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Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 9:39 pm
by NormanD
The Guardian gives over a full page to this new biography by Johnny Rogan.

I won't add my opinion to Ian Penman's critique, decide for yourself:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/m ... view-kinks

Instead, I'll summarise the review for impatient readers (thank you John Crace):
"See My Friend"? He hasn't got one.

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 9:46 pm
by Rob Hall
I was just about to post a link to this myself, but Norman beat me to it.

I was struck by a couple of quotes in the review:

"Early on in A Complicated Life, Johnny Rogan quotes Marianne Faithfull: “The Kinks were very gothic. Creepy and silent. They never spoke. They were uptight and fearful of everyone. Underneath there was all this weird dysfunctional family stuff going on.” Great quote. The trouble is, it manages to say more in a few lines than Rogan manages in 750-plus pages."

"Rogan sucks all the joy and strangeness and unpredictability out of the music."

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2015 10:02 pm
by Adam Blake
How awful. I've met Ray Davies and he was lovely. I interviewed him on the phone once in my journalist days and he was helpful and polite and very dryly funny.

His own book, "Ex-Ray", is one of the best music biogs I've read. As strange and inscrutable as his best songs. I gather he has another one out, about The Kinks experiences in America, which I will buy and read.

It must be very demoralising for the likes of Garth to see this kind of thing getting published. What a wasted opportunity.

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:50 am
by john poole
Adam Blake wrote:It must be very demoralising for the likes of Garth to see this kind of thing getting published. What a wasted opportunity.
Well other more positive (certainly less excoriating) reviews are available, and I’ll wait until I’ve read it before joining in with the criticism, particularly as I have enjoyed some of Johnny Rogan’s previous books including Starmakers & Svengalis (pop music managers) and his ever-expanding history of the Byrds. And, unlike Ian Penman I did find his Van Morrison book "No Surrender" worth reading even if I will admit that the author overdid his continual Ian Paisley comparisons somewhat. However I already own more than a few books on the Kinks including Rogan’s previous (and rather shorter) “The Sound and the Fury” (1984), which at the time I recall Ray said that he preferred to Jon Savage’s authorised biography (or perhaps it was just the title that he liked); and I’ve borrowed and read several others, so I’ll not be rushing out to Waterstones with my £25 in the morning. I’ll wait to see if I can borrow a copy or otherwise pick it up when it gets reduced to £6.99. Ray (unlike Van) always appears to be charming in interviews, but I’m sure he would be the first to admit that he has not always been the easiest person to work with (or, I imagine, to live with).

I would certainly recommend Americana, which is I think my favourite of those Ray has written. It is not just concerned with the Kinks, it also covers (switching between chapters) the time Ray subsequently spent in the States, including New Orleans where before he was shot he befriended the reclusive Alex Chilton, who always seemed to be reading Thackeray
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=MUI ... ay&f=false

But the Kinks book that I always keep closest to hand is the day-by-day “All Day and All of the Night” by the group’s dedicated kronikler Doug Hinman - a great reference work. In fact there’s a quote from Johnny Rogan on the back cover - “There are researchers and researchers, but Doug Hinman is in a class of his own.”
http://www.kindakinks.net/misc/review-adaaotn.html

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:21 am
by Garth Cartwright
We seem to be in "mean-spirited biographer" territory this week - Calt hated Skip James, Rogan loathes Ray Davies... I think I only own one Rogan book - Starmakers & Swengalis - which is really good, all his research skills informing on the managers behind the British pop and rock stars. But I'm just not interested in huge auto/biographies of famous people. I read the Skip James one cos so little info is available on Skip. But as I've previously posted, I'd rather read Adam's essay on Ari Up than Viv Albertine's sulky autobiography.

And, yes, Adam, it is depressing: I got a classic email putdown from a US publisher this week, a really patronising one that must have taken him some time to write. Rather than approaching him about a book featuring the likes of Tom T Hall and Henry Stone I should have offered to write a biography of Noel Gallagher or Marilyn Manson or some such. I'm sure he would have leapt at the opportunity.

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 9:47 am
by Chris P
Viv Albertine's autobiog ain't sulky Garth, where'd you get that idea?

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 12:37 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Cos I read it Chris and she sulked and moaned and bitched about pretty much everyone she ever met all the way through it. "Sour, self righteous cow" was my take on the author. Don't worry, I thought worse of Morrissey and Keef after reading their tomes. While Etta James' autobio proved she was a psychopath. But a very talented one.

