On occasion, I will go on a deep-dive listening spree dedicated to the entire recorded work of a band or artist. I do so on CDs in chronological order. As a proud card-carrying music geek, this is an enjoyable effort that most often leaves me with many fruitful rewards. In addition to enhancing my understanding of said artist, I never fail to discover a few song gems that I have overlooked.
Fueled by the latest great new Ray Davies record, Americana, and seeing his younger brother Dave in concert at the City Winery, the band these two brothers formed in their youth, The Kinks, became the subject of my latest catalog excursion.
The real genesis of this project however, happened about three years ago while I was in London. Visiting HMV’s Fopp in Covent Garden, the only worthwhile remaining record shop for non-used product, I could not resist picking up several of The Kinks expanded reissue CD sets that were released by Sanctuary Records a few years back.
After those CDs sat on my shelf for a spell, I eventually began my journey. The project took several weeks, and my listening breaks were filled with time spent on-line searching for the missing disks in my collection I would need to keep my mission uninterrupted. Using Amazon, E-Bay and Discogs, I managed to get what I needed although a few things were hard to find and pricey. The discography at Wikipedia was quite helpful and enabled me to focus on my completest bent by making sure I didn’t miss any bonus tracks on reissues.
The exhaustively-thorough Sanctuary UK deluxe multi-disk reissues start at the beginning in 1964 and go through 1971’s Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround which also includes the Percy soundtrack as a bonus. (Did you know that Robyn Hitchcock’s father Raymond directed the film?) Don’t overlook that the 1967 Live at Kelvin Hall record was also reissued to include both mono and stereo versions.
RCA continued the deluxe treatment for the next two LPs: Muswell Hillbillies and Everybody’s in Show Biz. For the former, the US version includes a bonus DVD, but lacks five audio cuts on the UK version.
Going through these packages, you not only will discover some new gems and revisit some forgotten faves, but you will get to relive some of the Kinks Klassics several times, often hearing mono and stereo mixes along with live BBC sessions and alternate takes.
Shifting into the band’s next career phase, I switched to the Koch Records SACD versions from Preservation Act 1 through Word of Mouth which while only single disks, include bonus tracks. These colorful Koch digipaks also look cool side-by-side on the shelf.
The final phase of the Kinks’ Kareer jumped around a few record labels and some titles are currently tricky to find on CD. The final release, the sublime live To the Bone, was a bit of a nuisance in that there is a hard-to-find single version that includes two cuts not on the original double-disk release.
The final piece to my ears and eyes was the pricy, but well worth it, The Kinks at the BBC collection. While there were many repeats from the deluxe Sanctuary editions, there was plenty of new material and a video DVD that made this an essential part of my journey. It also served as a refreshing recap to revisit some the early songs one last time.
An interesting aside to the BBC set is how sometime tracks thought to be lost often turn up. Here a few early live session tracks exist courtesy of a fan who crudely recorded them by placing a microphone and tape recorder in front of his radio. These archivally-essential tracks have the added charm of his barking dog to go along with their low fidelity.
So, what did I discover on my musical journey other than my pre-assumed notions that The Kinks are as important to the British Invasion’s impact on rock music as were the Beatles, Stones and Who and that “Waterloo Sunset” is one of the most beautiful songs every written and recorded? Well, there are three tracks whose greatness I nearly missed and kept making me hit the repeat button: “This Strange Effect,” a 1965 Ray Davies song given to Dave Berry (thankfully there’s a live BBC version by The Kinks), “God’s Children: from the 1971 Percy soundtrack, and “On the Outside,” an outtake from 1977’s Sleepwalker LP. Go listen to all three right now is all I can add.
After all was heard and the CDs were filed away, I went to the printed work reading God Save The Kinks: A Biography by Rob Jovanovic, which I followed with the separate bios of the Davies brothers: Dave’s Kink and Ray’s X-Ray. I highly recommend all three which helped embellish the music I had just journeyed through. These books were also pivotal to the next, most recent final step in my Kinks Kulturization: some sightseeing on my annual trip to London.
After doing some internet research of Kinks London landmarks, I narrowed my adventure down to the three most inviting: Konk Studios, the Davies’ boyhood home and The Clissold Arms pub, site of their first-ever performance and current home to a mini Kinks museum. The proximity of these three also helped determine my itinerary.
So, one recent Friday, my buddy and I began our travels from downtown London with a ride on the Underground to the Finsbury Park station. From there we boarded the National Rail train for the short ride to Hornsey. First stop was the local coffee shop where the local proprietor not only had great coffee and snacks, but also pointed us in the right direction for Konk. He also told us that the recording musicians usually stop at his shop, but the only Davies to visit has been Dave who loved to talk about his favorite team, the Arsenal FC.
For the unfamiliar, The Kinks started recording full-time at Konk in 1973 and did so for the balance of their career. It is still a working studio (Arctic Monkeys, Adele, Florence & the Machine) and was also a home for Ray’s solo music and production work such as the 1974 Claire Hamill LP, Stage Door Johnnies. It was also where the band recorded the live To the Bone record in front of a small invited audience.
Konk Studios was just a short walk away from the tube station, and its small but distinctive sign made its presence easily known. The building was noticeably quiet at this late morning hour with no evidence of any activity. Looking rather plain and bland from its rear view, a walk around the corner to the front revealed a rather charming and distinctive old structure. A quick stroll about the neighborhood unfortunately did not bear anyone who might have been witness to any Kink activities.
Ready to move on, while a bus might have worked, we chose instead to Uber up through Muswell Hill to Fortis Green with The Clissold Arms pub as our destination. It was about a 15-minute journey that was way too far to walk. We arrived and immediately set our sights on 6 Denmark Terrace, the still-standing Davies’ family home that sits directly across the street from the pub.
Remarkably looking like it may have in 1964, there it was, right in front of our eyes, the window to the famous “front room” where young Ray and Dave learned to play music. It was also the place where Dave rammed a large knitting needle into the “little green amp” that created one of rock music’s most famous and influential sounds, the fuzzy guitar on “You Really Got Me.” We oohed and awed as much as we could even as one of the current residents made her way inside. From there we then stepped across the street to the noted pub.
The Clissold is today a rather large functional pub and restaurant with a big outdoor area and indoor dining room. Proudly, a historical marker on the front door identifies its place in rock history. After inquiring about the Kinks room, we were kindly pointed in the right direction and apologetically told that some things had been moved for a funeral later that afternoon. (We wondered if someone would be singing “Days?”)
After first pulling out the large guest book for us to sign, we then were left alone to view the splendid collection of Kinks photos and memorabilia. It was amazing to think that some 50-plus years ago, young Ray and Dave played in front of people for the first time ever in the room where we stood. Looking out from the window, there directly across the street was the front room of 6 Denmark Terrace where it all started.
We left thanking the nice pub staff who have so honored The Kinks by creating this shrine. From there we walked down to the center of Muswell Hill where we enjoyed some fish and chips before boarding a double-decker bus back to the Finsbury Park station.
Our day was complete and my journey with the Kinks had reached its Klimax. As I will love this band until the day I die, I can only hope for the chance to see Ray and Dave play live together once more. And as they say: “God save the Kinks!”