NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Ray Davies by Alex Fine

[illustration by ALEX FINE]

listenRay Davies will be Terry Gross’ guest on Fresh Air today, discussing the new Kinks box set marking the 50th anniversary of the release of “You Really Got Me,” one of the defining songs of rock and/or roll.

Do us all a favor: Cue up “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks. Ah. Don’t you feel better already? Music in the left speaker, vocals in the right — back to mono. That twinkling strum of brotherly guitar and gently piddling snare, those drowsy sha-la-las drifting upward while the bassline tumbles downward, and the comforting sentiment that even the shittiest day on earth ends with a glimpse-of-paradise sunset. That, my friend, is the sound of your father’s Britpop. They don’t make singles like that anymore — Damon Albarn has long since stopped even trying. Sadly, the Gallagher brothers haven’t. As a modish young man, back when London was swinging and shagadelic, Ray Davies authentically articulated the quiet desperation of middle-aged English milquetoasts straitjacketed in cardigans and stuck at the crossroads of fat wives, cold tea and limp biscuits; the fashion slavery of Carnaby Street dandies; the lazy, summery noontides of stoned Victoriana, where nobody is all that concerned that London Bridge is falling down, and hey, what was in that marmalade anyway? He also wrote “Lola” — which STILL tastes just like cherry cola, C-O-L-A Cola — and then married Chrissie Hynde only to have her leave him for, of all people, the lead singer of Simple Minds. The Kinks more or less puttered out at the dawn of MTV, although they’ve never officially pulled the plug. In the late ’90s Davies became a habitue of the Big Easy. Ten years ago, Davies was shot in the leg while chasing the man who had just mugged his girlfriend in the French Quarte. America’s always been a secret unrequited love of Davies: He loves her; she shoots him. No wonder he moved back to England. – JONATHAN VALANIA