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David Russell Gordon "Dave" Davies (born 3 February 1947) is an English rock musician best known for his role as lead guitarist and vocalist for the English rock band The Kinks.
In 2003, Davies was ranked 88th in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Dave Davies was born at 6 Denmark Terrace, Fortis Green, London. He was born the last of eight children, including six older sisters and an older brother, later bandmate Ray Davies. As children, the Davies brothers were immersed in a world of different musical styles, from the music hall of their parents' generation, to the jazz and early rock n' roll that their older sisters listened to. The siblings developed a rivalry early on, with both brothers competing for their parents' and sisters' attention.
Davies grew up playing skiffle, but soon bought an electric guitar and started experimenting with rock. The Davies brothers and friend Pete Quaife jammed together in the front room of their house. Activities in the Davies household centred around this front room, culminating in large parties, where Davies' parents would sing and play piano together. The front room and these parties were musically nurturing to the Davies brothers, later influencing The Kinks' interpretations of the traditional British music hall style. Dave and his brother worked out the famous two-chord riff of their 1964 hit, "You Really Got Me", on the piano in the front room.
Davies founded The Kinks with Pete Quaife in 1963. His brother Ray, who became the best-known member and de facto leader of the band, joined soon after. The quartet was formed when drummer Mick Avory joined. Dave Davies had a turbulent relationship with Avory, one of the reasons behind the latter's departure from the band in the mid-1980s, although the two had been roommates together in the mid-1960s.
Ray and Dave Davies remained the only two steady members of the band (with the exception of Avory until his departure) throughout their run together. They were accompanied by an oft-changing roster of bassists and keyboardists. Davies played a largely subordinate role to his brother, often staying behind the scenes. Davies would make occasional contributions on Kinks records as lead vocalist and songwriter, with classics such as "Party Line" (the lyrics were written by Ray Davies and the song has been attributed to Ray on many editions of "Face to Face"), "Death of a Clown" and "Strangers".
Davies was responsible for the signature distorted power chord sound on The Kinks' first hit, "You Really Got Me". He achieved the sound by slitting the speaker cone on his Elpico amplifier, which he then ran through a larger Vox as a "pre-amp". This sound was one of the first mainstream appearances of guitar distortion, which was to have a major influence on many later musicians, especially in heavy metal and punk rock. Davies later commented
“I was getting really bored with this guitar sound - or lack of an interesting sound - and there was this radio spares shop up the road, and they had a little green amplifier in there next to the radios, it was an Elpico[...] I twiddled around with it and didn't know what to do[...] I started to get really frustrated, and I said, "I know! I'll fix you!" I got a single-sided Gillette razorblade and cut round the cone like this (slitting from the centre to the edge of the cone), so it was all shredded but still on there, still intact. I played and I thought it was amazing, really freaky. I felt like an inventor! We just close-miked that in the studio, and also fed the same speaker output into the AC30, which was kind of noisy but sounded good.”
—Dave Davies, in The Guitar Magazine - January 1999
"You Really Got Me" was the group's third released single, after two previous recordings that failed to chart. They had a three (singles) record contract with Pye Records, and needed a hit to get another contract. Pye didn't like the song and refused to pay for studio time. The band arranged other financial support to cut the single, which became a massive hit, topping the charts in the UK and reaching #7 in the U.S.
The Kinks released three albums and several EPs in the next two years. They also performed and toured relentlessly, headlining package tours with the likes of The Yardbirds and Mickey Finn, which caused tension within the band. Some legendary on-stage fights erupted during this time as well. The most notorious incident was at The Capitol Theatre, Cardiff, Wales in May 1965, involving drummer Mick Avory and Dave Davies. The fight broke out during the second number of the set, "Beautiful Delilah". It culminated with Davies insulting Avory and kicking over his drum set after finishing the first song, "You Really Got Me". Avory responded by knocking down Davies with his Hi-Hat stand, rendering him unconscious. He then fled from the scene, and Davies was taken to Cardiff Royal Infirmary, where he received 16 stitches to the head. Avory later claimed that it was part of a new act in which the band members would hurl their instruments at each other.
