No discussion of legendary 1960s British bands is complete without including The Kinks, and they're rightly hailed as one of the best bands to emerge from that era, standing shoulder to shoulder with The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Who as the giants of the golden age of rock music. While there have been countless books about the band in terms of biographies, including a new one I've reviewed, another new one I will be reviewing imminently, and memoirs by Ray (which I've reviewed) and Dave (which I own and will review soon), there hasn't been a book detailing the day-to-day life of the band before All Day and All of the Night, which is the subject of this review.
Similar in structure and format to Mark Lewisohn's classic Beatles Chronicle, author Doug Hinman spent years researching and compiling all of the data that went into this book. Its intention is to serve as a definitive history of the band as a recording, touring and performing entity over the course of their entire history. In fact, the book begins not in 1964 with the first record release (and classic lineup) by the band, but back in 1961 when the first musical collaboration between Ray and Dave Davies began and would eventually evolve into The Kinks we all know and love by early 1964. The format of the book is a day-by-day diary, broken up into chapters based on each year. A short introduction starts off each chapter and precedes that year's timeline, while the entries that follow are for every studio recording session, live performance, radio session, TV performance, and single/EP/album release. Included with each entry are the band line-up, as well as the list of supporting acts (if any), and which songs were played. This is in addition to the venue, town, country, time, and date.
As can be imagined, this book contains a MASSIVE amount of information and it's a testament to Hinman's passion and diligence that this book even exists. My assumption is that, similar to Lewisohn's Beatles book, it is intended to not only be read from beginning to end, but also used as an on-demand reference book. Regardless of how you consume the information contained within, it's really enjoyable. Besides presenting the entirety of the Kinks' career and reinforcing the point about just how much great music they produced, it's really fascinating to read as the years go by how Ray Davies developed from a fledgling songwriter in the early days into one of the songwriting giants of his generation, on the Mt. Rushmore alongside John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Pete Townshend. Additionally, seeing his transformation from having to write hit singles to order under ridiculous pressure from the record company, to being able to realize his mostly brilliant (and sometimes bloated) grander ambitions on full albums is quite profound. As the 1960s shifted from being singles-centric to album-centric, so too did the Kinks' music. One of the defining characteristics of the band, which comes through loud and clear in this book, is just how uncompromising and iconoclastic this band was in the face of the 1960s hit-machine and record industry. They were determined to make it on their own terms and while it made things immeasurably more difficult in many ways, in the end it was the only way they could have done it and overall, they (and we) were all the better for it.
In addition to the growth and development of the band that becomes evident while reading the book, there is a lot of great information that sheds new light or offers a different perspective on many of the notable events in Kinks history; there also was quite a lot of information that I had never read before and was completely new to me. While I'm a massive Kinks fan and have been for most of my life, I don't claim to be an expert on them (or at least as much of one as I thought!), so maybe those facts will not be unknown to more obsessive Kinks fans, but I was still impressed.
Some of the things that I didn't know were: the full extent of John Dalton's involvement after Pete Quaife's accident in 1966. While I knew Dalton filled in before Quaife came back (and would eventually replace Quaife permanently in 1969), I didn't know that Quaife had full-on quit the band in '66 and Dalton was his replacement before Quaife came back later in the year. Dalton even played on several singles and album tracks at this time. Ray Davies' nervous breakdown in 1966 was revealed in more detail than I'd read about in the past, and one thing that was thrown into sharp relief was just how many concerts the Kinks cancelled in the 1960s! It rose to almost comical proportions by the late 1960s and it's no wonder they had a reputation for unreliability with most promoters. The various legal troubles they had with management, publishers, record labels, and each other are all discussed, as well as the line-up changes that became more frequent and confusing as the 1980s wore on. Basically, if it happened to the Kinks, it's in this book and you will almost certainly learn something new on each and every page (for instance, not only did the Kinks share a bill with both the Beatles and the Who separately in 1964, but all three bands also appeared on the same bill later in the year! What a concert that would have been to have witnessed: three of the greatest bands of all time on the same stage!).
The written descriptions of important entries and their happenings are great, with the author quite often including quotes and citations from contemporary reviews in musical papers or other media to flesh it out and offer what the topical reactions were; he also offers his personal memories where appropriate (Hinman himself first saw the band live in 1969 when they played their first tour of the US since 1965). He also makes a point of mentioning when certain rare and/or obscure material has been available on bootleg or official release; this is of added benefit to any fan and collector of the Kinks. As for criticisms of the book, I have very few. There is the occasional typo or grammatical/punctuation error but these are few and far between and for a book this size, completely understandable. Another incredibly minor one is the fact that, while there are several excellent full-page photographs of the band over the years, they are all in black and white...some color shots would have been nice. This isn't a big deal though...I just wish there were more photos! Also, unlike Lewisohn's analogous Beatles book, which contained photos of important documents, concert posters, tickets, and advertisements, there are none in this Kinks book. While this is still an exquisite book, adding some little touches like that could have really pushed it over the top, but I suppose at this point I could be accused of trying to gild the lilly.
This is required reading for any hardcore Kinks fan and is an essential book for not only chronicling their entire history, but in giving the reader a chance to have several different perspectives on the band's development and progression over their entire 30+ year career. A great book that no serious Kinks fan should be without.
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