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The Kinks were formed in Muswell Hill, North London by brothers Ray and Dave Davies and Pete Quaife. Other members came and went (including lead vocalist Rod Stewart!) until the final line-up was finalised with the addition of drummer Mick Avory.
The group's first taste of success came when their 1964 single "You Really Got Me" hit number one on the UK singles chart, it also made the Top 10 in the US. The loud, distorted guitar riff was achieved by Dave Davies taking a razor blade and slicing the speaker cone of his amplifier. The resulting damage gave the song its signature, dirty, gritty guitar sound.
Always willing to embrace conflict, the Kinks early shows were often punctuated with onstage bickering and fighting. One infamous 1965 show at the The Capitol Theatre, Cardiff saw drummer Avory attack Dave Davies with a cymbol resulting in a trip to the local hospital and several stitches in the guitarists head. At the peak of their commercial success this reputation for violence saw The Kinks fail to secure permits to tour the US.
The late sixties were a golden age for the band. The singles "Sunny Afternoon", "Dead End Street" and (perhaps most notably) "Waterloo Sunset" are the songs that have come to define the Kinks sound and showcased Ray Davies' ability to craft narrative songs about everyday British life and people.
With growing confidence in their own abilities releases by The Kinks became increasingly ambitious and complex affairs featuring a wider range of instrumentation. The titles also seemed to keep on getting longer! "The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society" (1968), "Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)" (1969) and "Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One" (1970) all garnered critical acclaim but failed to achieve the levels of commercial success that was expected of the band.
The singles "Days" (number 12 in 1968), "Lola" (#2 and 1970) and "Apeman" (#5 in 1970) were the last of the bands hits to lodge themselves into the consciousness of the British public.
The songs and the sounds of The Kinks continue to be an inspiration to successive generations of British musicians. Dave Davies' guitar part from "You Really Got Me" is often cited as the first heavy metal riff. In the late seventies The Jam and The Pretenders both covered Kinks as a hat-tip to a source of inspiration. The foremost players in the nineties Britpop scene, including Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn, were falling over themselves to proclaim Ray Davies as a hero.
Spring 2014 saw the debut of "Sunny Afternoon", a musical based on the early life of Ray Davies and featuring songs from the band's back catalogue. The show sold out its initial run at The Hampstead Theatre in North London before transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End. The production went on to win 4 categories at the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards.