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 Return of the Kink

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Ray Davies thought the five-year struggle to create his deeply
personal solo debut was intense, then he got shot.

by Chris Willman in Entertainment Weekly

Ray Davies
any of the songs on Ray Davies' new solo album deal with how it feels to be shot through the heart. But you'd be forgiven for assuming they're really about getting shot in the leg.

The last time the legendary Kinks frontman was in the news, it was for his own New Orleans disaster. In the first week of 2004, Davies was walking with his girlfriend near the French Quarter when a pair of thieves absconded with her purse. He chased after them and took a bullet for his trouble. News media initially reported that it was just a flesh wound. But the injury was more serious than Davies publicly let on, and the singer spent several weeks inside what he describes as "the poorest hospital in the world, with all these things coming out of me."

Ray Davies - Other People's Lives
Released on Feb. 21 via the indie label V2 Ada, Ray Davies' first full solo album Other People's Lives features 13 tracks that showcase the legendary Kinks frontman's trademark wistfulness and introspection.
Getting shot seems like great fodder for an album, and sure enough, Davies' new CD, Other People's Lives (released on Feb. 21), is rife with dozens of references to some undefined but seemingly catastrophic personal setback -- lines like "After the fall is over, you'll be on your own." But don't read too much into it, warns Davies. "People who know a bit about my recent history think, 'Oh, his written that because he's getting off his crutches,'" he says, sitting in a New York hotel suite. "But all the songs were written and recorded before my accident." He pauses, realizing that "accident" is just a bit too euphemistic for what he endured. "Where I was attacked. That's what's eerie about it. What worries me is that the songs happened, then life happened. The sequence was out of order."

In fact, nothing about the creation of Other People's Lives has been linear. The album has suffered years of false starts and delays while Davies agonized over its creation. In 1999, six years after the last Kinks disc (the lackluster Phobia, which may not be their swan song; a band reunion is perpetually threatened), Davies signed on with Capitol, and he started recording demos. But he quickly confounded the label by refusing to let execs actually listen to the material. Capitol brass finally heard new tunes at a series of small New York shows in 2000, but it was clear that Davies was still extremely apprehensive about sharing his songs with the label. Ultimately, Capitol got tired of waiting, and in 2002 Davies left without giving them a single track. "[He has] an intense mistrust of the system," says former Capitol A&R exec Dave Ayers, who spent years trying to coax Davies into the studio. "There's a line in his book [the 1994 autobiography X-Ray] that says, 'When in doubt, trust your paranoia,' which says a lot."

avies, 61, has always been one of rock's most difficult and inscrutable personalities -- or one of its most charming bon vivants, depending on which day you catch him. What's indisputable is his genius, and influence, in leading one of the greatest bands of the '60s. The Kinks practically created both heavy metal thunder and "twee" rock; it's hard to imagine either Van Halen or Belle & Sebastian existing without them. Any guitarist who fires up a distorted riff is paying indirect homage to the Kinks' 1964 hit "You Really Got Me," on which Ray's brother, Kinks guitarist Dave Davies, virtually invented the power chord (Dave is currently recovering from a stroke he suffered in 2004). Just four years later, they radically changed course with The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, an arty, nostalgic, and almost defiantly acoustic masterpiece that lands on practically any serious rockaholic's list of the most important LP's ever; other late-'60s albums like Something Else and Arthur produced a cache of classic tracks (see sidebar).

10 Kinks Klassics

After some deep internal struggle, we've narrowed down the Kinks' massive catalog to 10 unimpeachable songs written by Ray Davies, the man Pete Townshend claims should be the poet laureate of England. - Michael Endleman

1. "WATERLOO SUNSET" (1967) A gorgeous tone poem of loneliness, sung in a creaky voice that magnifies the poignancy.

2. "DAYS" (1968) Written as a letter to a long-gone lover, this sweeping track is a heart-breaking elegy. Play after breakup. Sob. Repeat.

3. "BIG SKY" (1968) The awe-inspiring,

serpentine guitar riff neatly matches the existential bent of the lyrics.

4. "VICTORIA" (1969) Is he praising Her Royal Highness or mocking her? The irresistibly cheery melody delivers this wry political satire in a sweet package.

5. "SUNNY AFTERNOON" (1966) One of his breeziest and jauntiest songs, this vignette skewers the life of privileged twits.

6. "THIS IS WHERE I BELONG" (1967) Davies makes it clear that he's nothing if not a devoted boyfriend on this clamorous anthem of stubbornness.


previously brash boys softened up on this British Invasion-era hit, two and a half minutes of sad-sack rumination and melancholy harmonies.

8. "LOLA" (1970) Like many classic-rock cuts, this ode to a transvestite has been overplayed to death, but once that chorus comes swelling up, it's impossible not to sing along.

9. "CELLULOID HEROES" (1972) This epic number is Davies' version of a power ballad, laying out a Sunset Boulevard-style story of faded Hollywood glamour.

10. "YOU REALLY GOT ME" (1964) The blaring riff that kicks off this timeless barnstormer is ground zero for both punk and metal.

But for Davies, there is always something to prove, some hurdle to get over, particularly in America. Conquering the States has been an obsession since 1965, when a musicians-union ban -- prompted by exaggerated transatlantic reports of concert riots and bad band behavior -- kept the Kinks from playing in the U.S. for a crucial three and a half years. "I actually felt that if we couldn't come here to the States, our career would be terminated," says Davies. "I had a lot of emotional upset, because I felt this was the country that had inspired me to pick up the guitar" -- at art school in London in the early '60s, he'd listened to mostly blues, Dixieland, and Hank Williams -- "and then I couldn't get here, particularly at a really hot time in our career. The climb back was very hard. We came back here at the end of '69, and it took us a decade to really break it."

