Ray Davies webchat – as it happened

Last modified: 01: 16 PM GMT+0

The Kinks songwriter joined us to answer your questions in a live webchat – catch up with his answers here, from his American blues influences to gig anecdotes via his plans to release never-before-heard songs

That's it for today!

Thanks very much to Ray for answering so many queries so thoughtfully, and to everyone who posted questions.

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Thank you for all your questions - sorry I didn't get round to answering more. Let's do it again sometime. But remember: computers are bad for your eyes. And, I have to say, your soul.

AndyPDavison asks:

I went to one of your storyteller gigs in Sheffield around 15 years ago ( one of my favourite ever gigs!), and I’ve read a number of pieces where you mention Big Bill Broonzy, I’ve seen you play a National Resonator, covering Sleepy John Este’s Milk Cow Blues, and a number of Kinks songs with Blues in the title and lyrics. Could you tell us how much of an influence the blues have had on you, and which bluesmen in particular as well as Big Bill Broonzy please?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

The American blues in the South was a profound influence on me. One of my most cherished awards is that I'm a Blues Ambassador of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when I was presented the Slim Harpo award. I think it's the simplicity - as I said earlier, it's a protest forum, that can touch on very emotive issues, for example Big Bill Broonzy's If You're Black Get Back Get Back was incredible important for its time. But you don't have to be from the American South to be a bluesman. One of my great friends and inspirations was a man called Davey Graham, who I believe was mixed race but sang the blues in an almost London accent. No American affectation whatsover. And he still conveyed the emotions of the blues without resorting to the American accent. When the Kinks first started we were often reported as saying we sing blues, but we don't sing in American accents. We tried to retain our Englishness.

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Davey Graham was from Scotland I believe. He was a great technician.

laur3en1 asks:

I saw Sunny Afternoon the musical recently and I thought it was incredible. All the guys playing the Kinks were amazing, John Dagleish in particular! Are you planning to work with them again in the future?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

As I said, the cast has changed now, but I did mention the 80 Days project to a couple of actors. I'd love to work with all of them again.

whodoingwhatnow asks:

What sort of music do you think you’d be creating in 2015 if you were starting out now, rather than 50 years ago?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Very minimalist, with a great riff, fantastic key changes, something like You Really Got Me.

tjdwyer19 asks:

Hi Ray! My Dad passed away last week and we’ve been busy planning his funeral. He was a lifelong Kinks fan, and one of my first ever gigs was when he took me to see you in London. We are trying to chose a Kinks song for his funeral, but are struggling to find the perfect song. Which of your song would you pick?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

It's such an important event, that I couldn't presume to make a judgement call. Think of something your father loved, and something that you happily remember him by. From my own experience, when my mother died, I went to the funeral service and the rumour was she had chosen Days or Sunny Afternoon. I was about to brace myself for the moment, but was almost relieved when she chose My Way by Frank Sinatra. This is almost too personal for me to make any comment on, but sorry for your loss.

catchytitled asks:

Wolverhampton Civic Hall; mid 90’s (great gig)

About 5 rows back: My mate Dave said you were nodding at him, I say you were nodding at me ... Please settle a 20 year a argument once and for all. Cheers. Keep up the stellar work.

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Diego D’Amour asks:

“The two characters in the song, Terry and Julie, are to do with the aspirations of my sisters’ generation, who grew up during the Second world War and missed out on the 60s” ... you said in Uncut, 2009.

Presumably Terry & Julie are in their 80s now. How do you think they would look back on their lives? How do you think they’d view the London, the UK, of 2015?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

That's not exactly a correct quote. I think I meant to say my older sister's generation. Many of my songs were inspired by things I saw growing up. In many respects, Terry and Julie were people from their generation, walking into their future. I think anyone who is young and in love sees that transition as a beautiful thing, regardless of what era they live in. Before she died last year, my sister was very fond of getting on the internet, so she embraced the times in which she lived. Again, we cannot live in the past. We must always keep a secret part of ourselves for the things we care about and cherish.

Tom Hildebrandt asks:

Do you still have your Mr Flash jacket?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Going back to Presevation, Mr Flash was the capitalist dictator. He was an ex-game show host and vaudeville comedian, loosely modelled on Max Miller and other dictators who were around at the time. I actually managed to get Max Miller's actual hat from the comedian Roy Hudd, I bought the jacket from a sale at Harrods for £25.

yrrab18 asks:

Is it possible in near future that your earlier musicals Chorus Girls, Around the World in 80 Days and Come dancing will be released on CD and hopefully DVD, so that your fans in other countries cold view these works. Please, please please do so.

