Interview: Dave Davies – Pure Spirit
The former Kinks lead guitarist talks about changing the course of guitar history with “You Really Got Me,” what he thinks of Van Halen’s version, and what it would take to bridge the cataclysmic rift between him and brother Ray.
With all the tone-chasing we guitarists do today, you hear a lot of talk about how certain things are going to make some magical difference in our sound. We’ll argue endlessly about whether class-A amps, new-old-stock tubes, germanium transistors, and countless other minutiae are superior to their alternatives. But rarely do you hear us talk about getting that perfect sound by purposely ravaging the structural integrity of our gear. Perhaps that’s a shame—because when former Kinks lead guitarist Dave Davies turned visceral in his tone pursuits back in 1964 while recording the band’s seminal hit “You Really Got Me,” he single-handedly changed the sound of rock ’n’ roll forever.
“I always wanted to write a song about that period in my life and what was going on,” Davies recently told Premier Guitar. And with “Little Green Amp,” the lead single from his new solo album, I Will Be Me, he did just that. Back when Davies and fellow Kinks—older brother Ray (vocals and rhythm guitar), bassist Pete Quaife, and drummer Mick Avory—were recording their eponymous debut, Dave couldn’t get a sound that he liked out of his tiny green Elpico amp. It was either too bassy or too bright, but never right. So he decided to slash the speaker with a Gillette razor blade. The result was a raw, ragged, primal distortion that went down in history forever. “In all modesty,” says Dave, “I think that sound changed an awful lot of people’s values and ideas about guitar playing, and music in general.”