The Kinks, Lester Bangs, and Lawsuits

Lester Bangs, the notorious and oft plagiarized writer from Rolling Stone and Creem, once described the Kinks’ sound as a “churning vat of rage.”

That is a pretty decent description of a band that a few youngsters know of from their hit song, “You Really Got Me,” but the majority of people don’t really know who the Kinks were.  They were rock, when the roll was beginning to wane, and they were the heavy that created heavy metal.  They also were the sound that bridged the Beatles to Led Zeppelin to Lou Reed.

Many bands list the Kinks as a major influence, but none identify with them more than Oasis.  Both The Kinks and Oasis are anchored by brothers, and neither pair get along very well.  In recent article in Rolling Stone Magazine Ray Davies of The Kinks said it is up to his brother when the band finally reunites, but a month earlier his brother Dave said the same thing.  They had planned on getting together in May to discuss reuniting, but that event never happened.  

I’ve written for the Reader for seven years straight about music now, but I am realizing that the vast majority of people out there have very little understanding of the history of rock music.  As a music writer who has read thousands of articles from early rock weeklies like Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Creem, and many others, I greatly admire the originators of this forum and their individual styles.  

If you read rock writers’ Lester Bangs or Hunter S. Thompson’s articles you should realize that copying them poorly would be like trying to be an artist that does bad reproductions of Picassos or Van Goghs.  Too many people write about music and make a mockery of the original style, but the same can be also said of music today as well.  

Last week while explaining to a group of students at the Tweed Museum the details of an old Doors concert poster from The Matrix in San Francisco, I felt like what I was saying made me sound like I was from another planet.  What seems so obvious to me and like grade one of rock history, is above the basic knowledge of most young people today.  They may know The Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Jimi Hendrix, but very few people know who influenced who and what is the relevance of each band.  That is what got me to start thinking about the Kinks again.

One of the first songs I learned on the guitar was the Kinks’, “Lola.”  Recently I watched a video of the song on Youtube and it was really cool to see Ray Davies, the lead singer, playing a steel guitar back in 1971. If you have never heard the song I suggest checking it out immediately.  The kicker in the tune is that Lola is a man dressed as a woman and the singer is slowly coming to the realization of that fact as it progresses.