fri 19/07/2024

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Kinks | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Kinks

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Kinks

Important celebration of a great British institution's BBC appearances

The Kinks’ original line up reunited for their induction to the the UK Music Hall of Fame, November 2005: Mick Avory, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife, Ray Davies (left to right)

The Kinks at the BBCThe Kinks:  The Kinks at the BBC

Kieron Tyler

“Meet a group that recently came from nowhere to the top of the hit parade. A rhythm and blues outfit with long, shoulder-length hair and the strange name of The Kinks.” With that, Brian Matthew introduced The Kinks to BBC listeners on 19 September 1964. Two months later, Matthew declares the band “members of the shaggy set”. On being asked why they grow their hair so long, Ray Davies says that “girls go for it”. His brother Dave offers that girls are going kinky.

Almost 50 years on, these off-the-cuff remarks are amongst the wealth of fabulous nuggets peppering this important five-CD/one-DVD set. A double CD of Kinks’ BBC radio sessions was issued in 2008, but The Kinks at the BBC is definitive, covering 1964 to 1994 and collecting everything that survives. Not that much of the pre-1970 material actually survived in the BBC’s archives.

In 1964 The Kinks were just another scruffy beat combo storming the charts

Virtually all of the Sixties’ recordings made for broadcast heard here have been recovered from vinyl transcription discs the BBC manufactured for overseas syndication – the source tapes were wiped. The discs formed part of series titled Top of the Pops (no relation to the TV programme) which collected recordings made by performers forced into doing so for the BBC by the Musician's Union. Restrictions were imposed on the amount of music which could be broadcast from records. If bands wanted to maximise exposure, they had schlep along to the BBC’s studios to recreate what they'd released. A heroic job has been done to find this material. Post-1970, things are easier as the BBC had realised that – for both radio on TV – pop was worth preserving.

Peter Doggett’s liner notes point out that both The Kinks and the BBC are British institutions, and it’s fitting that this set exists. Back in 1964, The Kinks were just another scruffy beat combo storming the charts. The recognition of Ray Davies as one of our greatest artists wasn’t that far in the future, though. The most amazing moment here is on the DVD and hints at that coming acknowledgment. A TV interview with Ray Davies finds a stuffed-shirt interviewer probing his subject about the recently issued “Waterloo Sunset”. Despite the serious intent of the grilling, Ray gives little away, even when he’s told his answers make no sense. However, elsewhere on the DVD (from 1972), Ned Sherrin specifically declares Davies a great British songwriter.


The Kinks at the BBC

The Kinks at the BBC is neither the story of The Kinks or a linear listen, despite mostly being sequenced chronologically – a series of off-air recordings of TV and radio performances are appended to the end of the fifth CD, and songs are repeated throughout. Instead, this is a verité document of a band making appearances that, back then, seemed ephemeral. A live radio session would be heard once, and then would be gone. Doggett points out that The Kinks were unaware that transcription discs were shipped off around the world, later to be collected by fans. Of course, with the advent of the cassette, a 1974 In Concert would have had a certain afterlife.

The band varied their repertoire for the radio, hence a unique (and creepy) performance of “This Strange Effect”, written by Ray Davies but recorded for release by Dave Berry rather than The Kinks. An unvarnished “See my Friends” from 1965 is beautiful, sparkling even more than the familiar single take. As the Sixties turn into the Seventies, the songs become less oblique, more focussed on cultural identity and a wistful, often allegorical, longing. Then, the rock-band Kinks that conquered America hoves into view. The mid-Nineties entries are fascinating, and not as jarring as would be expected when heard after all the earlier material.

There are many reasons to get this well-packaged, pristine-sounding and lovingly compiled release (a cut-down, double-CD version is also available). These reasons are obvious. If one is needed, it’s 1972’s The Kinks at the Rainbow, a serious, contextualising documentary punctuated with live performances. This illuminating archival treasure alone is worth the price of admission.

The Kinks perform 'Lola' on Top of the Pops



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