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Music / The Kinks

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The Kinks' classic line-up, from left to right: Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Mick Avory, and Pete Quaife.

"We are the Village Green Preservation Society."

The Kinks were an English rock band, one of the "Big Four" British Invasion bands of The '60s (along with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who) and also Long-Runners, having experienced a career's worth of highs and lows before finally throwing in the towel in 1996. While they have had many members, their most famous line-up consisted of vocalist-guitarist-songwriter-mastermind Ray Davies, his vocalist-guitarist kid brother Dave Davies, bassist Pete Quaife (left in 1969, died 2010), and the former (albeit briefly) drummer of The Rolling Stones, Mick Avory (who left in 1984).

The Kinks began their career as a bluesy, hard-edged mod-rock band, gaining success with their loud, memorable hits "You Really Got Me", "All Day and All of the Night" and "Tired of Waiting for You", which set them up as a band to contend with and provided endless inspiration to such future genres as Garage Rock and Power Pop. Their rowdy live shows got them banned from America until 1969, although arguably this served them well in the long run, encouraging Ray Davies to write songs that emphasised the band's quintessential Englishness and tended to a more nostalgic and pastoral feel than their States-struck contemporaries.

They changed gears in 1965, diversifying away from scrotum-grinding guitar anthems to experiment with other genres like folk, music hall, country and blues-rock, resulting in a more laid-back sound. It was also around this period that Ray developed his now-famous lyrical talent. This period saw the release of songs like "Dedicated Follower of Fashion", "Sunny Afternoon", and "Waterloo Sunset", culminating in the acclaimed late-'60s albums The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).

The band changed once again in The '70s, exploring more of an archly theatrical, campy sound. This only worsened their declining popularity; however, the resulting concept albums are starting to garner some reappraisals. They then restyled themselves as an Arena Rock band in 1976. Lucky enough to be synchronised with the Punk Rock explosion and some successful covers of their songs by punk and New Wave bands, The Kinks rode their second wave of popularity until the early '80s, culminating when their single "Come Dancing" became a worldwide smash in early 1983. They then went back to being a cult band before calling it quits in 1996. However, in 2018, Ray Davies announced plans for a new Kinks album with Dave Davies and Mick Avory.

Admired for their melodic mastery of pop, their enormous variety of styles, the insight and wit of their lyrics, and their huge influence on almost all subsequent bands (The Jam, XTC and Blur are amongst their most fervent supporters) that cultivated any sort of distinctly British outsider/underdog image.

You can now vote for your favourite Kinks album here.

Principal lineup (founding members in bold):

  • Mick Avory - drums, percussion, tambourine (1964–84, 2018–present)
  • Dave Davies - lead guitar, backing and lead vocals, occasional keyboards (1964–96, 2018–present)
  • Ray Davies - lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, harmonica (1964–96, 2018–present)
  • Pete Quaife - bass, vocals (1964–69; died 2010)
  • John Dalton - bass, backing vocals (1969–1976, 1977–78, 2019–present)
  • Gordon Edwards - keyboard, piano, vocals (1978, died 2002)
  • Ian Gibbons - keyboard, piano, vocals (1979–89, 1993–96; died 2019)
  • John Gosling - keyboard, piano, organ, vocals, accordion, synthesizer (1970–78)
  • Mark Haley - keyboard, piano, vocals (1989–93)
  • Bob Henrit - drums, percussion (1984–96)
  • Andy Pyle - bass, vocals (1976–78)
  • Jim Rodford - bass, vocals (1978–96; died 2018)

UK studio discography:

  • 1964 - Kinks
  • 1964 - Kinksize Session (EP)
  • 1965 - Kinksize Hits (EP)
  • 1965 - Kinda Kinks
  • 1965 - Kwyet Kinks (EP)
  • 1965 - The Kink Kontroversy
  • 1966 - Dedicated Kinks (EP)
  • 1966 - Face to Face
  • 1967 - Something Else by the Kinks
  • 1968 - The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
  • 1969 - Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
  • 1970 - Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
  • 1971 - Percy
  • 1971 - Muswell Hillbillies
  • 1972 - Everybody's in Show-Biznote 
  • 1973 - Preservation Act 1
  • 1974 - Preservation Act 2
  • 1975 - Soap Opera
  • 1975 - Schoolboys in Disgrace
  • 1977 - Sleepwalker
  • 1978 - Misfits
  • 1979 - Low Budget
  • 1981 - Give the People What They Want
  • 1983 - State of Confusion
  • 1984 - Word of Mouth
  • 1986 - Think Visual
  • 1989 - UK Jive
  • 1991 - Did Ya
  • 1993 - Phobia

