The Kinks, Lester Bangs, and Lawsuits

Lester Bangs, the notorious and oft plagiarized writer from Rolling Stone and Creem, once described the Kinks’ sound as a “churning vat of rage.”

That is a pretty decent description of a band that a few youngsters know of from their hit song, “You Really Got Me,” but the majority of people don’t really know who the Kinks were.  They were rock, when the roll was beginning to wane, and they were the heavy that created heavy metal.  They also were the sound that bridged the Beatles to Led Zeppelin to Lou Reed.

Many bands list the Kinks as a major influence, but none identify with them more than Oasis.  Both The Kinks and Oasis are anchored by brothers, and neither pair get along very well.  In recent article in Rolling Stone Magazine Ray Davies of The Kinks said it is up to his brother when the band finally reunites, but a month earlier his brother Dave said the same thing.  They had planned on getting together in May to discuss reuniting, but that event never happened.  

I’ve written for the Reader for seven years straight about music now, but I am realizing that the vast majority of people out there have very little understanding of the history of rock music.  As a music writer who has read thousands of articles from early rock weeklies like Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Creem, and many others, I greatly admire the originators of this forum and their individual styles.  

If you read rock writers’ Lester Bangs or Hunter S. Thompson’s articles you should realize that copying them poorly would be like trying to be an artist that does bad reproductions of Picassos or Van Goghs.  Too many people write about music and make a mockery of the original style, but the same can be also said of music today as well.  

Last week while explaining to a group of students at the Tweed Museum the details of an old Doors concert poster from The Matrix in San Francisco, I felt like what I was saying made me sound like I was from another planet.  What seems so obvious to me and like grade one of rock history, is above the basic knowledge of most young people today.  They may know The Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Jimi Hendrix, but very few people know who influenced who and what is the relevance of each band.  That is what got me to start thinking about the Kinks again.

One of the first songs I learned on the guitar was the Kinks’, “Lola.”  Recently I watched a video of the song on Youtube and it was really cool to see Ray Davies, the lead singer, playing a steel guitar back in 1971. If you have never heard the song I suggest checking it out immediately.  The kicker in the tune is that Lola is a man dressed as a woman and the singer is slowly coming to the realization of that fact as it progresses.  

The hit that most people know very well from The Kinks is “You Really Got Me,” but most people don’t know that the song was written by Davies way back in 1964.  In 1964 the top songs were The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” so “You Really Got Me” was a huge departure from bubble-gum Brit invasion music.  Many people list The Kinks as the originators of music from rock to heavy metal.  Van Halen redid “You Really Got Me” in the 1980s during one of the band’s many rebirth and reunion periods.  

Dave Davies, lead guitarist and backup vocals for the Kinks once commented about being ripped off so much saying, “Ray is very secretive about his ideas.  Why not, the times that the Kinks have been ripped off, especially in the early years, it makes you a little bit cautious about telling anybody what you're doing. And that's understandable.”

Even my favorite band of that era, The Doors, have been listed as a group that stole from the Kinks’ sound.  Many people argue that The Doors’ song “Hello, I Love You” was ripped off from The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night.”  If you listen very closely to the guitar riff in “Hello” you can hear why people make the connection.  

Even Robby Krieger, the guitarist of The Doors, admitted that Ray Davies’ sound was an influence.  The Doors wrote, “Hello, I Love You,” back in 1965, before Krieger was in the band, but when Krieger joined the band on guitar in 1966 he added a Kinks-like sound.  The Doors had to pay royalties to Ray Davies after he sued the band successfully for ripping off his guitar riff.  But ripping off riffs is basically the backbone of rock music; it couldn’t standup without it.

Take some time and check out The Kinks and download the three above songs as well as one more.  While at the Anchor Bar a week or two ago someone put on a Kinks’ tune on the jukebox that I was a bit unfamiliar with, but I can’t stop listening to it now.  That song is titled, “Sunny Afternoon” and was written by The Kinks’ Ray Davies.  It is about taxes, the man, and being lazy on a sunny day.  

“The tax man's taken all my dough, and left me in my stately home - Lazing on a sunny afternoon,” Davies sings.  “And I can't sail my yacht, he's taken everythin' I've got - all I've got's this sunny afternoon.  Save me, save me, save me from this squeeze - I've got a big fat momma tryin' to break me.  And I love to live so pleasantly, live this life of luxury - lazing on a sunny afternoon – In the summertime.  My girlfriend's gone off with my car and gone back to her ma and pa - telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty.  Now I'm sitting here sipping at my ice cold beer - Lazing on a sunny afternoon.”

The music mixes very well with the easy going lyrics.  

Listen to “You Really Got Me”& “Sunny Afternoon” and see what you think.  My concert poster show at the Tweed is only around for one month more so go to for updates. The Tweed is also closed between Christmas and New Years, so hurry before the exhibit ends. The posters in the Tweed show are some of the most valuable and collectable of all concert art. It is a rare opportunity to see the art that influenced a revolution that changed the music and how we view and album cover.