England - Full Moon 220 - 08/10/14
From head to heart
The Kinks' You Really Got Me
Following our retroscope series of latter years, here we go again! Here's Speakers'
corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute
milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart. Making us go sentimental,
but not slaphappy. This moonth the Lunar shuttle take us waaaaay back, in fact 50 years. One of the toughest rock singles - ever! With one of the most influential guitar riffs - ever! And,
with some of the coolest distortion sound coming from a guitar - at the time. The speaker cone of the guitar amp was sliced with a razor blade and poked with a pin! Yes, the brothers were
wild and crazy from the very start... One with hot, burning, love-ridden lyrics and screaming vocals. The other with red hot, burning guitar strings and steaming amps. They really got you.
From the start.
You Really Got Me b/w It's All Right
By early 1964 The Kinks had gained a contract with Pye Records for three singles. The first two flopped. They were both taken from one three hour session where the band recorded six songs.
If the third single failed too, it would be the end of the musical careers of the band members.
Let's turn over to lead vocalist, rhythm guitar player and main composer and writer Raymond Douglas Davies to explain:
'Once upon a time there was a room in a house called The Front Room. It was so named because it was at the front of the house, by the street. It was
reserved for special occasions. Christmas parties, wedding receptions, birthdays, christenings and funerals all took place in the front room. Important visitors were always shown into it.
... My sisters courted their boyfriends in there. Every special time and occasion was celebrated in the front room. The first time I saw David Russell, my baby brother, was in the front room
just after he had been born. ...
Once David brought back a little 8-watt valve amplifier that he got in a secondhand shop. It became known as the little green amp. The green amp amplified our guitars at our early performances
in local pubs, when both of us were barely teenagers. ... Back in the front room, partly out of the desire to sound as distorted as the fuzzy guitar on "Memphis Tennessee" and partly out of
frustration with Mum and Dad's radiogram, which by now, due to excessive volume, had blown a valve, David took some of Mum's knitting needles and stuck them into the speakers of the little
green amp. He christened it the fart box.
Later I sat down in the front room and started to write a song on the old upright. I thumped out these crude fifths with my left hand, and Little Richard-style eighth note chops with my
right. I thought of a melody to go with the phrase: "Yeah, you really got me going, you got me so I don't know what I'm doing". Then I called Dave in from the kitchen where he was having
dinner with the rest of the family, and he picked up his guitar and plugged into the green amp. He started playing along with the riff I was punching out with my left hand. As the amp warmed
up I heard that wonderful distorted sound. It was a perfect representation of my anger, and yet beautiful at the same time. As I taught Dave the song some of our (five) sisters came in to
listen. Mum hovered by the door, half afraid the neighbours would call the police again. When we got through the song for the first time, our small audience applauded. I had written "You Really
Got Me", and it happened in the front room because all important things happen there.'
The band and management had great faith in the new song and the audience loved it because they could dance to it. 'But the record company hated
it. They said "You can't record that piece of rubbish! And we don't like the sound of that terrible distorted green amplifier."' In the end Pye was persuaded anyway. "You Really Got
Me" was originally recorded in mid June, but Ray was very unhappy with the result: 'I knew as soon as I heard the playback at the end of the session
that the recording wasn't right. There was echo on everything and my voice sounded distorted.' Producer Shel Talmy had turned it into a Phil Spector sounding song... Ray wanted it to
be closer to the raw version the band performed live. He finally convinced the management and Pye to record the song anew. But The Kinks had to pay for the new session themselves. It took
place in the IBC Studios in mid July. Session men Bobby Graham (drums) and Arthur Greenslade (piano) were present and let's not forget the original Kinks bass player, the late Pete Quaife.
Kink drummer Mick Avory was the newest member and hadn't signed the recording contract and wasn't allowed to play. But at the last minute he was snapped into the studio to play tambourine.
The first take wasn't up to par, but Shel Talmy reluctantly agreed to try a second one.
'Then Dave plugged the guitar into the green amp and he plugged the green amp into a Vox AC30. And it sounded huge! And when Dave played the opening
chords, they were so loud Bobby Graham forgot the complicated drum introduction he had planned and just thumped one beat on the snare drum with as much power as he could muster, as to say,
"OK, wimp, take that!" For the next minutes he was one of us. We managed to keep an R and B feel to it, even though we were making a pop record.
Half way through the song it was time for Dave's guitar solo. This moment had to be right. So I shouted across the studio to give him encouragement and I seemed to spoil his concentration
momentarily. He looked over at med with his dazed expression: "Fuck off!" If you doubt what I'm saying I challenge you to listen to the original recording. After the second chorus before the
guitar solo there's a drum break. And in the background you can hear "Fuck off!". When I did the vocals (the only overdub) I tried to cover it up by going "Oh no!". But in the background you
can still hear it, "Fuck off!". And it's even clearer on CD. It's really embarrassing! But then Dave looked like he had done something wrong, his mouth relaxed and his jaw dropped, and it was
half way through the most important track we'd ever do. And if it wasn't a hit, it would be the last track we'd ever do. And the lead guitarist stops playing before the solo.
But then Dave's eyes squinted as his face broke into that arrogant sideways grin that I have learned to love and hate over the years. You see, he hadn't heard me shout at all. He just
thought of looking at me at the same time as I looked at him, in a telepathic way of saying: "This is it. Remember the front room." Then he gritted his teeth and sneered at me one more time
and caught an attitude before turning away into the corner of the studio to play himself into rock'n'roll history.'
"You Really Got Me" was released on August 4 1964 in Britain. It was an instant hit. Within two weeks Pye had offered The Kinks an album contract. By early September the single had reached
no. 1 in the charts. It was released on August 26 in the USA and climbed to no. 7. The power chords of the song paved the way for heavy rock, punk rock etc. etc. later on.
The quotes are taken from Ray Davies' great so called unauthorized autobiography X-Ray (Penguin 1994) and the somewhat dramatised stage act of highlights from the book captured on
CD along with several songs, fuck offs and all, the highly entertaining The Storyteller (Konk/EMI Records 1998). Shel Thalmy's story of the event, and others too, is somewhat different.
But it doesn't matter, does it? And no, Jimmy Page didn't play that guitar solo. He wasn't present on any Kinks recording session until a little later.
Copyright © 2014 JP