The Kinks song where Dave Davies “found his voice”

Dave Davies, the growling guitar of the British invasion, became one of the 1960s’ most iconic players after just a couple of singles with The Kinks. The icon, who achieved world fame before adulthood, could never claim to rival Jimi Hendrix’s virtuosity. Still, his innovative approach can be deemed crucial to the emergence of heavier rock genres in the 1970s and beyond.

Indeed, Dave’s legacy was supposedly confirmed by Hendrix himself. “I remember once sitting next to him on a plane bound for Stockholm,” Dave once recalled. “After a while, we got talking a little, and he suddenly said to me: ‘Y’know, that guitar riff you did on ‘You Really Got Me’ was a real landmark.’ You can imagine how I felt. To be endorsed by Hendrix was really something. It was a great compliment.”

After energising British dancehalls with ‘You Really Got Me’ in August 1964, The Kinks struck a similar yet slightly rougher formula in ‘All Day and All of the Night’. Dave would later describe the single as the song in which he finally “found my voice”.

“I liked the guitar sound on ‘All Day And All of the Night’, the second single we had,” he beamed in a 2015 conversation with Guitar Player. “When they tried to develop amplifiers that had pre-gain and all, I thought it wasn’t quite right, and I struggled with the sound for a while. I never liked Marshalls because they sounded like everybody else. Then, in the mid-1970s, I started using Peavey, and people said, ‘Nobody uses Peavey – country and western bands use them’ [laughs]. I used to blow them up every night. I used two Peavey Maces together, and it was brilliant.”

Dave’s characteristic style depended on rough, choppy riffs but would never have been quite so monumental had he not inadvertently discovered distortion. It all started with a serendipitous dose of 17-year-old aggression.

“My childhood sweetheart Sue got pregnant, and we wanted to get married,” Dave told the Guardian in 2013. “But our parents said we were too young, and they split us up. I was a rebellious, angry kid anyway, but that had a profound effect on me. I was full of rage.”

“A little later, I was very depressed and fooling around with a razor blade,” he continued. “I could easily have slashed my wrists, but I had a little green amplifier, an Elpico, that was sounding crap. I thought, ‘I’ll teach it’ – and slashed the speaker cone. It changed the sound of my guitar. Then, when I wired that amp up to another, a Vox AC30, it made it a lot, lot louder.”

The Kinks’ producer Shel Tamy developed Dave’s discovery in the studio with his sonic expertise to further amplify the distorted sound. “While working as a studio engineer in LA, I’d figured out various techniques to make stuff sound even more powerful,” Tamy told the Guardian. “On ‘You Really Got Me’, I recorded the guitar on two channels, one distorting and the other not. The combination makes the sound seem louder. We’d even kick Dave’s amp as we walked past to make it sound rougher.”

Jimmy Page, still yet to achieve fame with The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, was a prolific session guitarist in London during The Kinks’ rise to prominence. He claimed to have brought the first fuzz effects unit to Britain, which he used while playing on The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’ B-side, ‘Bald-Headed Woman’. Page also claimed to have played the guitar riff on ‘All Day and All of the Night’, but The Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies vehemently denied this.

“I remember Page coming to one of our sessions when we were recording ‘All Day and All of the Night’,” Ray told Creem in 1981. “We had to record that song at 10 o’clock in the morning because we had a gig that night. It was done in three hours. Page was doing a session in the other studio, and he came in to hear Dave’s solo, and he laughed and he snickered. And now he says that he played it! So I think he’s an arsehole, and he can put all the curses he wants on me because I know I’m right and he’s wrong.”

Hear The Kinks’ landmark single ‘All Day and All of the Night’ below.

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