The Kinks are one of the most influential bands in history but, remarkably, they never quite had the same scale of success as their contemporaries. Despite their significant contribution to the world of rock and roll, the group’s legacy remains somewhat in the shadows of bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Ray Davies has often been donned as being ‘The Godfather of Britpop’, a moniker attributed him following his efforts to mould a distinct sound which would dominate the airwaves throughout the 1990s. That said, his influence goes further than Britpop and The Kinks even played a pivotal role in forming countless contemporary acts take, for example, the Arctic Monkeys.
The Kinks are a band that is, in many ways, underappreciated despite having played an important role in reshaping music and inspiring people to form a band. Whether you love, hate or have never heard of them, The Kinks remain one of the most influential bands of the ’60s and ’70s. Their ear for a tune and pop sensibilities always made their songwriting emanate more so than their counterparts. Ray Davies’ being dubbed as ‘The Godfather of Britpop’ doesn’t quite do the great man justice with his level of influence transcending that one sub-genre, his lyricism remains a source of inspiration for Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and even influenced the Pixies’ Frank Black — which shows how far and wide the band are appreciated.
Speaking about their influence, Black once said: “I’ve never copied Ray Davies or the Kinks, but time and time again I hear back one of my own songs and I do declare, hot damn, there it is AGAIN, the unmistakable imprint of Kinks; the result of having listened to [them] on a daily basis from about age 14 to age 18. There are more fabulous songs not included on that precious compilation, but those 28 songs are thumping away gently in my soft brain forever. They will never go away. I am a proud servant of them.”
Those ages mentioned by Black are pivotal in shaping your artistry but, even though Alex Turner like most Britons grew up surrounded by the music of The Kinks, it wasn’t until he grew a touch older did he really recognise just how supreme they were. Turner wrote about his affection for the iconic British band in a feature with Pitchfork back in 2012, an article which saw the Arctic Monkeys man divulge the one record that was most important to him at different stages in his life.
When Turner was 20, he was already the lead singer in the biggest band in Britain. A matter of weeks after the frontman reached the milestone birthday his band released their debut record Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not —an album which became the fastest-selling debut in British music history, shifting over 360,000 copies in its first week.
This time in his life is soundtracked by The Kinks’ magnificent Face To Face which has fond memories for Turner of starting off in life in the band. “Our first album came out when we were just 20. Where we grew up there were these other kids that had a band, and they used to play in one of the pubs, and we started hanging around with them. We’d go and watch them and drink cider and be stupid and chase after girls. Then, sitting around chatting on a Friday night, we were like, “We should form a band”– just desperately looking for something to do, I suppose,” Turner reminisced.
“Around then, I was listening to The Kinks’ Face To Face a lot, though we’d already written the first record before I started to appreciate Ray Davies’ storytelling,” Turner praisingly noted about his master. “For me, as far as lyricists, it goes from Ray Davies to Nick Cave to Method Man. Rappers have to put so many words into one song, so keeping that interesting is just a really cool fucking craft,” he said admiringly.
What influence The Kinks have had on music is immeasurable in total honesty, it’s over fifty years since their debut the bands that they inspired have now, in turn, inspired another generation of artists. Although they never quite sold out stadiums like The Stones or caused Kinksmania, they remain one of the most important British bands who deserve every inch of the love they get.