The Lonely Kink
Ray Davies, one of rock’s most influential songwriters, is making his way as a solo artist. But all he really wants is his band back
So the Kinks may be joining the Police and Led Zeppelin on the classic rock/dysfunctional family reunion circuit. Then again, they may not. At least the Davies brothers are alive and able to snipe at each other from a distance. The mugger who shot Ray in New Orleans sniped up close, and the wound remains more than a scar. A lifelong athlete, Davies is still undergoing physical therapy rather than jogging or playing pickup games of soccer.
“It was on a quiet street just outside of the French Quarter,” says Davies, almost whispering. “And I saw this guy in the distance as my girlfriend and I were walking. He didn’t seem to belong there. But I got distracted and by the time I looked up, he was right on top of me.”
Davies felt a bang on his head and found himself flat on the ground as his girlfriend surrendered her bag, which also had Davies’ wallet in it. Davies chased the guy across the street, and the mugger turned and shot him in the leg, then jumped in a car and sped off.
“Well, I didn’t know he had a gun,” says Davies. “There were three factors: There was the humiliation of being knocked to the ground. There was the annoyance of him stealing everything we had. And the other thing was, I thought, ”˜Hey, I can get this guy.’ Normally I would back away from things like that.”
Davies at first thought the wound was minor and instructed his girlfriend, “Don’t cancel my appointments!” By the time he got to the hospital, he was babbling and without identification.
“After a few hours, they got me up to go to the bathroom, and the leg snapped. They didn’t know it was fractured. They were more worried about infection or heart failure. They had to put a rod in my leg, but first they wanted to make sure that my heart was strong enough to withstand the operation, so they injected me with a drug that simulates a heart attack. I often wonder what happened to my clothes. I never did get my clothes back.”
Davies has never disparaged New Orleans, which he loved. Burned out on songwriting in England, he had moved there in 2000 to pursue his muse and a relationship. There he started a song cycle that culminated in his two solo albums. “During my recovery, I went back to this body of work that I had begun,” says Davies. “And that became these records. It’s all of a piece, but now I’ve got nothing else to write about.”
Both albums are more pensive and less whimsical than most of the Kinks’ catalogue, and CafÃ© is especially infused with a strong sense of mortality and the fleetingness of pretty much everything we attach to. In ”˜Vietnam Cowboys,’ Davies assumes the role of sociologist-satirist of globalization, inveighing against the homogenisation of different cultures in the throes of raw capitalism. In the next song, ”˜You’re Asking Me,’ he claims only confusion in the face of forces beyond any individual’s control. In ”˜Working Man’s CafÃ©,’ he is nostalgic for the hangouts of people who work for a living. And on it goes for twelve songs, asking in various ways what is real in a world where the “economic vultures stole our dreams.”
“I’m supposed to be going on tour, but I’m torn,” Davies says. “I want to write my next project, even though I don’t know what it is. I don’t much want to tour, except for the community of Kinks fans. They meet each other at my gigs, which hasn’t happened for a long time. That’s the only reason I would want to tour: the community.”