The Kinks were primarily influential during the British Invasion of the 1960s, but their impact on the music industry is almost surprising. Despite working in a time when innovation and experimentation were all the rage, the Kinks were known for primarily sticking to their own sound rather than constantly trying to incorporate one genre of music into another in order to create something new. They also avoided some genres of rock music, such as psychedelic rock, almost entirely.
The band’s style was largely determined by its initial lineup, which consisted of lead guitarist Dave Davies with his brother Ray on rhythm guitar and lead vocals (also writing many of the songs). While the Davis brothers were the only consistent members of the band’s lineup, their other initial members were important to their sound as well. These included drummer Mick Avory and bassist Pete Quaife. The band believed in embracing their English heritage, with Ray Davies refusing to Americanize his accent in the way that some other musicians were doing at the time.
While the Kinks mostly stayed true to their own sound, they still had influences that could be heard in their music.. They originally started by playing primarily rhythm and blues music, but eventually forayed into rock. Many think of them as the first punk band, having created songs such as “All Day and All of the Night,” “Sunny Afternoon,” “You Really Got Me” and “Lola.” Their music has inspired other rock bands such as Van Halen, the Who, Oasis and Blur. They also created one of the earliest examples of crossover music when they incorporated traditional Indian musical styles in the song “See My Friends” in 1965.
The only period of experimentation that the band really underwent was in the early-to-mid 1970s, when Ray Davies became infatuated with theatricality and began incorporating female backup singers and brass instruments into the band. This period of experimentation led to Preservation, a rock opera in which Davies would dress as an anti-hero revolutionist named Mister Flash. He created other theatrical works as well, such as Starmaker and Schoolboys in Disgrace (which revived the character of Mister Flash and gave him a backstory). After the release of Schoolboys in Disgrace in 1975, the Kinks returned to more mainstream rock hits.
While the Kinks became increasingly popular over time, their early records did not always sell well. They were a band that many learned to love in retrospect, often overshadowed by other major musical acts of their era. Their music was well-arranged in terms of instrumentals, but was not overly complex. However, this simplistic musical style was backed by often highly intelligent lyrics by Ray Davies. This is especially notable in the song “Well Respected Man,” a song that Davies himself described as the first song in which he tried to be especially clever in his word choices.
The Kinks were one of those bands that sort of snuck up on the music industry. Their arrival on the rock and roll scene was not heralded by a barrage of number one singles, nor was their live presentation particularly ostentatious. Even so, they turned out a number of respectable songs, a few of which have become absolute classics. Some younger listeners who have never heard of the band themselves will no doubt still have heard songs such as “You Really Got Me” and “Lola.” Many musicians, however, are thoroughly familiar with the Kinks. For this reason, their music will live on for quite some time through the manner in which it has inspired other artists.
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