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Story Behind The Song: How The Kinks created 'All Day and All of the Night'


In 1964, Ray Davies was playing around with a razor blade. He’d been feeling antagonistic all week and needed some release. “My childhood sweetheart Sue got pregnant and we wanted to get married,” he said in 2013. “But our parents said we were too young and they split us up. I was a rebellious, angry kid anyway, but that had a profound effect on me. I was full of rage.” That anger was coupled with the frustration that The Kinks song ‘You Really Got Me’ just wasn’t translating in a studio setting. “I could easily have slashed my wrists,” Davies continued, “But I had a little green amplifier, an Elpico, that was sounding crap. I thought, ‘I’ll teach it’ – and slashed the speaker cone. It changed the sound of my guitar. Then, when I wired that amp up to another, a Vox AC30, it made it a lot, lot louder”.

That act of destruction set off a chain reaction that gave The Kinks a string of hits, one of the most enduring of which is October 1964’s ‘All Day and All of the Night’. The raw proto-punk energy contained within that early hit has gone on to inspire everyone from Green Day to Metallica. Indeed, when the latter were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, James Hetfield revealed that they had been “schooled on early riff-rock by this man [Ray Davies] and his band – The Kinks”.

Davies’ discovery of distortion, unleashed a wave of creative energy, and he quickly sat down to write a song that would capture the live sound they’d been curating over the last couple of years. He began writing this “neurotic…youthful, obsessive and sexually possessive” song in his music publisher’s office. “Then we went on a little tour, so I wrote part of it in the car,” Davies continued. “It was written over a period of about three or four days,” he added.

With the song itself nailed down, The Kinks went into the studio bristling with confidence: “I cranked up my guitar more than on ‘You Really Got Me’,” Davies said. “When we went into the studio, everybody knew what they were doing. I think we did it in three takes”. Speed was essential, and The Kinks had travelled to London especially to record with Shel Talmy, having played in Birmingham the night before. “The first time the band heard it was when I ran through it with them at the soundcheck,” Davies recalled. “Afterwards we drove back down to London, got up in the morning and finished the song by midday”.

But Davies’ confidence eventually spilt overboard, leading to disagreements in regards to the direction the song was taking. “Before verse two and into verse three,” Davies went on, “I wanted a ‘bop-bop-bop’ fill, but Bobby was a bit reluctant to do it. He said I was getting a bit cocky, telling him what to do. But it ended up on the record. I wanted it there because I’d heard it on Buddy Holly’s It’s So Easy and I’d always wanted it to be on one of my records. We had a big argument over it, but in the end he took it on board”.

But all the cockiness in the world couldn’t compare to that of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who claimed that he was responsible for playing the infamous guitar solo mid-way through ‘All Day and All of the Night’. But, as Davies recalled: “I remember Page coming to one of our sessions when we were recording ‘All Day And All Of The Night.’ Page was doing a session in the other studio, and he came in to hear Dave’s solo, and he laughed and he snickered. And now he says that he played it! So I think he’s an asshole, and he can put all the curses he wants on me because I know I’m right and he’s wrong”.

Davies and the band certainly had the last laugh. On release, ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ shot to number two in the UK album charts and number seven in the US Hot 100, marking the beginning of The Kinks’ conquest of America. Today, it continues to evoke the red-blooded vitality of a generation on the cusp of sexual and cultural liberation.

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