We're like a sad old couple... only we can't get divorced! The Kinks' Dave Davies on his toxic, lifelong feud with his brother Ray
What is it about rock music that turns even brotherly love into the most volatile relationship?
There’s Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis, Robin and Barry Gibb, Michael and Jermaine Jackson and not forgetting Don and Phil Everly, whose dislike of each other was so intense they were known as the Hatred Brothers.
But perhaps the most toxic feud is the long-standing acrimony between brothers Ray and Dave Davies, better known as founder members of The Kinks.
Like their music, which first brought them chart success in the Sixties with You Really Got Me and Waterloo Sunset, the bitterness, the bickering and eloquently crafted insults have withstood the passage of time.
The most toxic feud in rock music is the long-standing acrimony between brothers Ray (right) and Dave Davies (left), better known as founder members of The Kinks
Ray — knighted in the New Year Honours — tends to shrugs off the antipathy. ‘Don’t know what Dave’s problem is apart from pride,’ he has said dismissively.
But, a few years ago, Dave said of their feud: ‘You’ve heard of vampires. Well, Ray sucks me dry of ideas, emotions and creativity. He’s a control freak.’
In 1975, they dressed as schoolboys for their album Schoolboys In Disgrace. It was a rare moment of closeness, and the image very much flickers into the mind as Dave, at 70, three years younger than Ray, talks about their relationship since.
The more he sighs about the fights, the jealousies and the time Ray stamped on Dave’s birthday cake, the less they sound like grand old men of rock, and the more they remind you of squabbling schoolkids, or siblings who’ve never grown up.
‘There is something about me that irritates him. I don’t know what it is. It’s a toxic thing. It’s vampirism. Ray is a bit of a control freak. That may be a good thing sometimes — it’s probably helped his writing,’ says Dave
‘That’s exactly what it’s like,’ agrees Dave. ‘Or like a married couple who have just reached the end of the road. You know when one partner gives and gives and the other takes, and finally you realise you can’t do it any more?’
You can’t divorce your brother, though. ‘No, you can’t. So we are stuck with each other, but I think I’ve accepted that this is just the way our relationship is.’
The brothers from North London have a famously fractious relationship. The professional harmony turned out so many classic hits, but it wasn’t so smooth in real life. Perhaps the moment that best sums up their relationship came at Dave’s 50th birthday bash.
It was never a given that Ray would be there, but he was. Entente cordiale, perhaps? Well, Dave thought so — until Ray flung Dave’s birthday cake to the ground and stamped on it.
I raise the subject hesitantly, assuming it will have been misreported, or embellished in the telling. Surely these things only happen in EastEnders?
‘No, it is true,’ says the younger Davies brother, half-resigned, half-apologetic. ‘I think he probably paid for the cake, too, but that was Ray all over. He’d want me to have something like that — but then he couldn’t bear to see me with it.’
And this was typical of their relationship? ‘Yes. He wants me to have things, but can’t stand it when I do. I love him. He loves me, but when we’re in the same room, it doesn’t work.
Ray — knighted in the New Year Honours — tends to shrugs off the antipathy. ‘Don’t know what Dave’s problem is apart from pride,’ he has said dismissively
‘It’s worse when other people are around — when others are there Ray needs to perform, he needs to be the centre of attention.’
He stops and gives a little laugh, aware of how odd these family dynamics sound. ‘I like to say Ray was only happy for the first three years of his life — until I came along. But he’s still my brother.’
However, we may soon get another account of this most famous of brotherly rivalries.
Outside Buckingham Palace, after Ray — the band’s songwriter — was knighted for his services to music, he revealed plans to write a new musical . . . about siblings!
His brother could contribute some interesting material.
Meanwhile, Dave was in Los Angeles, happily collaborating on a new album, Open Road, with another family member, his son Russ.
He seems astonished that working with someone to whom you are related can be quite seamless. No rows, no punch-ups.
‘Obviously, Russ and I have things that we don’t agree on, but we work through them and it’s actually been an incredibly organic creative process.’
It was different to how he worked with Ray, it seems. ‘Well at its best that was just magical’, Dave laughs. ‘What we have is almost telepathic and at its best it was, is, really inspirational for both of us. But at its worst it was chaos.’
He is now matter-of-fact about the reality of living in his big brother’s shadow. That Ray seems to despise him (and perhaps vice-versa, although he does seem to genuinely care about Ray) is just something that he accepts.
‘There is something about me that irritates him. I don’t know what it is. It’s a toxic thing. It’s vampirism. Ray is a bit of a control freak. That may be a good thing sometimes — it’s probably helped his writing.’
He’s the first to admit that The Kinks perhaps needed Ray’s neuroticism and hang-ups.
