66 from '66 – The Kinks

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Having dipped their toes into more observational songwriting with 1965’s Where Have All The Good Times Gone, 1966 found The Kinks taking a full plunge into the style that would carry them through the next five years and yield some of the greatest storytelling ever in pop and rock. Here, Dave Davies looks back on the year that changed everything…

With his lyrics Ray Davies created satirical vignettes that put a mirror up to the era and to London life with songs such as the single Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, a Vaudevillian battle cry inspired by a fight with a fashion designer at a party and a dig at the Carnaby Street culture that the band had once helped promote.

The Kinks perfected this approach with their fourth album, Face To Face, whose defining track, Sunny Afternoon, was written under the influence of Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Dylan and Bach. A cutting take on fat cats and tax men, it showed popular rock songs could fix a gimlet eye upon society and politics as well as sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Suddenly, a whole new avenue had opened up.

How was 1966 for you?

Wonderful. We couldn’t do a thing wrong. Nothing was too weird and it was a very spontaneous time.

What influenced you in sixty-six?

Fashion, art and this incredible explosion of movies; people like Tom Courtney and Albert Finney gave us a new set of heroes on screen.

Everyone seemed to influence each other.

In a way. But we never talked about music. We kept our ideas very close to our chest.

A bit of rivalry, then.

There certainly was, yeah. But I think The Beatles secretly loved The Kinks.

Even when Sunny Afternoon knocked Paperback Writer off the Number One spot?

Ha! It was healthy competition. It made our songwriting more prolific, and we were very into being part of the southern scene alongside the Stones, Yardbirds and Downliners Sect.

You were the poster boy for the era.

I think everyone copied The Kinks. We were always into fashion. I used to love the Charles II outfits – braided frock coats, frilly shirts, boots. I always thought my girlfriends dressed better than the guys did so I used to copy their style.

In the promo film for Sunny Afternoon you’re playing a Flying V. This sparked a trend.

That wasn’t premeditated – I went to America and the airline lost my guitar. So I went to a pawn shop, and they had a Flying V there for two hundred bucks. It was a happy accident.

Which other bands fluffed your ruffles in 1966?

I really liked The Move. The Hollies were very important, too. They were really supportive. They helped us a lot with vocal harmonies. When we went in the studio we used to stand around a mic and sing, we didn’t know what we were doing.

And which was the best album of that year?

I was a big fan of The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension and both Lovin’ Spoonful albums. They were very key to me and the way I’d look at my own songwriting.