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Because of the success of Sunny Afternoon, I've been approached to revive some of these shows, particularly 80 Days and Come Dancing. 80 Days was produced in La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in the late 80s, and the director at that time Des Maceinuff said it was one of the best scores he'd ever worked with. It was a massive undertaking for a provincial, albeit well-funded, theatre, with 125 characters. And I'm very keen to get this re-staged. Perhaps the Barbican might be a good place... I think Des blew most of the budget on a mechanical elephant that eventually got cut from the show.

Come Dancing ran at Stratford East in 2008, and in order to get the funding, I had to play the narrator. Which was either a great moment or a disappointment depending or whether or not you're a fan. There's been interest in this show in America. And I'm toying with the idea of asking Christopher Walken to play my part. Now he's a fancy dancer. Real good.

TheKinks asks:

Hi Ray, Did you & the other Kinks know instinctively that you were going to have monster hits with You really got me, All day & Till the end of the day as soon as you had recorded them? Danny (Mr D’Arcy) Proud but not Prejudiced! P.S, it was an honour & a lot of fun for myself, Jane & the kids to work on Return to Waterloo, thank you for the days.

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

You Really Got Me was our first number one. It was so diffcult to a) let the record company let us record it, because they considered it too "edgy" for pop music at that time, and b) the first recording of it wasn't the way I envisaged it to be. Because we were an unknown band, with one single option on our contract, we were considered to be upstarts because we asked for it to be adequately recorded. The inevitable lawsuit was threatened, but one of my managers at the time reminded me we hadn't yet granted a sync licence to the record company, which would allow them to put the record out. Again there were threats of litigation from the record company, but in the end they relented and allowed us to rerecord the song provided we paid for it ourselves. We recorded it in a studio just off Portland Place, near the BBC. After recording it, in a couple of hours, we put the equipment in the small van we had outside (no parking wardens in those days). And as we drove off, we all said: that's a number one record. So to answer the question, I think there's an instinctive thing you feel about something that's original, and more to the point, the way you want it to be.

izaklag asks:

In various interviews, you mention Orwell’s 1984 among the books that changed you. Have you found any other of Orwell’s writings inspiring? Biographers suggest Coming Up for Air, but perhaps there has been something else?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Obviously 1984 is a massive influence on people of my generation, particularly with the advent of Facebook and YouTube, turning us into a Big Brother society. There's one piece of writing from Orwell that still gives me a chill whenever I think of it, I believe it's in Down and Out in Paris and London, and recalls when Orwell was a journalist somewhere in the far east or Africa, where he witnessed an execution, a man being hung. Just wrote a few paragraphs about the man walking to the gallows, that his nails and hair were still growing at the point, and in a few moments it would stop. The way he structured his words, put them together and emphasised that moment between life and death... was he a great journalist or a great novelist? Perhaps to be a great journalist in the modern age you also have to be a great entertainer. Orwell: top notch. I often see plaques where he used to live in Hampstead and Highgate. He must have either not paid his bills or moved around a lot. I always think of him when I drive across the Orwell bridge in Suffolk.

izaklag asks:

Did you enjoy Hamlet at the Barbican? It was lovely to see your smiling face in the after party pictures.

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

I was only smiling because I enjoyed it. It's the most fun I've had since seeing Siegfried and Roy in Madison Square Garden. But seriously, the production was incredible. Even though as a schoolboy I enjoyed doing it with two chairs and table. And of course I played Hamlet. I equally enjoyed Mark Rylance's Farinelli and the King which in places gave the impression of what it really would have been like at the Globe theatre in Shakespeare's time. The amazing thing about that is he did all this stuff without special effects, which must have been incredible at the time.

"My last discovery was a song that I wrote when I was 15 years old"

Ray Prentice asks:

I had read that you were working on an album of all new songs. Will it be released in 2015?

Do you have any plans to perform in the USA in 2015?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

My book Americana at last count had 150 songs quoted in it. Most of these were new, and I'm booking in recording dates in a few months time to get this recording under way. As many people know I don't do things the easy way, and my vision for this is to make it span three albums. As many people know, Americana covers the Kinks' return after our ban from America, when we tried to rebuild our career. Eventually we ended up playing Madison Square Garden. So the album might consist of some of those hits that revived our career. Songs like Misfits, Low Budget. Ironically because we focused ourselves so avidly on touring America, many of these albums in the 70s and 80s were lost to the British public. Also, apart from these rearrangements, there are many songs that are just quoted in the odd line here and there in Americana, and I'm currently working on the best way of turning this all into a record. And there'll be brand new songs. My last discovery was a song that I wrote when I was 15 years old. It's a bloody big project - I better get back to work.


