Perhaps, you remember The Kinks.
They were one of many British bands whose music crossed the Atlantic after the Beatles invasion.
For the Kinks, their first blast of sound through AM transistor radios in America came from “You Really Got Me.” For two minutes and 14 seconds, the Kinks rocked their way into a top ten hit.
The Kinks hailed from north London, Muswell Hill, and the band was a quartet— with brothers Ray and Dave Davies on guitars, Pete Quaife on bass, and drummer Mick Avory.
Unfortunately for the Kinks, in 1965, they suffered set back.
At the height of the British invasion, the American Federation of Musicians banned the Kinks from touring in America for four years. An assortment of reasons have been attributed to the ban, but that absence essentially stopped the early momentum the Kinks had in America.
Despite the banishment, songs like—“All Day and All of the Night,” “Tired of Waiting,” “Set Me Free,” “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” and “A Well-Respected Man” charted in America.
And the Kinks were not immune from the pressures of the music industry. In 1966, Ray Davies who wrote most of the Kinks’ songs suffered a breakdown.
Recording companies want hit records. To get hit records, songwriters are constantly writing, and if you create a hit, a band must tour to promote that hit, and then toss in legal hassles over contracts and publishing royalties, and Davies had the perfect formula for a crash.
And yet, despite these setbacks, Ray Davies and the Kinks were survivors.
I’ll be honest with you, I only own two Kinks’ albums: Lola Versus Powerman(1970) and Muswell Hillbillies(1971).
And to carry that truthfulness a bit further, if I was washed ashore on a remote isle, I would want those two albums with me. Gradually, Ray Davies changed the direction of his songwriting. Mr. Davies wrote about life, life that was all around him, and quite a bit of that writing captured his life in Britain.
My childhood pal, Joe Vanderford, who surprisingly still claims me as a friend, recently sent me a documentary to view about the Kinks 1968 album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. I know very little about that release, except that Ray Davies called it—“the most successful ever flop.”
This album was for Ray Davies and the Kinks— what Pet Sounds was for the Beach Boys,and Sgt. Pepper to the Beatles. The record sold miserably, but critics gave the album high marks, and today its original slow start in sales has been forgiven.
But when Joe sent me the documentary, my interest was rekindled in the Kinks, and I discovered the song “Days.” This song was released as a single in 1968. But, it was not included on The Village Green Preservation Society, and to my old ears I don’t think I have heard such a pretty, heartfelt song about loss.
I have no idea if Ray Davies is a religious or spiritual man, but the lyrics remind me of gentle words from the Bible. Here is a sample:
“Thank you for the days, those endless days, those sacred days you gave me. I’m thinking of the days, I won’t forget a single day, believe me. I bless the light, I bless the light that lights on you, believe me. And though you’re gone, you’re with me every single day, believe me.” Written by Ray Davies/DavRay Music Ltd.
As sure as words are clicking out on this keyboard, you can wager your last penny at this very moment, someone is experiencing a loss.
A loss never leaves a person. The worst losses are the ones that are senseless and tragic, the ones that happen too frequently in America from a trigger being pulled.
Recently, in the Richmond area a 13 year old girl, two 17 year old males, and an outstanding 20 year old student at Virginia Commonwealth University were senselessly, tragically shot and killed.
There is no thankfulness in mindless days like this.
Now, all that happens is a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a grandmother, a grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and friends ask why—why did this happen to me and my family?
“Those endless days, those sacred days” for the families are gone, gone forever. Now, a wretched weariness hovers over them, and that weariness, that loss will never leave their souls, their minds, or their struggles to reset their lives.
Ironically, in 2004 Ray Davies, was shot in New Orleans as he was walking down a street with a lady friend. Two thieves grabbed his friend’s purse. Davies chased them, one of the thieves turned around and shot him in the thigh. Mr. Davies was lucky—he recovered.
On Friday, April 9, I spoke with my friend Joe by phone. He was in New York City. Friday was a prep day for the NBA game he would be covering between the Lakers and the Nets on Saturday. Joe is a walking book of stories from his career as a cameraman covering athletic events around the world.
But the start of our conversation on Friday morning was about loss—the fragility of life. During the last couple of months, Joe has lost two dear friends—one a distinguished jazz pianist, and the other, a mentor in helping Joe learn about directing and production work for PBS programming based out of Chapel Hill.
Joe is a deeply reflective and insightful person. I could hear his heart choosing his words as he spoke of these soul robbing losses. And Joe, also cited the uncertainty of life, how we just never know when our time is up.
But, I also know in reflection when Joe thinks about losing his two loyal friends, he might just grab hold of Ray Davies’ words: “and though your gone, you’re with me every single day, believe me.”
Sometimes, and I have no explanation, tears well up in my eyes when I listen to a song. Not sure if it is the instruments played, the lyrics, or the passion of the singer/s, but something hits my heart, and my tear ducts open.
Several times during the last few weeks, I watched a live performance from the 2010 Glastonbury Festival of Ray Davies performing “Days” with a band and a full chorus. For some reason as I watched this performance, my eyes became moist.
Today, in your neighborhood, the place where you work, in a church, in a park, in a grocery store parking lot, a person is going to have a flashback over the loss of a loved one. And though they attempt to be strong, they can’t hold back the tears nor the deep gasps for air in their unsteady chests.
Who knows you, me, we, us might be the first person who encounters this broken hearted soul after the cry.
If that happens, be the light for this person with all the gentle passion from which Ray Davies wrote and sang: “I bless the light, I bless the light that lights on you, believe me.”
And remember Matthew 5:16: “let your light shine before others.”
And one more remember, some day you might be the person who needs that light.
Thanks for the read, have a quiet day, Bill
Author’s note: A Wikipedia article about the Kinks was researched for this piece.