During the late 1960s the group steadily evolved, as Ray's songwriting skills developed and he began to lead the group in a whole new direction. The group abandoned the traditional R&B/Blues sound and adopted a more nostalgic, reflective style of music, as showcased on songs like "Autumn Almanac" and "Waterloo Sunset", as well as their albums, such as Something Else by The Kinks and The Village Green Preservation Society.
In July 1967, Davies released his first solo single, credited entirely under his name, (although co-written by his brother and fellow Kinks member Ray Davies) entitled "Death of a Clown". In the past as a member of The Kinks Dave Davies had only released his own compositions on B-sides and as part of albums. The Kinks' record label sensed potential sales in a solo release from the overlooked Davies, and issued "Death of a Clown" as his debut. Although credited to Davies, it was technically a Kinks recording, as his backing band was The Kinks.
Upon its release, "Death of a Clown" rose to number three on the UK Singles Chart. Wanting to profit off of the new buzz suddenly surrounding Davies, a solo LP was slated for release some time in 1968 or 1969. The follow-up single, "Susannah's Still Alive", was released in November 1967; however, it only reached #20 on the Melody Maker chart. The release of the solo album was held back, and it was decided to wait and see how another single would fare. As anticipation grew for the release of the new LP, it was nicknamed it A Hole in the Sock Of. "Lincoln County" was chosen as the next single, but failed to chart. By the time one or two more singles were met with the same results, a combination of Davies' own lack of interest in continuing and Pye's decision to stop killed off any hopes of an album.
Eventually the tracks intended for Davies first solo album were assembled for a 2011 compilation by Andrew Sandoval entitled "Hidden Treasures". "Hidden Treasures" combined the singles, b-sides that were released for various Kinks singles and a handful of album tracks that Dave had recorded for The Kinks albums. Three tracks included on "Hidden Treasures" had never been released before until this compilation "Do You Wish To Be A Man", "Crying" and "Are You Ready". Many of these tracks had been assembled previously for "The Album That Never Was" released in 1987 but this album primarily consisted of the released singles and b-sides that Davies recorded and released from 1967-1969.
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur were released in 1968 and 1969, respectively. Although they received unanimous acclaim, Village Green failed to chart internationally, and Arthur was met with a mediocre commercial reception. These records, although praised by critics and the rock press, were commercial failures.
After "Arthur", The Kinks made a comeback with their hit single "Lola" and the accompanying concept album Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One in 1970. Dave recorded two songs of his own for this LP, the acoustic "Strangers" and the hard-rocking "Rats". The rootsy country-rock, and Americana themed Muswell Hillbillies was released in late 1971, and was well-received with critics, but failed to sell strongly. Their next four albums, Preservation: Act 1, Preservation: Act 2, The Kinks Present A Soap Opera and Schoolboys in Disgrace, which added a large theatrical ensemble, were critical and commercial failures.
Davies made several attempts at solo albums throughout the '70s, but he never felt enough enthusiasm or interest to see the projects through. He would often act as the producer and engineer at The Kinks' main studio, Konk, in his spare time, producing albums for the likes of Claire Hamill and Andy Desmond. Ray Davies commented on his brother's studio and solo work in a November 1975 interview:
“My brother is all right, his life is dedicated to getting the [Konk] studio together. He's really into that. He's started recording, but I might even have to get a contract with him and say he's got to deliver [a solo] album. It may be the only way he's going to record is at gunpoint.”