Morf Uncensored asks:

Would you consider revisiting the Arthur album? Ie perhaps staging a version which was more in line of the original concept – a film or even a musical adaptation perhaps?And would you feel inclined to write new songs, re-write old? I still feel that that material has a lot of relevance in our modern age and it’s a particularly rocking album to boot (a favourite of mine). Perhaps Dave could lend a hand? :)

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Arthur is a very personal story, about my family who emigrated to Australia. We had a great family unit, as most people who know the Kinks are aware. But the real story was my nephew who was the same age as myself, who left for Australia the same week the Kinks went on the road. I'll probably inject some of this into a new version of Arthur, as a form of catchup. It's definitely on my mind.

Pablo_SA asks:

Dear Ray, do you miss the times when the business demanded at least an album per year? Was the pressure good for your songwriting?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Pressure, what pressure? I think I put myself under pressure when there is even no demand. I try to write every day, and this gets somewhat confusing at times, because modern technology can make home recordings sound like the finished thing. When I first started writing songs I learned how to prepare myself for the demands when they came along and always had something ready to present. There's a scene in Sunny Afternoon where I recount having to write a follow-up single to You Really Got Me - my publisher sat me down and told me to write a hit. And ranted on about his own life, and his own incredible journey through the world. But if the truth be told, I already had the tune half worked out in my head. I still love a challenge. One of my fondest times was when I was commissioned by the BBC to write a song a week for a current affairs show called Eleventh Hour.

I was given the subject matter on a Thursday night, wrote the song on a Friday, and it was in the show on Saturday night. That's my favourite way of working - and I got paid £25 per song. I did that for eleven weeks, and it was the only steady job I ever had. The songs weren't bad either...

"One of my pet projects is to write some good religious hymns for the modern age"

James Davis asks:

Hi Ray, just wondering if you had any religious upbringing or beliefs that inspired songs such as Big Sky and God’s Children.

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

I went to a Church of England school in north London where singing in the school choir was compulsory. Except for those people who couldn't hold a note, who were banished to a back room where the out-of-tune singers had to stay. My best friend was in this room, and I deliberately sang out of tune so I could be banished with him. But joking aside, singing in the choir gave me a tonality, if not a belief in my head, that I could apply to music. One of my pet projects is to write some good hymns for the modern age, religious ones. I actually have a song called Hymn for a New Age.

As for songs such as Big Sky, this song was written while I was standing on the balcony in the Carlton Hotel in Cannes in the Midem festival. I was so bad at meetings and corporate events, I locked myself in the room, to stay away from all the suits downstairs, and looked at the incredible night sky over the Mediterranean. I completed that song over a few years, and the general thrust of it is how personal tragedies seem trivial next to the big issues of the world. Naive stuff, but important.

My religious upbringing still has an impact on the way I live, but it is my own interpretation of what I was taught at school. In short, each man must find his own god.


"My general feeling about politics is that if you have a message, send a telegram. Don't be too preachy. I always try to stay away from politics"

Janekinkette66 asks:

Hi, Ray. Several years ago you mentioned that your next album would definitely be political. Being that over the last few years my beloved country, the US, has survived a significant economic recession, tried to recover but is now getting a slew of seemingly impossible problems to cope with that outlook is surely timely. Gun violence, racial discrimination incidents, and immigration matters amongst other topics make politics a very much a hot topic as reflected in the presidential candidate media coverage. Mentally ill people (often with guns) are running rampant. Congress has been erroneously slow to do anything really helpful.

What can be done to improve the social fabric of the country? It’s a nation you know is complex. What kind of suggestions might you advocate? Would you consider rewriting or revamping Preservation Act 1 & 2 for the twenty-first century or leave it as is for a future stage production for both the US & the UK? How do you feel about renewed interest in these thought provoking 70s albums that did not get the attention they deserved though the concert productions were refreshing from more predictable acts of the era?

