Standing next to Dave Davies, Rodney Dangerfield would probably feel like the most respected man in show business.
As a founding member and guitarist of the Kinks, Davies has played an integral part on some of the finest — and most exciting — recordings of the rock era. His heavily distorted, blitzkrieg solo on 1964’s “You Really Got Me” was the clarion call of the hard rock era, but early cynics erroneously attributed the performance to then-session musician Jimmy Page. Later on in the Kinks career, Davies would pen such outstanding cuts as “Death of a Clown,” “Suzannah’s Still Alive” and “Living on a Thin Line,” but his songwriting achievements always took a back seat to his older brother Ray’s.
Fair enough, perhaps, but if Ray is to be acknowledged as the proper brains behind the group, Dave was the spirit. But with a well-received club tour underway, the recent release of his frequently hilarious tell-all autobiography, Kink, and the unveiling of a new two-disc set called Unfinished Business, Dave the Rave may at long last be getting his due. So, let’s all drink to the resurrection of the Clown.
A tour, a book, and a fat retrospective of your solo and Kinks career — is all this something you’ve been striving for your whole life?
Well, [it’s] not something I’ve been building toward all my life, but it’s something that’s been important for me. It’s taken like four years to actually get the project together and released and in stores. I hope that it gives a good general overview of my contributions and a reminder of my solo material, which is still an ongoing thing. I’m negotiating now to get a record deal so I can record a new solo rock & roll record. So [Unfinished Business] is kind of like a little stepping stone to the future, as well as a tidying up of the past.
When you started releasing your solo albums in the Eighties, did that stir up trouble in the band — namely, with Ray?
No, not at all. The Kinks were really hot commercially at that time. We were doing big tours of America. It just felt like the right time. I was enjoying playing and I could stretch out a bit on stage during Kinks shows, a bit more than I had been doing, and I’d been dying to get an album together, but I wasn’t ever really a hundred percent happy with the material I was writing until then. I had a stab at doing a solo album in the mid-Seventies. I’ve still got some recordings from that time. But it wasn’t ’til, like, 1978, ’79 that I really felt inspired to do it. I’ve always been a bit of a lazy writer in a way.
Was there ever a period when you thought of leaving the Kinks?
Yeah. The beginning of Soap Opera [released in ’75] I didn’t like. Just before recording it we did a TV show called Starmaker on Granada Television in England. Ray was obviously the main character in it, but the TV producers stuck the rest of us in the band in a corner. And I thought, “This has got to be it.” But it didn’t work out like that, I’m glad to say, ’cause we went on to do some of our best work I think as a band after that. It was nice to get back to the guitar-oriented rock thing with Sleepwalker.
Have you had a chance to see Ray’s “Storyteller” show?
No. I’ve seen some of his stuff on video, and I think it’s really good. The storyteller thing is a really good concept, but it’s nice because it’s given me a chance to get up and do a rock show.
It’s also like when Kink came out. Obviously, I didn’t know Ray was writing his own book. He keeps things very close to his chest sometimes. And the day that I signed the book deal and had the first draft manuscript, I got out of the tube train and I see a sign for X Ray on the wall, and I thought, “I can’t believe that!” But I was really relieved that the books were so totally different, just like our shows are very different. It’s just that our personalities are very different, like our voices, and I’m glad they are. Differences complement each other.
So what’s the deal with this almost legendary rivalry between you and Ray? Is it jealousy?
I don’t think there’s jealousy between us as much as fighting over attention, or the necessity to express yourself. That’s where you bump heads. I think what in a way was a shame about our relationship was a case of too many ideas rather than not enough. And some of them have to fall by the wayside.
Did you all ever play up the rivalry for laughs?
Occasionally. Not staged, but occasionally we’d both get into it and have a bit of fun with the audience, double bluff them. But a lot of it was genuine problems. You know, earlier on, maybe still now, I’ve got a bit of a volatile temper sometimes, and Ray knew what buttons to push.
So what buttons of his could you push to get back at him?
That’s a good question. I never really thought about it. Maybe you could suggest something in case we do a tour. I’m open to suggestions! (Laughs)
What’s your relationship with Ray like now?
Well, I haven’t seen him much in the last few months. But he seems, well, he seems happy, doing his own stuff and writing a lot. And, you know, I’m having a great time doing tours and writing a lot as well. I’m enjoying my life at the moment.
Does that mean nothing’s on the horizon for the Kinks?
I personally would like to make another album with Ray. But I don’t know if it’s a reality or not. I wouldn’t like to say, but I’d like it. I don’t see why not. You know he might not want to, but I think it’s quite a nice idea. Finish off more unfinished business.