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:19 pm
by Chris P
ah ok Garth, same book but we each read it differently. She said some particularly nice things about Ari & Mick Jones, but I seem to remember Geoff Travis, Dennis Bovell, and also most of that first wave of punk compadres all coming out pretty well from her descriptions. I enjoyed the book, although as I think Adam mentioned, there was potential for humour that was missed

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:49 pm
by Chris P
on an only slightly 'related' note, I guess I'm a bit late on the block to learn only today that that scumbag Grant Shapps is a first cousin of Mick Jones's. Feel the sick rising

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2015 6:28 pm
by john poole
I’ve read the book now, courtesy of Birmingham’s Music Library. At 634 pages (plus a further hundred pages or so of notes and discography) it is an exhaustive, or maybe exhausting read in places; the author’s thoroughness can be both a strength and a weakness and some editing would not have come amiss. It’s based on many interviews, including for the first time I remember, Ray’s first wife Rasa, who sang backing vocals on many of the Kinks’ greatest recordings. No one is going to accuse this book as being a “whitewash” or a hagiography - it is safe to say that members of the Kinks and their managers did not on the whole entirely enjoy their time working with the brothers, and their mid 60s road manager Sam Curtis seems to have been especially keen to give them a verbal kicking.

But I don’t believe it is true to say that Rogan “loaths” his subject in the way that Albert Goldman apparently did. It’s not the best book he has written but I didn’t dislike it as Ian Penman did - it’s unflinching in detailing the long history of troubled relationship between the brothers who often seem to have been happier the greater distance there has been between them, but not slanted - I found less to take issue with here than in Paul Trynka’s recent (and more favourably reviewed) Brian Jones book.

Other books about the Kinks are available.

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:28 am
by Garth Cartwright
Well done for reading such a mammoth book, John. I tend to see The Kinks as making a slew of fine singles across 1965-66 - peaking with Waterloo Sunset, one of the great singles of that era - then heading into a terminal decline not long after. I don't think I like anything they did in the 70s - especially not Lola. Which is to say I will not be getting this book from Peckham library (if it comes in). That said, I finally got around to reading John Phillips' autobiography last week - i bought it 2nd hand a few years ago and never felt like reading it until going on a Mamas & The Papas binge recently. Like Ray Davies, Phillips seemed briefly graced with a remarkable songwriting talent and then it all dried up. I like California Dreaming as much as I like Waterloo Sunset. 2 perfect pop songs. Why did I read JP's book? I guess cos not a lot is written about Phillips and I was interested to see if he discussed the creative process. He doesn't. Actually, he doesn't have much of interest to say tho it is notable how he goes from being in an average "folk" group then picks up on the new sounds coming forth and rides the folk rock boom very successfully. Much of his long book is about drug addiction and name dropping celeb's he has met "Mick took me to the cricket" etc. Reading Papa John was often profoundly depressing - the huge waste of money and talent and what an unsavoury character JP was: doing hard drugs with his teenage kids... Fascinating how beautiful music can come from nasty individuals.

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 7:57 am
by AndyM
Garth Cartwright wrote: and talent and what an unsavoury character JP was: doing hard drugs with his teenage kids... Fascinating how beautiful music can come from nasty individuals.


Raping his daughter too. Unsavoury ain't the half of it. But does this stop 'California Dreaming' sounding wonderful ?

Not to my ears. But it's that Gary Glitter conundrum, I suppose.

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 9:13 am
by Adam Blake
AndyM wrote:Not to my ears. But it's that Gary Glitter conundrum, I suppose.


Much as I love "I Didn't Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock'n'Roll)", "Doing Alright With The Boys" and "Always Yours", I am not sure they are comparable in stature to "California Dreamin'" or "Waterloo Sunset". I could be wrong, of course.

Andy's sitting on his hands so I will pipe up: Ray's great period was 1964-71 during which he was the only British songwriter to seriously rival Lennon & McCartney. Bowie? Townshend? Fuggedabboudit. Davies's unique take on Englishness has never been eclipsed. Occasional flashes from here and there have challenged it but as a sustained meditation on the nature of living in this country it remains untouched. And considered as music it is, again, unique. Nobody has ever come close to "Days" or "Wonder Boy" or (my favourite) "Autumn Almanac". But like most things, it's just a matter of taste.

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 9:25 am
by Jamie Renton
AndyM wrote:
Garth Cartwright wrote: and talent and what an unsavoury character JP was: doing hard drugs with his teenage kids... Fascinating how beautiful music can come from nasty individuals.


Raping his daughter too. Unsavoury ain't the half of it. But does this stop 'California Dreaming' sounding wonderful ?

Not to my ears. But it's that Gary Glitter conundrum, I suppose.


...and yet can I find a record label interested in releasing my proposed compilation "Greatest Rock n Roll Kiddie Diddlers"?

It's political correctness gone mad I tell you

Re: Ray Davies: A Complicated Life

PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2015 10:01 am
by NormanD
Or your compilation of unsavoury klemorim, "Kiddy Fiddler On The Roof".






Sorry, wrong thread.