You can’t talk about the ‘British Invasion’ without talking about The Beatles and The Kinks. Even though they initially represented opposing two sides of the musical spectrum, with The Beatles crafted impeccable pop music and The Kinks cranking out provocative proto-punk, the two bands often crisscrossed as they evolved past their suit-and-tie startup days.
As the 1960s transitioned into the decade we largely know it as today, complete with psychedelia, increased drug use, and prominent counterculture, The Beatles and The Kinks were forerunners in shedding the influences of American rock and roll, instead integrating uniquely British styles like music hall in order to forge a distinctly English identity. Ray Davies, in particular, began to tap into an observational style of lyric writing that highlighted the everyday lives of the British experience.
While being interviewed by legendary punk journalist Legs McNeil and fellow New York writer Stacey Asip-Kneitschel in 2009, Davies opened up about his initial admiration for The Beatles, specifically with regard to how put together they were as a business-minded group. “I think they were such good businessman,” Davis explained. “And you know the difference between a writer and a businessman. The Beatles were organized about what they did. We did a few shows with them and it was apparent that they knew what they were doing”.
Adding: “Ringo said, ‘we can’t do the Scandinavian set because we’re in Blackpool, so we’ll do the English, the north of England set list.’ That probably would change one song. They were very well organised, knew what they were doing… it is apparent and just meeting them they are just very organised businessman and it shows in their writing. In the great stuff that they wrote. And they’ve had some ropy songs, iffy songs”.
Compared to The Beatles, Davies considered himself as “barely articulate. I could barely fill out a form at college. I got through college out of sheer talent because of painting. Academically, I was okay. But…I was barely potty-trained.” Davies also highlighted the differences in internal organisation, like songwriting and composing, as a major contrast between The Beatles and The Kinks.
“I think they were very well organized 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”.
Ultimately, Davies felt that most of the comparisons were a bit too dissimilar: the Davies brothers were younger than the members of The Beatles, and Davies found his unique voice as a writer as The Beatles were going through internal combustion. In that way, Davies picked up the torch, but he was quick to acknowledge the groundwork laid by the Fab Four in bringing English music to the world: “I think only the British could have pulled that off, that phenomenon,” he said. “There is something special about Beatles, though.”