Don’t make me laugh Ray

ray davies 1

Last week-end our very good friends L & S came to stay and I had a quick browse through L’s paper of choice the Mail on Sunday. I came across an interesting feature in the Event section about how some of Britain’s biggest music stars wrote their signature hits. In other words what was their method of composing and their inspiration?   Later the same evening I watched a programme on BBC 4 about the most valuable songs of all time which asked a similar question. One illuminating fact shone out for me.

But let me tell you some of what our songbirds said first. Paul Weller talked about his song Going Underground (with The Jam) and his album Stanley Road. He admitted that he had no idea how he writes; it just comes to him, though he did admit to plundering the Beatles shamelessly. He’s still looking to craft a song as beautifully as Good Vibrations. Annie Lennox agonised as she always does  about her art. She yabbered on about the ‘alchemy of the process’, ‘a deep and powerful means of self-expression’ and being ‘in the moment of attention and connection’.  Oh gawd love. It seems that she did the words and Dave Stewart edited them and did the music and all the production. If you ask me their best song ‘Sweet Dreams’ is all about 6 words and a stonking driving riff. So that’s 95% Dave Stewart’s then? Sting talked about his great song ‘Every Breath You Take’ which he said started off as a love song but became darker as he developed the words. He then went into some twaddle about ‘songwriters being conduits to songs from the ether’ and that ‘we don’t really write songs; they pre-exist and we find them like archaeologists’. I think he means they nick bits from others – at least Paul Weller was less mysterious about it. Many would say that the strength of the song lies not in the clever words but in the mesmeric guitar riff from Andy Summers, who was denied co-authorship status by the Geordie minstrel. Perhaps that’s what Sting was getting at by ‘finding’ a great song . Bryan Ferry talked modestly about luck playing a great part in writing a good melody. His song ‘Jealous Guy’ was an example of one where he was moved writing it and shed a tear as he did. That’s when you know it works, he offered. Jarvis Cocker sort of  supported this by admitting that he knows after 20 seconds whether a song is any good or not. The song he knew was OK half a minute in? Common People from 1995.

The last person I was intrigued by was Paul MCartney who talked about 1965’s ‘Yesterday’ of course. Or ‘Scrambled Eggs’ as its working title was for quite some time as Paul and the other mop tops bashed it around in rehearsals. Paul’s technique it seems was to wake up with the song in his head, having created something special during his sleep. Cocker made reference to this technique too but admitted that anything he records in the middle of the night having woken from his creative dream, always sounds totally incoherent when listened to in the morning.

Well I don’t know what this all means in terms of technique. I reckon that Ferry may be the most realistic. A hook or distinctive melody springs into the mind and layers and words are crafted around it. What does strike me however is that great songwriting creativity tends to be linked with youthfulness and maybe early passion/love and almost certainly before the money starts to pile in (or maybe the drink/drugs take hold).  All of the great songs were written early on in their careers it seems to me. Have any of the above artists written anything truly great after turning 45 or in the last 10 years? Come on there’s not much you can point to. And if you need further evidence I’ll quote you Ray Davies one time leader of the Kinks who, looking back on his career, said that ‘he will always aspire to write the great 3 -minute song because he’s not written it yet’. And what topic would you write about? Getting your bus pass? Your ill-fitting incontinence pants? Do me a favour Ray. If you lived to be 135 I’m as certain as night following day that you’ll never write anything again as close to the greatness of those songs written nearly 50 years ago – Sunny Afternoon, You Really Got Me, All Day and All of the Night, Lola or Waterloo Sunset – let alone surpass them.

And I’d have given that hairstyle the elbow after the punk era son. It’s bloody tragic.


This entry was posted in ASSORTED RANTS/LIKES, music and tagged , , , by Paul. Bookmark the permalink.

About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

38 thoughts on “Don’t make me laugh Ray

  1. Yeah, whereas you’re hair style is stunning, Pasta P. By the way, your assessment of Ray Davies’ work is beyond ignorant. By your post, I would say you have never listened to the 33 original studio albums of The Kinks, nor have you ever heard any of Ray’s solo work. Do the world a favor and get into another line of work (or shall we call it a hobby?). You’re not qualified for music blogging.

  2. Hopefully your knowledge of pasta is more substantial than that of rock stars and their music. Did you intend to be cynical? Sorry, you failed. There is more to it than only writing nasty, derogatory trivialities. At least the reader can demand a profound research, (>Jealous Guy) Regarding Ray Davies you overstepped the bounds of good taste. Just poor.

  3. PP, as you well know — those who can (for example, Ray Davies), do; and those who cannot, criticize. Criticism has its place. But, PP, this was a personal attack on Ray Davies. You didn’t say why you don’t like any of his new songs; you said you didn’t like his haircut! I recommend you give Ray Davies’ songs a listen and then write your critical piece on Ray Davies and songwriting, then and now.

