The fuzzy riff of the Kinks’ epochal 1964 hit “You Really Got Me” is one of the great “opening statements” in rock and roll history. For so many of us, that lick was the first time we ever heard the Kinks—leading to countless hours spent listening to some of the greatest rock and roll ever recorded.
Recently, the origins of that notably fuzzy sound were the topic of a passage in Rich Cohen’s new book The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones, which was excerpted in Slate a couple of weeks ago. In addition to writing this book, Cohen is one of the creators of the HBO series Vinyl, along with Mick Jagger, Martin Scorsese, and Terence Winter.
Dave Davies, who wrote the riff, is very annoyed at Cohen’s portrayal of how it came about. Davies spoke out on the Kinks’ official Facebook presence earlier today with a lengthy open letter to “Rich Cohen, Random House, and Slate magazine” in order to air his grievances.
The roots of Davies’ annoyance seem to relate to the notion that his brother Ray was involved in the incident, which involved a speaker being cut by a razor blade, when he actually was not involved at all. Obviously, the relationship between Ray and Dave Davies has been notoriously difficult for decades now. Dave once said of Ray, “I love my brother… I just can’t stand to be with him.”
According to Davies, neither Cohen nor Slate have responded to his requests to identify the source of the anecdote. Here’s the section of Cohen’s book that irritated Davies (boldface added):
When Keith listened to the new version, he knew what was missing. The riff! He had to crank it up. The next morning, Ian Stewart came back from the music store with a Gibson Maestro fuzz box, a new gizmo that distorted guitar, junked it up. The sound was akin to the lead on the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” which, according to legend, resulted from a fight between Dave Davies and Ray Davies. One of the brothers cut a speaker with a razor blade, causing the same sort of snarled line Richards achieved with the fuzz pedal.
And here’s the relevant portion of Davies’ response:
Mr. Cohen and Slate magazine editors have refused to provide a source for this passage despite repeated requests from my staff. As I have stated in interviews and print since 1964, I was alone at home in the front room of 6 Denmark Terrace in Muswell Hill North London when I got angry because I was upset about being separated from my girlfriend. I slashed the speaker cone with a razor blade IN A FIT OF RAGE. Ray was not with me. I was alone in my ANGER. IT had nothing to do with a fight with my brother.
The full letter is much longer—it’s definitely worth a full read. According to Dave Lifton at Ultimate Classic Rock, Dave Davies got bent out of shape in late 2014 when Ray stuck an incident along these lines into his musical-in-progress about the Kinks, which goes by the title Sunny Afternoon. Dave’s comment on the situation at that time was:
“My brother is lying. … I am just flabbergasted and shocked at the depth of his selfish desire to take credit for everything. I never once claimed songwriting royalties on “You Really Got Me,” yet this song would not have happened without my guitar sound.
More after the jump…