That came when albums like 1979's Low Budget and singles like the 1983 hit "Come Dancing" helped make the Kinks full-scale arena rockers, in an unlikely midlife comeback. But big-time success would take a heavy personal toll. "My brother's marriage broke up, personal life changed," says Davies, alluding to his own rock-star excesses in the early '80s. "Maybe things would have been different if we hadn't become really obsessed with getting America back. When we finally made it, playing the arenas, there was that feeling: Was it worth it?"

He pauses, then smiles, "Of course it was."

avies has faced that personal-life-versus-career question again in recent times. After leaving Capitol in 2002, he continued to work on his new songs, and he finally started to record tracks in his own time, on his own dime (indie label V2 released the finished album). It was a slow process. Davies doesn't have a great explanation for the album's difficult gestation, except to admit, "There's got to be a David O. Selznick somewhere that says 'stop,' and unfortunately, it has to be me." But part of the problem might have been the intensely personal nature of many of his new tunes. It's ironic that the disc is called Other People's Lives, for as often as he's filled albums with character sketches, this is the one that appears to be mostly candidly about Ray Davies' life. Some of the material is rooted in the emotional aftermath of Davies' late-'90s divorce (from his third wife, Pat Crosby, a former dancer in the Kinks' touring entourage) -- ranging from the comical, self-effacing "All She Wrote" to the poignantly devastating denial anthem "Over My Head."

The Kinks in 1968"Since I started this record, my personal life went through chaotic times," he says. "The only enduring thing that's come through is that I've got a beautiful 9-year-old daughter who's grown up while I've been making it. I started writing 'After the Fall' after my marriage broke up and I was in Ireland visiting my daughter; it was about retribution and guilt and life changes and how you've got to be responsible for your own actions."

Eventually, Davies did manage to make progress on the record. As the new year of 2004 rang in, he had wrapped up recording and returned to his favorite American spot, New Orleans, to do the final mixes. He was feeling unusually content -- and unusually blasé about his career. "I had decided that all this s--- about making comebacks -- from when we were banned from America, then coming here and making it, on up to trying to make a solo record -- I was ready to abandon it. I had just gone back to New Orleans and was thinking, 'Yeah, I'm gonna change, I'm gonna be a better person. Work's not important. I'll mix this record, but I won't care if it's ever put out.' I was giving up being this work-obsessed person to go relax and take it easy. And I get shot."

hich brings us back to the evening of Jan. 4, 2004, the night Davies took that bullet. "My guard was down, because I was so relaxed and optimistic," says Davies. "Maybe the reason I chased the guy was because I thought, 'F--- it. I had my plans made, and you f---ed it up! Don't do that to me! It's the wrong time.'" Rather than making him more inclined to stop and smell the roses, though, the shooting had the opposite effect. "It put me back on the trajectory of being focused. It's just put me back into fighting mode." Like it or not, he figures, "I'm just a driven chap."

But what about choosing your battles -- as in not chasing gunmen, or elusive ideas of success? "I'm never very good at that. But I think the battle is more within than without." Davies allows that the shooting is still hard to talk about. "I'm still dealing with..." He stops himself. "It's not so much that I'm still dealing with it, but I'm still dealing with myself, really." A pause, a sigh, and a smile, as he bundles up to face the winter New York chill. "I think it'll work out." 

 King Glam

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A mountain of new T.Rex deluxe editions from Rhino buries Marc Bolan fans in glitter.

by David Fricke in Rolling Stone

2006 T.Rex Album Reissues
hese eight two-CD sets, totaling 322 tracks, enrich and complicate, to an extreme degree, the already mixed legacy of Marc Bolan, the British singer-guitarist-songwriter who was T.Rex. The double-your-Rex format of most of these reissues (an original LP with period singles on one disc; a second CD of the LP in different-mix-and-demo form) means you get twice as much of his elfin-pop best: 1972's The Slider; most of '73's Tanx and '77's Dandy in the Underworld, Bolan's last album. (He died in a car crash six months after its release.) But at thirty-plus tracks each, 1975's Bolan's Zip Gun and 1976's Futuristic Dragon, both U.K. flops and unissued in the U.S. at the time, are now definitive only in their bulk. Bolan's repetitive writing and strained production still overwhelm the eccentric ambition and bright sparks within.

If nothing else, this king-size study of Bolan's prime and fall proves he was the hardest-working man in glam. He wrote and recorded all of this music in six years, including the fifty-five abandoned songs and ideas on the quite delightful demos feast Work in Progress (2006). And Bolan rarely wavered from the jackpot template of his earlier British hits like "Bang a Gong (Get It On)": crusty Fifties-rock guitar, space-hobbit wordplay, soul-siren chorales. Made at the zenith of T.Rextasy in Britain, The Slider is Bolan at the height of his wit: "Metal Guru," "Telegram Sam," "Rabbit Fighter," "Baby Strange." Tanx comes close, although the "alternate" disc of acoustic and bare-band takes is the better version, recalling the electric-Tolkien brio of the 1970 Tyrannosaurus Rex LP A Beard of Stars. Even Bolan's most frustrating albums are dotted with glory: "Teenage Dream," on 1974's Zinc Alloy; the la-la bop of "Light of Love" and the hard-rock Phil Spector-style ballad "Till Dawn," on Zip Gun.

You can avoid the later recycling and overplayed title gags (the nadir: "Painless Persuasion v. the Meathawk Immaculate," on Zinc Alloy) by going straight to A's and B's (2005), which is everything Bolan did right at 45 rpm to the end ("London Boys," the unintentionally elegiac "Dandy in the Underworld"). But these reissues all have enough magic amid the excess to justify Bolan's faith in formula -- and that too much of it was never enough. 

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