The Kinks. Identified with Ray Davies as I was growing up. Like me, he was from (north London suburb) Ally Pally. I even used to tell people I was born on the same street as him. I wasn’t – it was about four streets away. Ally Pally is where suburbia starts. It’s where things start getting boring.
I remember a girl – I might have been 16 – I was very interested in her, but she wasn’t very interested in me. I’m pretty sure she made me a tape with Kinks songs on it. But I can’t think what was the first song I ever heard. I feel like The Kinks have always been there.
Number one with The Kinks for me is that you’re listening to great pop songs, like ‘You Really Got Me‘, which is so primal. Ray Davies described it well when you go up an say one thing and realize it’s not really working, then you change the key and say it again and see if it works then. He has also so many great song – ‘Dead End Street‘, ‘Waterloo Sunset‘, ‘Days‘, ‘Tired Of Waiting For You‘, ‘Stop Your Sobbing‘… I could go on.
People say he used London as a muse, but I think the stuff that stands up transcends that. ‘A Well Respected Man‘ might sound very ’60s but it has just as much bite now – in term of apathy, celebrity and this cult that everything has to be sponsored. And we’re living in a country that went to war for no good reason, fighting people that we sold arms to. It’s that old-boy network that still runs our country.
The thing that appeals to me about The Kinks is not the idea of writing London odes, but odes to living life itself. Something like ‘Where Have All The Good Time Gone’ is a story about growing up. Everybody knows what that means, whether you’re from London, Glasgow or Kuala Lumpur. But then I listen to ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and I stand on the bridge and I look around and I always imagine Ray standing there and somehow the words coming to him – ‘(sings) Dirty old river, must you keep rolling, rolling into the night’. You couldn’t capture that any better. If you can’t hear that song and get it, there is something wrong. Ray had a great economy of words. There’s an incredibly sad, poignant nostalgia underlying everything, too.
We recorded in The Kinks’ Konk Studios and I was surrounded by Ray’s stuff from about the last 30 years and it was weird standing there and knowing I was in the midst of reel to reels great songs. If you have gave me a call, I’d go and meet him but I wouldn’t have too many illusions. I’d really embarrass myself and be a complete fan.