Bob Dylan’s fingertips are spread intricately over all of our record collections. Everyone from The Beatles through to Post Malone has kneeled at Dylan’s holy altar, and The Kinks have him to thank for one of their most cherished songs.
There’s a solid case to be made for Ray Davies being the British version of Dylan. His divine way with words share parallels with his American contemporary, as is the impact they’ve had in their native countries. Remarkably, Davies is often omitted from the conversation when people discuss the pantheon of songwriting credits, but his lyrical expertise put him in the same bracket as the all time greats.
Amongst a congested field of beat bands during 1964, The Kinks endured and proved they were mounted differently from the rest. They weren’t trying to imitate The Beatles and Davies’ witty lyrics that refreshingly holstered a mirror up at society’s airs and graces as nobody had done before.
The lyrics created by the Kinks singer were so unique compared to the releases of the time, and more often than not, Davies never had to look anywhere else apart from his mercurial head full of ideas for a shot of inspiration. However, musically it was a different story, and Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home album helped form the initial soundscape for The Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’.
“I’d bought a white upright piano. I hadn’t written for a time,” Davies once explained about his strange situation when he wrote the song and how his life had dramatically changed around that period. “I’d been ill. I was living in a very 1960s-decorated house. It had orange walls and green furniture. My one-year-old daughter was crawling on the floor, and I wrote the opening riff. I remember it vividly. I was wearing a polo-neck sweater,” he added.
“At the time I wrote ‘Sunny Afternoon’, I couldn’t listen to anything,” Davies agonisingly continued. “I was only playing The Greatest Hits of Frank Sinatra and Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’—I just liked its whole presence, I was playing the Bringing It All Back Home LP along with my Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller and Bach—it was a strange time. I thought they all helped one another, they went into the chromatic part that’s in the back of the song.”
The sonic influence of Bringing It All Back Home is hard to distinguish on ‘Sunny Afternoon’, and Dylan’s touch had all but evaporated by the time the band had filtered the track through the production process. In fact, Dylan’s impact on ‘Sunny Afternoon’ is about as microscopically audible as Frank Sinatra’s. However, without the pair, we wouldn’t be blessed with this delectable gem that shows off the very best of British pop.
Bringing It All Back Home allowed Davies to escape from his head, and hearing these otherworldly twangs from across the pond infiltrated his mind. Everything else flew out of him from there, and a timeless classic was born.