—In Hit Parader Magazine
The Kinks left RCA records in 1977, switching to Arista. The group shed all of the extra backing vocalists and brass instrumentalists that had accompanied them throughout their theatrical years, and reverted to a five-piece rock group again. Their debut LP for Arista was entitled Sleepwalker, and was a commercial and critical comeback for the group. It was the first album in what critics usually call the "arena rock" phase of the group, in which more commercial and mainstream production techniques would be employed. Dave later commented that he was glad to be back to more guitar-orientated songs, and he has listed Sleepwalker as one of his favorites. His composition and earnest, almost desperate lead vocals, not to mention his particularly ripping lead guitar sound, led to airplay — especially on college stations — for his idealistic "Trust Your Heart" on the 1978 Misfits album.
Davies would see the group through both success and failure, as they reached their commercial peak in the early 1980s. The group began adjusting their commercial methods, embracing the MTV culture that was selling records at the time. The music video for their 1982/83 single "Come Dancing" helped hoist the record to #12 on the UK charts, and #6 in the U.S — their biggest hit since "Tired of Waiting for You" in 1965. The song was a nostalgic look back at childhood memories of the Davies brothers, remembering their elder sisters going out to dance at the local palais, and coming back home to the front room at 6 Denmark Terrace.
The Kinks' popularity faltered in 1985, and soon their records ceased to chart altogether. Mick Avory left the band after The Kinks' last album for Arista, Word of Mouth, mainly due to the growing animosity between him and Dave Davies. Ray Davies said that Avory was his best friend in the band and he unwillingly had to choose sides, as said later in a 1989 interview:
“The saddest day for me was when Mick left. Dave and Mick didn't get along. There were terrible fights, and I got to the point where I couldn't cope with it any more...Mick had an important sound. Mick wasn't a great drummer, but he was a jazz drummer same school, same era as Charlie Watts.”
Bob Henrit was brought in to take Avory's place. At Ray Davies' invitation Avory agreed to manage Konk Studios, where he also served as a producer and occasional contributor on later Kinks albums.
The group switched to MCA (US) and London (UK) records in late 1985, and began work on their next album, Think Visual. The record was released in 1986, but only reached #81 on the Billboard charts. Critics were lukewarm towards it, and it did not receive significant radio play. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic.com would later comment that the album "represented an artistic dead end for the Kinks, as Ray Davies continued to crank out a series of competent, but undistinguished hard rockers." Dave Davies contributed two songs to Think Visual, "Rock 'n' Roll Cities" and "When You were a Child". Rock 'n' Roll Cities was chosen in the US as the lead single for Think Visual, and at its release it received a fair amount of play on mainstream rock radio. Davies and Mick Avory seemingly reconciled, as Davies asked him back to play drums on this track.
The group recorded several more records for MCA, their last studio effort for them being 1989's UK Jive. UK Jive was received slightly better than Think Visual, but it failed to enter into the Top 100. Dave Davies contributed the song "Dear Margaret" to the vinyl record — the cassette and CD of the album also contained two further Dave Davies songs, "Bright Lights" and "Perfect Strangers".
The group left MCA and struggled to find a record label that would accept them. All four original members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, but this failed to revive their career. Eventually The Kinks signed onto Columbia records, who released their final studio album together, Phobia, on 13 April 1993. Despite lots of publicity pushing and press attention, the record was unsuccessful, peaking at #166. Singles released failed to chart as well, mainly due to a record label mix-up that delivered the records to store a few weeks late. To Phobia Davies contributed the songs "It's Alright (Don't Think About It)" and "Close to the Wire".
Columbia dropped the group in 1994, forcing them to retreat back to their old Konk Records. The group released To The Bone on the small independent Grapevine records in 1994.
The Kinks eventually disbanded in 1996.
After the aborted solo effort, Davies' solo career was not revived until 1980, with the release of Dave Davies (AFL1-3603), which featured Davies performing all the instruments by himself. The album was named after its own serial number. AFLI-3603 peaked at #42 on the Billboard 200. He went on to release Glamour (1981), which charted at #152. Davies brought in a back-up band to play with him on this record. Chosen People was released in 1983, but failed to crack the Billboard 200.