Live Discography:

  • 1965 - Kinks in Germany
  • 1967 - The Live Kinks note 
  • 1968 - Live at Kelvin Hall note 
  • 1972 - Everybody's in Show-Biz note 
  • 1980 - One for the Road
  • 1984 - Live: The Road
  • 1994 - To the Bone

"The Kinks are the Village Trope Preservation Society":

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Seen in "Artificial Man" on Preservation Act 2. Is Flash a greedy womanizer willing to ruin countless lives for the sake of profit? Undoubtedly. Did he deserve to be imprisoned, tortured, brainwashed, and converted into an automaton? Probably not.
  • Album Title Drop:
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Parodied in some of their songs; the most over-the-top is "He's Evil" from Preservation Act 2.
  • Alliterative Title: Kinda Kinks, Kwyet Kinks, The Kink Kontroversy, The Kink Kronikles...
  • Ambiguously Gay: The title character in "David Watts" can be seen as this. Although the description of him as "so gay and fancy-free" initially sounds like it's an example of Have a Gay Old Time, it's later mentioned that "all of the girls in the neighbourhood" want to go out with him and try to do so, but he's not interested. Since his disinterest is stated to be due to him being "of pure and noble creed", it could be that he's asexual or waiting for Miss Right (as opposed to just going with Miss Right Now), but given that the song was actually inspired by a man who flirted with Dave Davies, his sexual orientation is pretty much open to interpretation.
  • America Saves the Day: Parodied and played straight in "Catch Me Now I'm Falling" in the album Low Budget (it has the theme of the weak economy of the '70s). America's economy is down and Captain America asks the world to catch them now that it's falling, by reminding them of all the times America has supported them.
  • Anti-Christmas Song: "Father Christmas" is about a gang of bitter poor children who mug a guy playing Santa, demanding not toys but money ("Give all the toys to the little rich boys").
  • Anti-Love Song: "When I Turn Off the Living Room Light" - because you're too ugly to get it on with otherwise.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Seen in both acts of Preservation. Act 1 climaxes with Flash buying up and bulldozing town after town. However, Act 2 ends with Mr. Black violently overthrowing the government, instituting a Puritanical regime and preparing to turn everyone into mindless automatons.
  • Band of Relatives: Type 1. Ray and Dave Davies are one of the more vitriolic examples (see Sibling Rivalry below).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Arthur. OH GOD, ARTHUR.
  • Book Dumb/Dumb Is Good: "Mountain woman couldn't read or write but she knew good from evil, she knew wrong from right".
  • Born in the Wrong Century: "20th Century Man" is just the most obvious example.
  • Brits Love Tea: Whole songs are written on the subject, particularly "Afternoon Tea" and "Have A Cuppa Tea".
  • Childhood Memory Demolition Team: "Come Dancing" laments the replacement of adolescence's dance hall with a bowling alley, then a parking lot. The nearby supermarket also becomes a parking lot.
  • Chivalrous Pervert:
    • The narrator in "Art Lover" from Give the People What They Want:
      "I'm not a flasher in a raincoat/I'm not a dirty old man/I'm not gonna snatch you from your mother/I'm an art lover".
    • Ray Davies' persona, in general, seems to land somewhere between this and Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Closet Key: "Lola" is about a naive young virgin man who meets a sexy woman in a bar, discovers that she isn't a woman, and realises he doesn't mind.
  • Concept Album: Many of their best albums — The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, Muswell Hillbillies. Each album had a specific theme pertaining to Nostalgia Filter, the end of the Good Old Ways, the rise of Stepford Suburbia and the soul-crushing Conspicuous Consumption surrounding contemporary life, of which the music industry is a part of. Paradoxically, this made The Kinks an influence on the Punk era (Johnny Rotten called them his favourite band) because they were among the few to sing about what was really happening between The '60s and The '70s under the surface of the Hippie Era. They later became interested in Rock Opera with Everybody's in Show-Biz, Preservation (Act One and Two), A Soap Opera and Schoolboys in Disgrace, which were seen as less successful.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • "Destroyer" begins with the narrator mentioning a girl named "Lola", and it's set to the riff from "All Day and All of the Night".
    • Ray quotes the lyrics and melody of the chorus to "Loony Balloon" from UK Jive on the Phobia cut, "Drift Away".
  • Cult Soundtrack: Percy.
  • The Dandy: "Dedicated Follower of Fashion". "Dandy", despite its title, is not about one of these, but rather The Casanova.
  • Distinct Double Album: Everybody's in Show-Biz has one LP studio, one live.
