Opinion

Sunday 22 October 2017

The complicated life of Ray Davies

The Kinks: (from left) Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Peter Quaife, Ray Avory in 1968.
The Kinks: (from left) Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Peter Quaife, Ray Avory in 1968.
Conor O'Brien
Darling Arithmetic - The Villagers

Johnny Rogan, one of the best rock biographers of his generation, has delivered a mammoth book on English national treasure Ray Davies. At over 750 pages in length, including exhaustive footnotes and discography, Ray Davies: A Complicated Life (Bodley Head, £25) isn't so much a warts 'n' all biography, as a warts 'n' warts study of the founder of The Kinks.

Rogan - whom Morrissey famously hoped would be killed in a motorway "pile-up" thanks to his book on The Smiths - goes to considerable lengths to uncover his subject's less pleasant side and even the greatest Davies apologist might have to acknowledge that Ray can be, to put it charitably, difficult. There are copious tales of arguments, fist-fights, meanness and downright nastiness, and Rogan has little trouble assembling a large cast of former acquaintances who are willing to shovel the dirt.

The shadow of his sworn enemy, younger brother Dave, looms large and their decades-long acrimony makes the 'warring' Gallagher brothers look like a pair of petulant schoolchildren. Even before their first flushes of success, the siblings were at each others' throats and their acrimony threatened to tear their band apart at the height of The Kinks' 1960s success.

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