The Kinks

The Kinks

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About The Kinks

If all that The Kinks contributed to the rock ‘n’ roll canon was the riff to 1964’s “You Really Got Me,” they’d still be legends today. With those nasty, distorted guitar chords, the London group (formed a year prior) transformed the British Invasion into a genuine act of war, teaching the first generations of punks and metalheads how to turn it up to 11. However, the violence implicit in The Kinks’ early music tended to manifest in actual onstage fisticuffs (often between frontman Ray Davies and his guitarist brother Dave), saddling the group with a rough-cat reputation that would see them denied touring visas for the U.S. from 1965 to 1970. While that setback prevented The Kinks from achieving the stadium-conquering stardom of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, they swiftly transformed from the most unruly rock band of the era into the most erudite. They became the rare British Invasion group to speak specifically to the experience of being British, with Ray perfecting a signature blend of romantic Londontown poetry (“Waterloo Sunset”) and scathing upper-class satire (“Sunny Afternoon”) that had him wrapping himself in the Union Jack one moment and burning it the next. And he didn’t just prod at high-society norms, but at the male-dominated culture underpinning them: With 1970’s “Lola,” he delivered an uncommon celebration of gender-bending in a pre-glam landscape. While peers like The Who experimented with the rock-opera format, The Kinks made the theatrical concept album their raison d’etre throughout the ’70s—often at the expense of their commercial prospects—though later singles like 1981’s hard-rockin’ “Destroyer” and 1983’s music-hall fantasia “Come Dancing” proved they could sneak onto the charts when the mood struck. The Kinks officially disbanded in 1997—but then, thanks to spiritual descendents like Damon Albarn and Arctic Monkeys, they’ve never really gone away.

London, England
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