The Kinks: Greatest rock reunion in two decades came within a whisker of being cancelled

They seek him here: Ray Davies back on stage with his brother Dave for the first time since 1996

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Monday 21 December 2015 18:34
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They seek him here: Ray Davies back on stage with his brother Dave for the first time since 1996
They seek him here: Ray Davies back on stage with his brother Dave for the first time since 1996

The greatest British rock reunion in two decades came within a whisker of being cancelled, The Independent has learned. In a surprise appearance that one fan described as “The season for miracles,” Ray and Dave Davies shared a stage for the first time since The Kinks’ final performance in June 1996.

Speculation is now rife that the band will reform for next year’s Glastonbury - 20 years after their acrimonious split.

Yet Dave Davies almost cancelled the gig after suffering from “awful flu” for days before it. He decided on the morning to go ahead with the performance at Islington Assembly Hall in north London despite his poor health, and sent his brother an email to invite him along.

“There was no big plan about it. We didn’t talk because I was feeling so awful,” Dave Davies told The Independent.

“I just emailed Ray saying: ‘Your name’s on the door, if you feel like it why don’t you jump up and sing "You Really Got Me" at the end?’”

But he learned Ray was waiting in the wings only a split-second before his brother walked on stage to a rapturous reception.

While Ray is a well-respected man of Britpop, Dave was the guitarist whose riffs are credited with changing the sound of rock music. The Kinks were as groundbreaking as the other three great British bands of the 1960s: The Beatles, The Who and the Rolling Stones. But they were dysfunctional even by the standards of Sixties pop. On-stage fights between band members took place a decade before the punk era made punch-ups mainstream.

The Kinks never achieved the same commercial success or global recognition as their contemporaries, but latterly their musical and lyrical originality has enjoyed a renaissance. Sunny Afternoon, a West End show about their early days, won four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best Musical of 2015.

Yet dedicated followers have grown tired of waiting for an end to the oldest fraternal feud in rock. The crowd of around 500 had taken the Victoria line to the venue anticipating only Dave Davies playing his sole UK gig of the year.

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“I wanted to play in my home town,” said the musician, who was born a few miles north of the venue in Muswell Hill but now lives mainly in the US.

The guitarist, who suffered a stroke in 2004, appeared to have lost none of his energy or expertise. All of the night was a crowd-pleaser, with the set list mostly comprising Kinks’ numbers.

Dave Davies also performed his solo hit Death of a Clown, and new material from his latest album Rippin’ Up New York City.

His band included two Americans: drummer Dennis Diken of the New Jersey group, The Smithereens, and backing singer Debi Doss - who came to Britain to photograph rock stars in the 1970s and ended up singing with The Kinks.

The penultimate number was a Ray Davies composition, “I’m not like everybody else”, which includes the line: “Once I get started I go to town.”

As the applause died down, said Dave Davies: “I turned around and had a look in the wings to see if Ray was there.

“I couldn’t see him, so I said: ‘I was hoping to have a very special guest,’ and then he appeared.”

They rattled through the rock anthem "You Really Got Me" in under three minutes, whereupon Ray walked across to Dave, shook his hand and left the stage.

“Me and Ray parted ways with a happy Christmas,” said Dave.

“It was very special - one of those one-off days.”

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