Dave Davies Revisits Unreleased ’70s Songs on New LP: Exclusive Interview
It’s always the same: You think something’s finished, you get ready to release it and then ... “About half an hour ago, a friend of mine accidentally found one of my tracks that I’d been looking for,” Kinks guitarist Dave Davies tells UCR. “It’s a song called ‘Faith’ and I’ve been looking for it for the past four years. We’ll do something with that eventually.”
Had it been found in time, “Faith” might have appeared on Davies’ upcoming album Decade, a collection of 13 tracks he wrote and recorded during the ‘70s. Something of a sequel to 2011’s Hidden Treasures of ‘60s compositions, the album features Kinks drummer Mick Avory on one track (“If You Are Leaving”) and Davies’ nephew Phil Palmer, a guitarist known for his work with Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey and many others.
That’s not the album’s only family tie – the entire work was put together by two of Davies’ seven children, Martin and Simon. Last year, he released Open Road, a collaborative album with another son, Russ. It seems that, despite the notoriety of the fiery relationship with his brother, Kinks co-founder Ray Davies, Dave Davies is comfortable keeping his relatives on the payroll.
“There’s a special bond,” he says. “My family are very close, but we’re also very different. I’ve had lots of clashes with my sons about opinions and ideas, but on this project they were very focused on the feeling of the songs in a way I couldn’t really be objective about.”
Asked if they’d learned something about their dad in the process, he replies, “I think so, yes. But they teach me all the time, as well. That’s the wonderful thing about having children – they grow up and hopefully become your best mates. But they follow their own opinions and you’ve got to take that on board.” (There follows a reflection on the sayings of Mark Twain, including, “You can't reach old age by another man's road.”)
Listen to Dave Davies' 'Cradle to the Grave'
Returning to Decade, Davies explains that "when Simon did the first run-through of four or five tracks, I thought, ‘Wow, I think I’d better let him get on with it – I’m going to get my own way!’ Simon was very aware of keeping a flavor of the time of recording, along with a sonic potency for today’s listening. You bounce ideas off people you trust; you value their opinion. That interplay is crucial. It’s affected my whole life in one way or another.”
Regardless of the headlines, he includes Ray in his trusted list. “He’s heard some of [the album tracks],” he says. “I’d have played them and said, ‘What do you think?’ We were recording the track ‘Islands’ and I remember Ray walking into this three-piece and saying, ‘Yeah, it’s good,’ with that interested look on his face. But I was never too forward about projecting them on top of him – ‘We gotta do this.’ It was never like that. I just held the song back, not sure what to do with it.”
Davies refuses to draw comparisons between working with his brother and his sons. “When you do it, you don’t make comparisons – it’s the road to disaster," he notes. "If you start second-guessing, you’ll drive someone nuts. In the birthing phase it finds its own level. In creative work, you have to focus on that thing you’re doing at the time.”
He also dismisses the suggestion of regret that it took so long for the material to arrive. “If you hold too many regrets, you encounter too many disappointments," he explains. "I’d rather think, ‘Oh shit,’ and move on. You get so lost in the past you forget about the present.”
Decades, he says, came out of an extended series of thoughts inspired by his 1970 Kinks song “Strangers.” A fan favorite, it’s relatively unknown outside the confines of the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, because it was never released as a single. It’s a reflection on his relationship with a friend he’d hoped to be in a band with, before he died of a drug overdose.
“‘Strangers’ seeded the idea of these recordings, but they took so long and I shelved them,” Davies says, adding that the Decades track “The Journey” was “kind of like my feelings for it being an overture to a larger thing, [but] it never turned out like that.” Turning to “Web of Time,” he notes that “how timeless it is: my thoughts on the world and spirituality. The mood and the theme are quite modern. I think I got it pretty right back then, but you always change and multiply."
Listen to the Kinks' 'Strangers'
Davies says that "Long Lonely Road" started life as a song called “This Precious Time.” "I wrote it about how we should treasure everything that happens to us because we don’t know what it’s going to mean to us in the end," he explains. "It’s about doing the best we can in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. It’s about my journey.
“It’s interesting to tune into the mindset of all that time ago, but there’s certain things that never really change. Certain views that I had of the world, I still hold. But points of view change over the years, and they should do, I think.”
The main lesson he’s taken from the Decades experience is “Never throw anything away." "It’s so amazing," he says. "You write a little passage and you go, ‘No, it’s crap,’ but you keep it, then you write something else a couple of years later and go, ‘Hang on, that’ll fit with so-and-so.’ You shouldn’t throw anything away. Especially ideas. Maybe some food that’s gone by its sell-by date – throw that away!
“I know it sounds a bit weird, but sometimes you’re writing for something you’re going to do later on. The actual idea of time is not consistent with a normal sense of time when you’re in a creative space. It’s important to get something down, get it done, but sometimes you’re laying groundwork for something that’s yet to come.”
Listen to Dave Davies' 'Same Old Blues'
Does he think differently of himself now? “Yeah, absolutely.” Better or worse? “Both, really. I’m glad the music is finally out there for other people to react with, because that’s how we learn about our inner lives and what’s going on inside us. ‘Oh shit, I’ve felt like that!’ [Having the album done] it’s a relief, like a burden being lifted.”
There’s more to come from Davies – including, possibly, more Kinks work, though nothing is confirmed. In the meantime, he says he’s enjoying existence in a “happy medium between the old stuff and the yet-to-come stuff.”