were/are one of the great British rock bands of all time.
Formed in the early 60s, the classic line-up of the band consisted of Ray Davies (aka Raymond Douglas Davies) - rhythm guitar, keyboards, vocals , Dave Davis - lead guitar, vocals (the two are brothers, but spell their surnames differently), Pete Quaife - bass and Mick Avory - drums. On record they were usually augmented by Nicky Hopkins on piano and Rasa Davies (Ray's wife) on backing vocals, and in the early years used session drummers on the records and often Jimmy Page on rhythm guitar as Ray couldn't sing and play at the same time.
After a couple of flop singles, the band had a surprise number one with the distorted, heavy rock single You Really Got Me. Several other huge hits followed - All Day And All Of The Night and Tired Of Waiting being the most notable - before their career hit a major bump in the USA due to a ban from the Musician's Union over their behaviour on tour.
The band as a result of this became considerably more insular, and started creating very 'English' sounding music. While they still had huge chart success in the UK with wonderful singles like Sunny Afternoon, Waterloo Sunset and Dave's solo Death Of A Clown (which even though a solo single was released on a Kinks album) their albums sold next to nothing and they had no success in the US.
This is a shame, as the albums they released between 1965 and 1970 are extraordinary - Face To Face, Something Else By The Kinks, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur , Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire and Lola Vs Powerman And The Moneygoround are as essential as anything The Beatles, the Beach Boys or Bob Dylan put out in that period.
While Ray Davies was the lead singer and principal songwriter, Dave Davis was also a very talented musician, singer and songwriter in his own right, and the band had a depth of talent that very few others of the time did. However this started to go downhill after the departure of bass player Pete Quaife in 1968, after Village Green.
Although bass player John Dalton (and keyboardist John Gosling) were worthy additions to the band, Quaife had been a member from the start, and from this point the band seemed like less of a band. After the UK hit Lola in 1970 the band released a few decent albums (such as Muswell Hilbillies) and had one one-off novelty single success in the UK (1983's Come Dancing) but degenerated into a bad heavy metal act making triple concept albums. Strangely, this brought them renewed American success, which continued even after Avory was sacked in the early 80s.
However, relations between the Davies/Davis brothers were never exactly cordial, and things degenerated even more in the early 90s. In response to a renewed surge of popularity (the Kinks were credited as inspiration to a number of the then-popular Britpop bands) the band did an album of remakes of old material, To The Bone and Ray released a semi-autobiography, X-Ray, which liberally mixed fact with fiction and is a very readable book. In response to the success of this however Dave released his own autobiography, Kink, which can be boiled down to 'my brother's a bastard who never let me put my songs on the album, sex is fun and the occult is interesting'. Because of Dave's attitude towards Ray in the book, the two stopped speaking and the band haven't played together since 1993.
Ray now tours as a solo acoustic act (with help from an electric guitarist on a couple of songs) mixing old and new songs with readings from X-Ray in his 'Storyteller' show (an edited version of which is now available on CD, missing many of the more familliar songs). Dave mostly gigs in the USA, playing full band rock versions of Kinks classics by both himself and his more successful brother. There are persistent rumours of a reunion, but this will probably come to nothing - Ray is currently working on his first solo studio album, but he has spoken with Dave and Mick Avory about the possibility of reuniting at some point in the future.
dannye informs me that it was 'common knowledge' in 1964 that both Davies/Davis brothers had been to reform school. Nothing I've read more recently seems to back this up, so I'd be interested to know if this was a publicity rumour at the time or if the brothers are covering up their shady past now (which seems rather unlikely given some of the sordid details they admit to). Anyone know the truth?