It’s one of the most iconic guitar riffs in rock ’n’ roll: the distorted power-chord attack of the Kinks’ 1964 smash “You Really Got Me,” the very phrase that forged the iron-anvil crunch of heavy metal and punk rock. Yet the tune itself actually originated on piano, says Dave Davies, the British band’s legendary lead guitarist, who will perform at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut, on April 6.
“Ray was playing around with the riff on the piano in the front room of our family’s house,” says Dave, who at 16 cofounded the Kinks in 1963 with his big brother, lead singer and guitarist Ray Davies, and bassist Pete Quaife; drummer Mick Avory joined in 1964. “I had a little green Elpico amp I bought from up the road, and I’d sliced up the speaker cone in it with a razor blade to get it to sound distorted. I started playing the barre chords to what Ray was doing on the piano, and that was it.”
Besides being known for his work on that and other Kinks proto-hard rock bangers like “All Day and All of the Night” and “Till the End of the Day” and pop gems like “Tired of Waiting for You,” “Lola,” and “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” Davies is behind some of the most wistful tracks in the Kinks canon; see his transcendent 1967 solo single “Death of a Clown” b/w “Love Me Till the Sun Shines” (both tracks also appear on the Kinks album Something Else by the Kinks).
Raised in the Muswell Hill suburb of London—the tile of the Kinks’ 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies is a nod to the neighborhood—Dave and Ray absorbed their parents’ fondness for English music hall and their six older sisters’ taste in jazz and early rock ’n’ roll, and began playing when the skiffle craze was sweeping the UK. Signed to Pye Records (first Cameo and then Reprise in America), the Kinks, along with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Animals, and others, were a leading act of the British Invasion, racking up nine Top Forty US hits between 1964 and 1970. The group’s popularity and stability took a dip in the early 1970s, mirroring the Davies brothers’ famously fractious rivalry. But by the end of that decade and the start of the next, the Kinks were being acknowledged as punk and heavy metal forefathers and covered by bands like the Pretenders, the Jam, and Van Halen. They rode the renewed interest back into the charts via the hit albums Low Budget (1979), One for the Road (1980), Give the People What They Want (1981), and State of Confusion (1983), which bore the MTV hit “Come Dancing.” Attention came their way again in the early 1990s when Britpop bands like Blur and Oasis cited them as influential, but the group nonetheless split in 1996.
Since 1980, Davies has released seven solo studio albums and, presenting a different family dynamic than the famously rocky one with his brother, three collaborations with his son Russ Davies, the most recent being 2017’s Open Road. A Kinks stage musical, “Sunny Afternoon,” has played to huge success in England and has its sights set on America, and the recurring rumbles of a Kinks reunion have resumed. “Ray and I have been talking about it, yeah,” says the guitarist and singer, who lives part time in New Jersey. “We’re just waiting ’til we both get back to England, so we can talk about it some more.”
Davies has bounced back considerably since being sidelined by a stroke in 2004. “I’ve had to readjust my lifestyle and rethink some things, do some exercises,” he says. “I enjoy being able to play for people, and they still seem to enjoy it too. But, you know, you go on. That’s what you do. It’s rock ’n’ roll.”
Dave Davies will perform at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut, on April 6 at 8pm. Tickets are $60-$80. (866) 666-6306; Infinityhall.com.