  4. Hi Johnny Thunder, Neon Sign, Jutta Hammer, Red Cat

    Umm. Interesting comments and so very similar. That wouldn’t be RD’s biggest fan would it? Anyway you’re welcome to criticise my views and I’ll publish them. I was saying two things about Ray: a) that his early songs were truly great and that nothing he’s done since compares to them in my opinion. I don’t see what’s wrong about that but I absolutely recognise that you (four) may think otherwise. I quite admire the fact that he still feels there’s a great song in him but I also made the general point that it seems to me the muse leaves modern song writers once they lose their youthful passion. The second point b) about Ray’s hair is just a bit of fun. Come on, lighten up guys. It takes some commitment to do something about leaving the long-at-the-back;thin-on-top club. I should know. So having received one or two comments about my own hairstyle over the years (and thanks for adding yours on the subject!) I think I’m allowed to do a bit of teasing to a fellow dedicated follower of amusing hair fashion.


  5. You never know when Ray’s next great song will come. Hell, he could be scribbling it down on the back of a cocktail napkin right now. What about “Thanksgiving Day” ? That came out just a few years ago and now it’s played all over the U.S. EVERY Thanksgiving Day. The music industry has changed alot since the days of “Waterloo Sunset” and since Ray Davies is not a 16 year old graduate of “American Idle” (Thank God) you have to dig around to find his masterpieces these days and there are way more than four of us that think so. Maybe it’s just that only four people are bothering to read your Blog.

    • Fair enough Patsy. I have to admit to not knowing the song Thanksgiving Day – I’ve never heard it air-played here. Then again we don’t celebrate that day too much here.

      BTW the other four fans were one and the same. So that’s two readers – including you. Thanks for doubling my readership P


    • You may be right Joe. All I said was for me his early Kink’s stuff was brilliant and he’ll never surpass it …and that his hair’s a lost cause. Jeez.

    • Hi John and Sabre

      I could blame the article but that mistake’s down to me; he covered the song but didn’t write it. Apologies. His explanation of his writing technique remains the most plausible to me still.


  6. Sorry to disappoint you, but those four writers you lumped together as one person are really four different people who took the trouble to set you straight. There are many more Kinks fans who were appalled by your reference to Ray Davies’ hair (you really should have known better than to throw stones while living in a glass house), but they chose not to comment here, preferring instead to vent in their usual forums. As you can see, you’re developing quite a following (and not an admiring one) in the Kinks camp. How did they discover you? A link to your blog post was published in a Kinks Facebook group. You should know that Kinks fans are tenacious. They recently upset both the Beatles and the Stones in a Classic Rock Hall of Fame poll, winning for their favorite band first entry into this putatively hallowed shrine. So don’t be dismissive of their numbers—there are lots of them.

    Note: my previous comment was truncated; please delete it.

    • Hi Daniella

      I’m not sure what you the fans are getting so steamed about; is that I said in my opinion RD will never write anything again as brilliant as All Day and All of the Night et al or that he should give up the pretence that his hair’s still luxurious – ‘cos it isn’t?

      Anyway I’m happy to publish your views and I think RD should be humbled that he has such devoted fans, clearly.


      • Not being a rock fan, PP, I never get steamed about any popular band or performer. And I don’t consider “All Day and All of the Night” brilliant. Brilliant to my ears is “Autumn Almanac.“ Your argument on songwriting creativity is not new. There’s no disputing the fact that, in general, one’s early years are the most productive—and not only in the arts (science is another good example). But that is not to say that mature artists can’t produce works of a high caliber. Here’s an excellent song by the 60ish Ray Davies:

    • Well Susan you may be right but thanks for checking in and responding all the same. Feel free to check out my other postings – some people like them.

  7. As a Kinks / Ray Davies fan, I would say that Ray’s hairstyle is not a deliberate attempt to cultivate any ‘style’ – he just hasn’t got round to getting it sorted because he has more important things on his mind than his appearance (i.e. songwriting perhaps). And this is to be applauded in our image-conscious world where everyone is wrapped up in his own little person.

    • Well this is the 2nd time hillbilli has wanted to post this message so I thought I should allow it through and show people how charming some of Ray Davies’ fans can be. If you read some of my recent posts hillbilli you might get some clues about how callous that comment is. Just for everyone’s information hillbili’s message came with a personal email address, I’d hate to think people might be offended by such trollism and drop jodi a message or two to express their disappointment. Or that someone may recognise it and ‘out’ this moron.

      • 3 cheers to you 21stcentuyhillbilli. You got right down to brass tacks and didn’t mince words.My sentiments exactly and from the looks of all these posts, everyone else’s too. Although that was quite rude of “PeePee” to broadcast the personal email address of jodi214 and surely quite frowned upon in the Blog profession, I’m sure jodi will be getting a lot of great fan mail unlike this kreep who seems to be a glutton for verbal punishment.

