, I’d think about [the songs] and they’d prod at me and remind me that they’re still there, and then it’s kind of like, ‘What the hell am I gonna do with all these great songs and ideas I had?’” he says. Two of Dave’s sons, Martin and Simon, took it upon themselves to shape the abandoned material into a new collection, with Simon producing the final release.
“I originally envisioned [some of the songs] as an overture to a larger piece of work,” Dave says. “That didn’t happen and the rest were all just spasmodic periods of writing when I had to get the ideas down. It wasn’t really until Simon put it all together that I thought, ‘Well, maybe we should do it now; maybe it’s a good time for them.’”
The material, he explains further, was conceived during a fertile period for the Kinks, when the band was constantly busy recording and touring. With Ray acting as the group’s main songwriter, Dave simply spent less time composing. “It was a strange period in some ways, but a very great period in lots of ways,” he says about the ‘70s. “I was just starting to get into audio engineering, producing and arrangement.”
Today, Dave, 71, is making up for any lax periods of the past. He currently tours with a tight trio—bassist David Nolte and Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken—playing both his favorite Kinks tunes and a mix of solo material, including songs from Open Road, his 2017 collaboration with another son, Russ. “I love that album. It was so uplifting to work with Russ,” Dave says. “Russ is very astute when it comes to musical landscaping and the trust element is very powerful. It’s like those days with the Kinks when me and Ray had that kind of unspoken trust. That made it flow and made it work.”
Dave hopes to record more new music soon—“I’ve got a few songs that are worthy,” he says—and then, as he notes, “We’ll see what happens.” One thing is for sure: He won’t stop until he doesn’t have a choice. “Old people are resourceful,” he says, “and rock-and-roll keeps you young.”
This article originally appears in the January/February 2019 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.