‘In any creative work — whether you are a writer, painter, musician — there are times in life when a lot of crazy stuff goes around. The music stirs all sorts of things and for us there were definitely periods of madness, that’s even before the drinking and the drug-taking and the getting exhausted.’
Dave and Ray formed The Kinks in 1963. As they enjoyed commercial success, both indulged in the excesses of the time. You could write a book (or musical) about the drunken rampages and rows. They are pictured above in 1976
Ray, Dave, and their six elder sisters were raised in a chaotic, overcrowded three-bedroom terrace house in Muswell Hill. It was a boisterous, musical family. Their father Fred’s Saturday nights in the pub would be followed by raucous sing-a-longs around a piano in the front room.
Ray got his first guitar at 13, Dave got his not long after, and the brothers soon started to mess about together with their instruments. Even then, it was complicated. It’s widely thought that Ray took the death of their eldest sister Rene badly. Rene died of a heart attack just after she gave Ray his guitar and he had a special relationship with his sisters.
His bond with Dave was always different. They were rivals from the off. ‘From his point of view, he was spoiled by all these sisters and had them to himself, then I came along’, says Dave.
Dave and Ray formed The Kinks in 1963. As they enjoyed commercial success, both indulged in the excesses of the time. You could write a book (or musical) about the drunken rampages and rows.
Some are legendary. At Ray’s 1964 wedding (to Lithuanian student Rasa Dicpetris, who later left him, causing him to take an overdose) Dave announced that he was ‘too p****d’ to make his best man’s speech. He was later discovered in an upstairs bedroom having sex with the leading bridesmaid.
Dave laughs at those sorts of memories; less so when I ask what his late mother made of the feud between her only sons.
‘I think Ray was always afraid of my mum. She could see through him, all of us. But she hated the fact her sons didn’t get on. Any mother would. Before she died, she told me he would always take from me. She was right.’ The simple version of why the brothers clash would be that Ray was the star and didn’t want to share the spoils of his fame.
Certainly now he is the richer, more overtly successful Kink. Dave is peeved about this, but only up to a point.
‘Whether he would care to admit it or not, it was a collaboration of ideas. No man is an island. I learned a great deal from him —but he did from me, too.’
The more you talk to Dave, the more you release that the annoyance isn’t entirely — or even at all — about money. ‘Do I want his money? No. Money doesn’t make you happy. I’ve been in the music business long enough to know that.’
What irks more is Ray’s determination to be the lead singer, even when he isn’t. Theirs sounds like a hopelessly one-sided relationship. ‘It was, but I didn’t mind it as much when I was younger. When you are that age it is easier to give and not feel empty.’
It still pains him that Ray once claimed the distinctive riff at the start of You Really Got Me, with its cleverly distorted sound, came about after he slashed some guitar strings with a razor.
The story was half-true — it was Dave who did the slashing and, anyway, it was the guitar speaker cone, not the strings.
Dave sighs again. ‘It always had to be about Ray.’
Such a relationship is trying. He remembers a conversation with David Knopfler, who founded Dire Straits with his brother Mark — and famously fell out.
They talked about their respective brothers and saw endless parallels. The Knopfler brothers stopped speaking entirely, though. Dave and Ray haven’t.
‘We speak on the phone,’ he admits. ‘Or we email. Not regularly, but every so often. I’ll tell him what I’m up to. He’ll say what he’s doing.’
The Kinks split in 1996, but ever since there has been speculation about them reforming. That gathered pace in 2015 when, to Dave’s surprise, Ray pitched up at a gig he was playing in London — and joined him on stage.
‘I didn’t know he was coming,’ he reveals. ‘I’d sent him an email saying, “Why don’t you come?” but I didn’t know he was there till just before he walked on stage.’
Did they fall into each other’s arms, all animosity forgotten? He laughs. ‘No!’
But they are there for each other. Dave has taken Ray in during times of need — with three failed marriages and at least one suicide attempt, there has been plenty of that.
And when Dave suffered a massive stroke in 2004, he recuperated at his brother’s house.
For a while. He tells me that eventually he had to move out.
‘He couldn’t stand it because he had to be nice to me,’ he laughs.
Maybe this dysfunction suits them both. Perhaps it would be boring for two legendary hell-raisers to admit there’s nothing they enjoy more than a pint together.
Will they be there for each other in old age? ‘I will,’ says Dave. ‘I think he will be, too. In his own way. We are brothers. That won’t change.’
The Open Road by Dave and Russ Davies, is out now.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-4498022/The-Kinks-Dave-Davies-feud-brother-Ray.html#ixzz4gtpUpnoo
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