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Credit: Beth Herzhaft

Music

The Kinks song that gave Johnny Thunders his identity

@TylerGolsen

While creating the songs for The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, Ray Davies and The Kinks attempted to translate recognisable characters from everyday British life into a new folkier, music hall style. In contrast to their wild and rebellious photo-punk origins, Preservation Society was the result of folk and baroque stylings that the band had been fully integrating into their sound.

Despite the change, The Kinks had already laid the groundwork for a whole new generation of artists who were looking for dirtier, more aggressive sounds in rock and roll. Contemporaries like The Who found inspiration in the band’s early riff rock, as did the likes of Iggy Pop across the water in America. The Kinks’ reputation proceeded them, to the point that they could influence some of the forerunners of punk rock even while they themselves were reinventing themselves as a more theatrical vaudevillian enterprise.

John Anthony Genzale was only 16 when The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society was released, but it was the perfect age to begin forging his own idea outside of the strong Italian-American New York upbringing he had been subjected to. What better escape than a proudly British band singing about distinctly British individuals, with the background of distorted rock and roll to back up their bona fides. Along with The Rolling Stones and The Stooges, Genzale began imagining himself following in their rowdy footsteps.

There was even a song on The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society that illustrated the kind of figure that Genzale wanted to be like: a rebellious rocker who feeds on pure energy, doesn’t need money, and is a misfit to those around him: “Old Johnny vowed that he would never ever end up like the rest.” Genzale had a template to base himself on already, and all he had to do was adapt that character’s last name to emancipate himself from his previous identity. In quick succession, John Anthony Genzale became Johnny Thunders.

It wouldn’t be long before the newly-christened Thunders would hook up with some of his fellow misfits to create a new band. Inspired both by the widely popular glam rock scene in England and the hard-edged sonics of bands like The MC5, Thunders and his band of big-haired boundary-pushers stumbled on a name that brought the origins of a punk rock band to the Big Apple: The New York Dolls.

The Dolls might have folded before they were able to truly catch up with the wave they inspired, but they had enough notable fans to begin influencing the next generation: The Ramones, Blondie, The Dead Boys, and nearly everyone who found their way to CBGBs in Manhattan were able to cite Thunder and The New York Dolls as the flashpoint for bringing punk rock to New York. However, the seedlings of Thunders influence trace back all the way to England with a Brando-esque Kinks creation that just happened to personify everything that Thunders wanted to be.

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