  • Double Entendre:
  • Downer Ending: The Preservation cycle ultimately sees Mr. Black's army rising to power, introducing an authoritarian state under a faux-revolutionary veneer that ensures things will be even worse than before.
  • Epic Rocking: Pops up throughout their career, but might be most evident in "Shangri-La".
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Ray and Pete met at William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School (later merged with Tollington Grammar School to become Fortismere School) in Muswell Hill.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Ray is the Cynic; Dave is the Optimist; Pete was the Realist; Mick is the Apathetic.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Ray Davies (Choleric) - controlling, sarcastic, temperamental and cynical
    • Dave Davies (Melancholic) - argumentative, sensitive, rebellious and stubborn
    • Pete Quaife (Sanguine) - sociable, mischievous, outgoing and diplomatic
    • Mick Avory (Phlegmatic) - abrasive, sociable, easy-going and volatile
  • Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't: The band could sometimes seem like a real-world demonstration of the trope. Ray and Dave could be great artists, but their relationship sometimes got more than a little stormy.
  • Going Native: Ray fantasizes about doing this in "Apeman".
  • Good Old Ways: Part of the reason they fell out of fashion in the forward-looking, revolutionary-reactionary '60s was because of their fondness for this.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: A few examples.
    • The line from "A Well-Respected Man" that goes "And he likes his fags the best". The word "fag" refers to cigarettes, not the discriminatory term for homosexual people; this is more a case of Separated by a Common Language, as the term is still in use, and the use of "fag" as a slur is distinctly American.
    • David Watts' being "so gay and fancy-free" sounds like this at first, but is a subversion: It was inspired by a man who flirted with Dave Davies, so the use of "gay" is actually an intentional Double Entendre.
    • And their paean to cigarette smoking is called Harry Rag. Which is cockney rhyming slang for...
  • Heavy Meta: Lola Versus Powerman... is about the music industry as a whole. Furthermore, there's "Session Man" (which is about session musicians, and how no one treats them like "real" musicians) and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" (which is more aimed at the Mod scene as a whole rather than just the music). For an extra slice of meta, consider the fact that quintessential "session man" Nicky Hopkins plays piano on "Session Man", which was song reportedly inspired by him.
  • Hollywood Hollywood: "Celluloid Heroes" and "Oklahoma USA" are wistful songs about the glamour of Hollywood and the idealised world its stars present to ordinary folks' imagination.
  • I Just Want to Be You: The narrator in "David Watts".
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down: "Australia" is notorious for this. The first half of the song is good; if only the whole thing weren't so long...
  • Location Song: "Big Black Smoke", named after a nickname for London.
  • Loners Are Freaks: The Kinks (and many of their fans) would self-identify as misfits, or at least as "not like everybody else".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: They do this quite a bit, but the prime example may be "Victoria", a cheerful, uptempo song (featuring an Unreliable Narrator) about how dysfunctional Britain was in the 19th Century (British Stuffiness, sexual repression, class inequalities, militarism, imperialism).
  • The Movie Buff: Ray Davies actually went to film school and planned to make movies (so far he's made documentaries, including one on Thelonious Monk and another on the making of a tribute album to Charles Mingus). Many of his songs feature movie references, most notably "Celluloid Heroes" and "Oklahoma USA" among others.
  • Muggles: Ordinary people and working-class situations feature in a lot of songs, and are probably the only aspect of British life to have escaped Ray's barbed wit.
  • One-Man Song: "David Watts", "Arthur", "Plastic Man"
  • One-Woman Song: A number, including "Wicked Annabella", "Monica", (both from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society), "Lola" (from Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One), "Sweet Lady Genevieve" (from Preservation Act 1) and "Bernadette" (from Give the People What They Want).
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Dave Davies next to his older brother (and arguably the band as a whole next to their peers).
  • Punk Rock: The primary influence along with The Who. Best seen in their up-tempo version of "All Day and All of the Night", which pretty much was fully formed punk.
  • Performance Anxiety: "All of My Friends Were There".
