The song that made Paul McCartney admire The Kinks

No one could touch The Beatles when the ‘British Invasion’ got underway. Outside of The Rolling Stones providing the darker edge of the blues in England, the work of John Lennon and Paul McCartney was instrumental in bringing the sounds of British rock and roll to America, complete with a fantastic gift for melody. Although the Fab Four may have kicked down the door for many bands to come afterwards, Ray Davies had something else in mind when putting together The Kinks.

Formed alongside his brother Dave on guitar, Ray was making something a lot closer to home with The Kinks. After accidentally creating the sounds of heavy music with songs like ‘You Really Got Me’, Ray began to branch out into new territories when working on the band’s later material.

Inspired by how other acts were focusing on making a definitive album statement, Ray set about writing about the kind of England that he pined for every single day. Across albums like Something Else and The Village Green Preservation Society, Ray was writing about the kind of England he had fondly remembered, including the fantastic trips across the river on songs like ‘Waterloo Sunset’.

Amid all of the standard ballads that he was known for creating, ‘See My Friends’ was one of the first times they started to experiment beyond the traditional rock format. Even while using the standard rock and roll lineup, the song predicted what would be coming down the pipeline in the future, featuring a unique blend of R&B and caustic rock that would define the scene’s experimental side.

While the band’s first attempts at raga rock were against the grain for the mid-1960s, McCartney was knocked out the first time he heard the song. Even though the song was a bold leap forward, the Beatle remembered being a bit cagey about his band not getting to this sound first.

When recalling a meeting that he had with McCartney around that time, Dave remembered how jaded his contemporary felt about not getting to that kind of sound sooner, recalling in his biography, “[He said], ‘You bastards! How dare you! I should have made that record’”. It wouldn’t take long for the band to catch up, though, with McCartney later penning their introduction to psychedelia with the song ‘Paperback Writer’.

Taking the crux of what The Kinks had worked on, the Fab Four would create a song that felt like ‘See My Friends’ dipped in acid, with McCartney writing about an aspiring writer over a savage guitar lick. While The Beatles may have picked up the reins in that battle, it did nothing to dissuade Ray from honing his craft even more.

Even though The Beatles may have been more adventurous with their songwriting, Ray would find his unique voice as a songwriter, painting vivid pictures of what everyday life looked like. The Kinks may have been the foil to The Beatles and The Stones, but they were responsible for breaking down the barriers of what bands were supposed to be. They may have begun the conversation around heavy music, but in terms of psychedelic head trips, Ray could claim to be one step ahead of the Fab Four for a brief moment in time.

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