As "Storyteller," Davies worked out the kinks
In his show "The Storyteller," Ray Davies looks back on how he and his brother Dave went from growing up in North London to fronting the Kinks, one of the key bands in the 1960s British Invasion.
But don't call him nostalgic.
"That's the good thing about the 'Storyteller' show I do," Davies says in a recent telephone interview. "It's about the music and it's about the band and it's about growing up, but it's not really nostalgic. Yeah, it took place in the '60s, but it could happen to any four guys now. I don't think it's really a timepiece."
Davies is bringing "The Storyteller" to Madison's Barrymore Theater, 2090 Atwood Ave. at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are $25 in advance, $27.50 on the day of the show, and are available at the Barrymore and its various outlets, by phone at (608) 241-8633, or online at www.barrymorelive.com.
After this tour, Davies says he plans to revamp the show so it would appeal to an audience that wouldn't necessarily be Kinks fans. An actor would be able to do it as a one-man show for an extended run in a theater, such as on Broadway.
"I want to work another version, and see if it can stand up," he says. "I don't think it can be done with me, because I bring a different dynamic to it."
The "Storyteller" concept originally grew out of bookstore readings that Davies would do from his 1995 autobiography, "X-Ray." Since music is such an inextricable part of Davies' life story, some people suggested that he play a few songs along with the readings.
The show features Davies singing Kinks classics like "Tired of Waiting" and "Victoria" along with stories and unreleased songs. If the format sounds familiar to viewers of "VH-1 Storytellers," that's because the TV show was patterned after Davies' original concept.
"It's a story about a family growing up in post-war Britain, a working-class family," he says. "The two kids go out into the world and break through. That period was the first time that working-class people had an opportunity to do anything, not just in music, but in the arts in general. Theater, films. Suddenly it became chic to be working class."
The trip from humble origins to worldwide success has become almost a cliche for rock bands now, but back in the early 1960s there were no signposts for the Kinks to follow.
"Kids are more savvy now, and they know how to use their origins and use what they have going for them," Davies says. "Whereas when we started, nobody told us how to do this. We were the first to do it. We were the guinea pigs. Now you can actually buy manuals on how to be a rock singer, or go to college and learn how to produce records. It was all new, virgin territory for us."
For example, British bands in the Kinks era who wanted to promote their records had little choice but to appear on BBC radio, Davies says, with the station retaining ownership of the tapes. Earlier this year, a two-CD compilation of those tapes, with performances ranging from 1964 to 1977, was released with little input from the band.
"They put a record out earlier this year, which is quite interesting to me," Davies says. "They allowed me the luxury of listening to the tapes, and as a result said that I helped put it together. When, in fact, they were going to put it out anyway. But it is an interesting piece of historical archival material."
As for the Kinks' future, Davies says the band is contractually obligated to put out another studio record. But he says they won't do it until it feels like they're doing something worthwhile.
"I can see my way through doing something like that, but only if the music means something," he says "I don't want to make a nostalgic-type record. I don't think the others would want to either."
Davies' energy is focused right now on making his very first solo studio album. Tentatively titled "Why Suddenly Now," and slated for release next summer, the album will be heavily influenced by the blues and country songs that influenced Davies when he was growing up.
"I went down to New Orleans to rekindle the flame of the kind of music that inspired me," Davies says. "It's finding that balance between the sort of thing that people maybe might expect, and what I want to do. It'll be my first solo studio album, so I don't want it to appear that I'm trying too hard. I want a relaxed record."
Asked whether four blue-collar teens from North London could replicate the same success that the Kinks had 35 years ago, Davies responds that, despite shifts in popular music and the music business, much remains the same.
"In many respects, maybe it's a bit easier. But it's never easy for people to get record deals now, because the record industry is in such a bad state.
"I don't think things change that much. Only the trousers."