  • Precision F-Strike: From many a live performance of "Lola", including the version presented on their landmark video album One for the Road: "Lo-fucking-la!".
  • Protest Song:
    • "Apeman". The entire album that song is from (Lola vs. Powerman) is pretty much one big Take That! to the music industry (specifically the Corrupt Corporate Executive Meddlers).
    • Another "protest album" with Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Each song mocks British (or Western) nationalism, materialism, and shallow culture.
  • Rock Opera: From the much-praised (Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)) to the much-maligned (Preservation; Soap Opera; Schoolboys in Disgrace), although if you can get into the camp humour of the latter two, they become much more tolerable.
  • Satire/Parody/Pastiche: "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" is Satire; "Top of the Pops" is Parody; "Sunny Afternoon" is Pastiche. A large number of their songs are generally poignant reflections on popular culture, including comic books and movies, and how they take on life in the minds of the people who read and see them.
  • Self-Deprecation: A book written about the beginnings of the Kinks X-Ray featured scenes with a researcher interviewing an elderly Ray Davies, portrayed as an unpleasant, senile, bigoted, homophobic Dirty Old Man. The author of this book was Ray Davies himself.
  • Self-Plagiarism: The band followed their first big hit "You Really Got Me" with "All Day and All of the Night", which has the same beat, riff and subject matter.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their debut album was simply titled Kinks.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Especially in the early days, and especially for (then teen-aged) Dave Davies.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Ray and Dave Davies.
    Dave Davies: Ray is a vain, egocentric, narcissistic arsehole, [but] I won't have anybody call him that except me. Because I love him to death. He is my brother.
  • Smoking Is Cool: "Harry Rag".
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: That "OH NO!" scream right before the guitar solo in "You Really Got Me" was overdubbed by Ray to try and drown out Dave telling him to fuck off and let him play his guitar solo in peace.
    Ray Davies: And it's even clearer on CD, it's really embarrassing.
  • Stepford Suburbia: "Shangri-La".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Dave sang almost every song he wrote as well as a few of the early covers and several of Ray's songs ("Wicked Annabella", "Sleepless Night", "Bernadette"); bassist John Dalton has the only lead vocal not by one of the Davies brothers, doing an Elvis impersonation on the Ray-written track "Willesden Green" from Percy (it's also on The Kink Kronikles).
  • There's No Place Like Home: "Willesden Green" is a nod to many country songs being about the subject of homesickness.
  • Thicker Than Water: As the Sibling Rivalry entry above states, Ray and Dave may have a lot of tension with each other, but they're still brothers.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: The early days, very much so.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Victoria", "Drivin'", "Shangri-La".
  • Trope Makers: Indian-sounding instruments and melodies were used on both "See My Friends" and "Fancy" a few months before "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles was released.
  • Ur-Example: The recent Heavy Metal Britannia documentary cited "You Really Got Me" as the starting point for the guitar-driven, riff-based rock that eventually evolved into hard rock and early metal.
  • Villain Protagonist - "Sunny Afternoon" is told from the prescriptive of a Rich Bastard who complains about "the tax man [taking] all [he's] got" (yet he still lives in a "stately home"), being unable to use his yacht and is an Alcoholic that is "cruel" to his girlfriend.
  • Wait for Your Date: In "Come Dancing" by, where he describes his sister's social calendar.
    Another Saturday, another date
    She would be ready but she'd always make him wait...
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: "Lola", but even more substantially the cross-dressing husband (and eventually wife too) of "Out of the Wardrobe".
  • Wish-Fulfillment: "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" tackles this. The economy is so bad that "If I were Superman/I'd fly away".
  • The Woobie: "Celluloid Heroes" depicts Marilyn Monroe as this:
    But please don't tread on dearest Marilyn
    'Cos she's not very tough,
    She should have been made of iron or steel,
    But she was only made of flesh and blood.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Some versions of "Lola" change the line "you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola" to "cherry cola". This was to allow the song to be played on BBC radio, which at the time had a draconian policy against Product Placement that banned even fleeting or derogatory references to brand names in songs.