The history between two of Britain’s most iconic bands, The Beatles and The Kinks, hasn’t always been a friendly one. While the icy tension has thawed as years have gone by, the competitive nature of each group caused issues while both bands were at the height of their fame.
“We’d played with The Beatles in Bournemouth and John Lennon made a remark that we were only there to warm up for them. But we got a great reaction to ‘You Really Got Me’,” The Kinks’ Davies once recalled. “It was an early validation that we had something that stood up for us, like being bullied in school and having something that was bigger than the bully, it was that sort of feeling,” he added.
While both bands operated in different areas of alternative music, The Beatles and The Kinks would often share a public war of words – a situation that culminated in Ray Davies reviewing the Beatles’ album Revolver and describing it as “a load of rubbish”.
Reacting to the interview in 1966 while speaking to Disc and Music Echo, George Harrison was asked about criticism from The Kinks member: “He’s entitled to his opinion,” he said. “But I think if Ray Davies met us, he might change his tune. I’m sure he’s more like us, and thinks more alike than he thinks. I think Ray Davies and the Beatles would have plenty in common.” And, of course, George was correct.
As time passed, so did the ill-feeling. While being interviewed in 2009, Davies opened up about his initial admiration for The Beatles, explaining: “I think they were such good businessmen,” Davis said. “And you know the difference between a writer and a businessman. The Beatles were organised about what they did. We did a few shows with them and it was apparent that they knew what they were doing”.
Adding: “I think they were very well organised about the way they worked,” Davies says. “And they had a team. I didn’t really have a team. They knew exactly what their music was being cast for. I didn’t. I knew I had a good riff guitar player [in brother Dave Davies]…but I had no one to collaborate with”.
The musical connections between the two bands are fleeting, with The Beatles firmly operating in the field of mainstream pop while The Kinks went deeper into the realm of proto-punk. Barring a couple of shared line-ups, the two groups would only encounter one another while competing in the charts. While few Beatles came forward publically to discuss the impact of their contemporaries, according to Ray Davies, who has done much of the talking in the spotlight, John Lennon was a known fan. Writing in his autobiography, X-Ray, Davies revealed: “Someone had seen John Lennon in a club and he kept on asking the disc jockey to play ‘Wonderboy’ over and over again”.
The song in question, an overtly pop number by The Kinks, was written by Ray Davies and recorded by the band back in 1968. While the track was supposedly a favourite of Lennon’s ‘Wonderboy’ struggled to capture the attention of the music would upon release and fail to chart in the US, generally slipping away amid the influx of new music at the time. In what is a clear reflection of the song’s effect, the material even split the band in two. Speaking years later, Dave Davies commented: “‘Wonderboy’ was a big one for us although it wasn’t a hit. That was one song we really felt something for”. However, in stark contrast, bassist Peter Quaife never made his feelings unknown, stating in no uncertain terms: “[I] hated it … it was horrible”.