Davies released his first true solo studio album in twenty years, Bug, in 2002. Fractured Mindz followed in January 2007, his first album of all new material in nearly five years. It was also his first new studio effort since his stroke in the summer of 2004 besides the track "God in my Brain" (which was recorded and released on the compilation album Kinked in January 2006). In February 2010, Davies released a DVD, Mystical Journey. His planned US tour in support of the release was postponed per doctor's advice. It was announced in February 2013 that on 4 June 2013, Davies would be releasing his sixth studio album entitled I Will Be Me worldwide. Davies undertook a short tour of the US to promote the album.
Davies has played a number of guitars over time, the most recognizable of which is his Gibson Flying V. Davies bought it in 1965, and soon began appearing live and on TV performances with it. Davies was one of the few guitarists who played Flying Vs at the time. It was, in that period, out of issue due to lack of interest upon its 1958 test release, and models were numbered. Guitarists like Lonnie Mack, Jimi Hendrix, Albert King and Davies himself helped stir interest in the instrument, and it would eventually become one of the signature guitars of the heavy metal era.
Davies commented on his Flying V:
“I used to play a Guild custom built guitar and the airline lost it on our first American tour in '64 or '65. ... I had to get a replacement quick. I went into a store and they didn't have anything I liked. I saw this dusty old guitar case and I said 'What have you got in there?' he said 'Oh, that's just some silly old guitar.' He got it out and I bought it for about $60.”
Davies has played many other guitars throughout his career. He has played several models of Gibson Les Pauls over time, including a "Goldtop" model with P90 pickups and a black '78 model. On his website he lists the following:
Gibson Les Paul - Standard, Custom, Deluxe, Artisan and Goldtop models
Fender Elite Telecaster
Fender American Standard Telecaster
'63 Fender Telecaster sunburst (owned by Ray, used as Dave's main guitar between 1967-1969)
'54 Fender Stratocaster
Gibson Flying V
Guild F-512 NT 12-string acoustic
Other guitars that were used by Dave Davies during the 60s were amongst others:
Eko solidbody model
A black Guild DE-500 model (stolen during The Kinks´ first US tour in the summer of 1965)
Various Vox guitars : a Phantom VI, a Phantom XII, and a 12-string Folk Twelve model
Guild Starfire III
Fender Electric XII
1956 Gretsch 6120 (studio only)
1964 Rickenbacker 360/12 (studio only)
Davies was expelled from school at the age of fifteen after being caught having intercourse with his girlfriend, Sue Sheehan, on Hampstead Heath. Shortly thereafter, they were forced to separate by their respective families after Sue found out she was pregnant. Their relationship had a profound impact on Davies, who wrote a number of songs about their separation including "Funny Face", "Suzannah's Still Alive", and "Mindless Child of Motherhood". He did not meet their daughter, Tracey, until 1993. In 1967 Davies married Lisbet (a cousin of Pete Quaife's first wife, Annette) and they divorced in 1990. From that marriage, Davies has four sons: Martin, Simon, Christian and Russell. His three children Daniel, Lana, and Eddie are from another relationship.
Davies published an autobiography, entitled Kink, in 1996, in which he discussed his bisexuality at length, including a sexual relationship with Long John Baldry. He also wrote of the tense professional relationship with his brother over the Kinks' 30-year career.
On 30 June 2004, Davies suffered a stroke while exiting a lift at Broadcasting House, where he had been promoting his then current album, Bug. He was taken to University College Hospital in Euston. Davies was released from the hospital on 27 August. Davies said in a 2006 interview:
“Suddenly the right hand side of my body seized up and I couldn't move my arm or leg. Although I didn't lose consciousness, I couldn't speak. Luckily my son Christian and my publicist were there, so they carried me outside and called an ambulance.”
—Dave Davies, Daily Mail, 10 October 2006.
By 2006, Davies had recovered enough to be able to walk, talk and play guitar.
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