Ray(mond Douglas) Davies Paul Williams - Essay

Paul Williams

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

If you are not a Kinks fan, you are either a) uninformed, or b) not a Kinks fan. If it's the latter, there's nothing you can do about it. The Kinks, rather like Johnny Hart's B.C. or the novels of Kurt Vonnegut, are absolutely indefensible (and unassailable). I can't tell you why they're great: there are no standards by which the Kinks can be judged. Ray Davies' music has nothing to do with almost anything else. It's in a category unto itself, and if you don't like it, well, there you are.

I would like to say that Face to Face is a tremendously funny lp. I'm uncomfortably aware, however, that there are those, even those I respect muchly and love warmly, who do not find B.C. at all funny. I hesitate, therefore, to urge upon them an album that starts with four rings of a telephone and a pristine male voice saying "Hello, who is that speaking please?", followed inexorably by a lead guitar and bass who sound like they've been perched for hours just waiting to play their little run and get into the song (a righteous complaint against whatever it is that interrupts phone conversations). The humor of the thing is indescribable: it's all in the timing, and I break down every time I hear it. But there are those who sit unmoved. It must have something to do with taste.

The Kinks are mostly—but not entirely—Ray Davies. Ray is … [the] motive force for the group, and it is his curious personality that comes through in every note the Kinks play. Some people think Ray is a genius (albeit a misguided one). I think it's more accurate to call him an amazingly articulate musician; his mood at any given time is reproduced impeccably in his songs, with no apparent effort on his part. Playing around with a familiar melody and an unusual break—"Rosie Won't You Please Come Home?"—he lets the words fall where they may. "And I'll bake a cake if you'll tell me you are on the first plane home." Sheer nonsense … but it all falls in place so perfectly, it's hard to imagine any other words could belong there. Ray's gift is his control of his music: whatever he does, it's right. (p. 36)

There's a lot of depth to this album. "Rainy Day in June," for example: how can anything that starts with a thunderclap not be a pretty damn serious song? But it is, and it's a major work. The piano/bass thing rainy days all over you,...

(The entire section is 975 words.)