  8. I have lived in the US from the UK for the last 29 years and I can honestly say I had never heard, nor heard of, Ray Davies’s Thanksgiving Day, so i went to YouTube and listened to it performed live on a late night TV show and it was, IMHO, so far from the heights of The Kinks as to be embarrassing. And why people get so worked up about an old geezer’s hair, or lack of it is bewildering.

    • Hey Shay, Are you sure you lived in the US for 29 years but never heard the song “Thanksgiving Day”? It appears that you are only vaguely familiar with the music of Ray Davies, Dave Davies and the Kinks so why would you be so committed to posting on this blog? I think you just live in the cue ball head of Pasta Paul here so he could have someone on this Blog that actually agrees with him. “Come On Now” Paul. You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t Kon a Kinkster.

      • Patsy

        You accuse me of being rude to publish someone’s e-mail address whilst he wants me to ‘die’! That’s a twisted sense of proportion. It doesn’t surprise me therefore that you cannot accept the words of someone living in America who disagrees with you. You’re not a fan; you’re a music nazi.


  9. Very entertaining read, Paul. Wish they had you on tv reviewing the papers. Interesting about the youth thing, good point. I hadn’t thought about it before. You’re probably right.

  10. Well you sure rattled The Kinks’ fans cages, didn’t you?
    I don’t want to assume too much about you but how is it possible for someone over a certain age not to know that ‘Jealous Guy’ is a John Lennon song? Perhaps I’m doing you a disservice and you’re only fifteen. I remember feeling saddened last year when the teams on University Challenge failed to recognise Lennon’s distinctive voice.
    Leaving Ray Davies out of it for a moment, Jarvis Cocker penned some truly great material before the lowest common denominator breakout hit ‘Common People’. ‘Razzmatazz’, ‘Babies’, ‘Do You Remember the First Time?’ all predate that and are far superior to the single that charted. The His’n’Hers album is a classic.
    But to return to Ray. You could read his statement as a modest dismissal of his previous efforts as much as a self-aggrandising assertion that he’s about to pen the perfect three-minute song. His body of work with The Kinks in the 60s and 70s is astonishing and who wouldn’t be proud of ‘Waterloo Sunset’, ‘Sunny Afternoon’, ‘Dead End Street’, ‘A Well Respected Man’, ‘Lola’?
    But his solo material is also quality. TheWorking Man’s Café album boasts some great tunes and lyrics written from a more mature perspective, like ‘One More Time’ and ‘The Real World’, although Ray did always like to adopt that perspective, come to think of it. And if he did write something about his bus pass, I’m sure it would be a wryly satirical observational ditty or a heartfelt and emotional one.

  11. Hi BB
    Well-argued opinion, thank you though I can assure you I am slightly older than 15. I admitted to an error with Jealous Guy in not double-checking my facts when I was critiquing the original piece. I apologise again; of course it’s Lennon’s and one of his great songs though Ferry’s cover is rather good. I should add that I write some of this stuff pretty late at night you know.

    I take your point that RD’s written some very good music since turning solo and that he’d probably pen a fascinating song about a TfL bus pass. Possibly with Terry and Julie squabbling over who was going to use it. But here’s the thing, I caught sight of an advert last night for H&M clothing featuring model Gisele Bundchen singing the song All Day and All the Night. It just proved to me that, whllst Gisele ain’t no Adele, the song is timeless and still proving to be captivating, musically and commercially, 50 years (or so) after it was written. That ranks RD with the likes of Gershwin, Berlin and Porter imho. But I stick by my assertion that it was from RD’s most brilliant period for song writing. That’s the only point I was really making; almost all creative people have this ‘golden moment’ and it’s usually when their life force is at its strongest. It occurs to me that it takes a pure genius to remain prolific, innovative, relevant and highly saleable throughout the span of his or her life. Picasso, for me, is possibly the main contender from the 20th c though I’m happy to have another debate folks!

  12. Been a Kink Kultist from the beginning (therefore my bias is a bit skewed) and that is why I only pointed out the “Jealous Guy” inaccuracy previously. I despise nastiness, which has sadly become a facet of the interweb. However I must agree with the youthful “Golden Years” theory versus the maturing golden years. We can never re-capture the zest and “creativity” of our youth because we all eventually become bogged down and tainted (probably a better choice of words, but who owns a Roget’s now?) by life’s experiences. One can obviously note the differences between the early Kinks tunes and latter – once quite pithy and then increasingly wordy. But then there is intelligent wordiness – Graham Parker and Nick Lowe and many others come to mind. To the slag who has never heard “Thanksgiving Day”, even though she has lived in the UK/US for the last 29 years all I can say is “one of our DJ’s is missing” and I am definitely not tuned to the same point “around the dial” ~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s