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

Preservation has been revised several times by myself. I was asked to write a film version in the 1990s, and a few years ago asked to revamp as a stage production. It's definitely on my list. It was written at a time when I was considering giving up the music industry because the Kinks had to make records to a formula - three singles and some album tracks. But anyone who follows the Kinks knows we don't follow a standard pattern. At the beginning of the 70s we were almost bankrupt thanks to lawsuits over publishing; my personal life was in chaos. So I decided to quit the business. I sat down with my brother and decided that I would go forward and make the records that interested me, that said something about the world and the things that concerned me. Having said that, my general feeling about politics is that if you have a message, send a telegram. Don't be too preachy. I always try to stay away from politics. But Preservation, as people who are aware of the piece will know, was set in a political arena where a dictator was finally succumbing to the public and having an election, which of course was rigged. Preservation is a small fictitious country, that has a vital resource that the large megapowers are keen to get their hands on. And so it is funded by large foreign corporations. Without going into too much detail, it resonated with people at the time, partly thanks to the Nixon administration and Watergate. I adapted one of my villain's speeches from a South American dictator at the time.

Obviously my American experience had an impact on me. It is so vast, and is almost ungovernable. It's a series of small countries sewn together by a fabric representing freedom. I stayed for long periods in New York and Louisiana and there is a vast contrast between rich and poor. After Hurricane Katrina, when the large news networks went down to cover the disaster, one anchorperson was heard to say: I never realised there were poor people in America. I'm putting together a record based on my book Americana, which inevitably touches on some of the politics involved, particularly the Kinks career. I'm not a political analyst or expert in any way, and cannot provide any solutions for America, other than the right to bear arms should be accompanied by the right to protest. Ironically all the great American culture has stemmed from the complexities of the country - blues music from the South; Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan have all made their own political comments. I've fallen foul of the lack of American gun control myself, when I was shot in New Orleans in a botched robbery. The shooter got away because he fled to another state, which is like another country. When he was eventually tracked down, it was impossible to prosecute because of lack of evidence from key witnesses. I have to say the same thing could have happened in Finsbury Park. The incident didn't make me love America less - it made me try to understand it more.

Preservation will happen. My current feeling towards it is it should be a multimedia event. That's down the line.


jinbad asks:

What would you say, if you were to re-write Village Green Preservation Society, are the things that need preserving now in 2015? Vaudeville and Variety seem to have slipped away I’m sad to say.

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

I think with the Village Green, it's meant to be a timeless record, not set in any period. I'm planning a premiere of a stage performance of that next year, to coincide with the anniversary of the record. I actually performed the whole record in Festival Hall in 2011 when I curated Meltdown, with the London Philharmonic, my band, and a choir of 80 singers. The next production will have more story content. At the time it was written, 1967, The Kinks were banned from America and there was no likelihood we'd be invited back. So I immersed myself in what I considered to be English values, albeit innocent memories. I dislike the word nostalgia, it's not in my vocabulary.

As for vaudeville and variety, you only have to watch PMQs to see that it's fairly well established in our society.

Ray is now with us!

His first answer is for steviesee, who asked:

We saw Sunny Afternoon yesterday, a great show. Are you surprised it is such a massive hit and has been so well received critically too? Love the Kinks, one of THE bands of the 60s.

User avatar for RayDavies Guardian contributor

The Kinks music has always connected on records but it was particularly gratifying to see it work as a stage show. I did my first outline for the show in 2005, and we workshopped with the current production team for two years, from 2011, before going on at the Hampstead Theatre, then moving to the West End at the Pinter theatre. Incidentally we tried out a new cast last night, in their first performance - it was wonderful to see new energy on the stage. But it's also sad to see the cast who helped develop the show go. I've discovered it's a constantly evolving process, doing a musical. And I can't wait to see it again. People say to me: is it strange to see yourself played on stage? But during this process I've learned to be detached from it, as I'm concerned with the way the characters are working on stage. Perhaps my whole life has been a piece of theatre in any event... I hope there's a happy ending.

Post your questions for Ray Davies

London Calling, West End Girls and Baker Street may all have reasonable claims to being the greatest song ever written about London, but one still stands tall above them: Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks, perfectly capturing the romance that sits amid the bustle of the capital.

Written by Ray Davies, now 71, it was just one of his masterpieces for the band: You Really Got Me, All Day and All of the Night, Sunny Afternoon... He managed to straddle driving rock, wistful bucolia, and music-hall pomp, writing social commentary as well as portraits of everyday Britons.

Davies has since written the current hit West End musical Sunny Afternoon, about his early life and The Kinks, and compiled the latest greatest hits package from the band, also titled Sunny Afternoon, which is out this month. Ahead of its release on October 16, Davies joins us to answer your questions about his life and career, in a live webchat from 1pm BST on Tuesday 6 October. Post them in the comments below, and he’ll answer as many as possible.


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