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On August 4th 2014, it will be 50 years since The Kinks released You Really Got Me – the song that would come to define them and become one of the seminal rock anthems of the 20th century. The song, The Kinks’ third from their debut album, is two months older than Lancaster University.
Unlike our great institution of learning, The Kinks are not still going strong. Formed in 1963 by brothers Dave Davies and Ray Davies, The Kinks consistently struggled to achieve mainstream success, despite critically respected albums. With the exception of the aforementioned You Really Got Me which achieved widespread commercial sales both sides of the Atlantic (before achieving greater fame after Van Halen released a cover in 1978), The Kinks released a stream of mainly commercial failures, but the influence of Ray Davies’ songwriting has lived on forever, with Britpop bands such as Oasis and Blur citing him as an influence.
The Kinks released several successful singles within a couple of years of You Really Got Me, but never managed to achieve the level of stardom they could have, eventually splitting in 1996. More recently, the band’s songs have been used in cinematic soundtracks such as Hot Fuzz (Village Green Preservation Society) and The Boat That Rocked (Sunny Afternoon, All Day and All of the Night), bringing their music to a new audience. For a band who later became associated with tranquil numbers such as Waterloo Sunset and Lola, the band were famed in their heyday for their notorious on-stage antics, culminating in an on-stage fight between David Davies and drummer Mick Avory, when Avory thought he may have killed Davies by hitting him with a stand. The Kinks ended up being banned from performing in America for four years, which possibly prevented them from reaching greater audiences- audiences which lapped up their 60’s contemporaries such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who. Whilst the aforementioned bands burned bright and long, The Kinks fizzled out towards the end of the 1960s- despite achieving unanimous acclaim for their singles Sunny Afternoon and Waterloo Sunset. The lack of penetration in the American market contributed massively to the band’s decline, and it soon got to the stage that even songs that were popular in the UK did not make it big overseas. The ‘troubled rock and roll band’ is a cliche for a reason, and The Kinks did follow the trend: fights between members, line-up changes, and Ray Davies attempted suicide after an acrimonious split with his wife. And, whilst the band did return to success in the early 80’s, they never truly recovered. After several unsuccessful albums, the band split in 1996.
Ray Davies still does the rounds at festivals, but there has been talk of a full-blown Kinks reunion for several years. Despite bad relations between the Davies’ (think the Gallaghers and you’re just about there), both the ever-present members of the band have stated that they would be prepared to write some new material and go on the road. The mere fact that Davies was invited to perform Waterloo Sunset at the Olympic Games Closing Ceremony shows just how seminal the band are. With the recent success of The Rolling Stones’ reformation, who knows if The Kinks will be next? It would certainly be a huge coup for the music world. Thank you for the days – let’s hope there are more to come.