A Solo Ray Davies Peers into 'Other People's Lives' After more than 40 years as the Kinks' lead singer and primary songwriter, Ray Davies has released his first solo studio recording, Other People's Lives. Despite the album's title, the music is really about him. The 61-year-old says the characters that he sings and writes about are a reflection of who he is.
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A Solo Ray Davies Peers into 'Other People's Lives'

Only Available in Archive Formats.
A Solo Ray Davies Peers into 'Other People's Lives'

A Solo Ray Davies Peers into 'Other People's Lives'

Only Available in Archive Formats.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News, I'm Melissa Block.

(Soundbite of You Really Got Me)

BLOCK: Think about the sounds of the British Invasion of the mid-60s and think of the Kinks.

(Soundbite of You Really Got Me)

The KINKS: (Singing) Girl, you really got me goin', you got me so I don't know what I'm doin'...

(Soundbite of All Day & All of the Night)

The KINKS: (Singing) The only time I feel alright is by your side...

(Soundbite of Tired of Waiting for You)

The KINKS: (Singing) Do what you like, but please don't keep-a me waiting...

(Soundbite of A Well-Respected Man)

The KINKS: (Singing) 'Cause his world is built 'round punctuality, it never fails. And he's oh, so good...

(Soundbite of Sunny Afternoon)

The KINKS: (Singing) And I love to live so pleasantly, live this life of luxury, lazing on a sunny afternoon.

(Soundbite of Lola)

The KINKS: (Singing) Well that's the way that I want it to stay and I always want it to be that way for my Lola, Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola...

BLOCK: The Kinks, founded by Ray Davies and his brother Dave. And let's get one thing straight right away, can you say your name for me? Pronounce your name for me.

Mr. DAVIES: Ray.

BLOCK: And how about the last name?

Mr. DAVIES: Oh, that, that's Davies. I think over here, the tendency is to say Davies. Davies is not quite right. So think of it with a zed at the end, a "Z,"

BLOCK: Davies?

Mr. DAVIES: Davies, yeah, but keep it kind of muted.

BLOCK: Ah, okay, Davies.

Sir DAVIES: And, two, three four:

BLOCK: Davies.

Mr. DAVIES: Ah, there you've got it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: At age 61, Ray Davies has his first-ever solo studio album. It's been in the works for several years now. It's called Other People's Lives. Ray Davies came into our studios, did some stretching exercises, then sat down to talk over a cup of tea brewed with two teabags, and he pointed to the photo on the back cover of the CD booklet I was holding. The one where he has a sweet smile.

Mr. DAVIES: He's actually Max. He's my alter ego.

BLOCK: I see, the happy guy.

Mr. DAVIES: Happy guy.

BLOCK: And this one on the front with a very serious expression.

Mr. DAVIES: He's a serious songwriter. And Max is like, more of a cabaret, stand-up comic.

BLOCK: He's got a nice smile, Max does.

Mr. DAVIES: You know, don't trust that smile, Max he takes you into dark places.

BLOCK: Well which one do you like more?

Mr. DAVIES: I understand the serious songwriter man. I do appreciate him and what he's trying to do for me. But if it's a choice at the end of the day, I'd run off with Max, have a night out with Max on the town. It's, he's just, you know, it's a technique, you know, for writing, because I write through characters. I am more like an actor performing my work, you know, I'm not Jumping Jack Flash, every song I sing like some of my contemporaries are.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Whom might you be referring to?

Mr. DAVIES: Well, Mick Jagger and those guys. So for this I felt so, the first think I had to think of making this record is, who am I?

(Soundbite of Creatures of Little Faith)

Mr. DAVIES: (singing) You caught me with my pants down, but I was only taking a shower. Still you looked for the evidence like the smell of perfume, or lipstick on my collar. You're always suspicious, I'm terrified I made a mistake. We are such creatures of little faith. We are such creatures of little faith.

Mr. DAVIES: For so many years, I was part of this unit called The Kinks. And my voice, my identity was squashed somewhere inside that. So when I was kind of released from this, not released, but I didn't have the obligation to be part of that band, it took me a few years to discover an identity for this.

So I do that sometimes, I find, unleash these other alter egos onto my songs. It's all me, it's called Other People's Lives, but it's all about me emotionally throughout the record.

(Soundbite of Things are Going to Change)

Mr. DAVIES: (singing) Things are going to change.

BLOCK: There's a lot of hope and optimism on this record. I'm thinking of the first song, The Morning After.


BLOCK: Which starts wit this sort of out, things are going to change.

(Soundbite of Things are Going to Change)

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) The morality kicks in to those damaged limitations. This is the morning after all that went before. All of the song and laughter, the morning after, gets up from the floor. To do it all again, but things are gonna change.

Mr. DAVIES: Basically it's someone at the bottom, right at the bottom of everything in their lives. Then the drums crash and he wakes up and he says, now things are going to get better, things are going to change. And I think it's a good way to start the record.

(Soundbite of Things are Going to Change)

Sir DAVIES: (Singing) Your ear's deaf, your girl's left, never to return. But it's the morning after all that went before. And now you paid your debt, get up, you wreck, and crawl out through the door. Oh, love will return.

BLOCK: Where do you get inspiration for your songs?

Mr. DAVIES: I go back to when I was an art student. We used to have outdoor sketching on a Monday. We used to get source material for the week. And at the end of the week, usually it was, the project would end with a painting. And I gravitated towards railway stations, you know, coffee shops. I liked grabbing people in transit when they're on their on the off moment worried about what their flight, or their ticketing and their baggage. And that's when they're most relaxed and easy prey for a person like me.

And I don't think much has changed even as a songwriter. I watch people like that. And then, of course, I get the notes and I go home and look in the mirror and say, you're like them.

(Soundbite of Next-Door Neighbor)

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) Mr. Brown you're so ambitious. You ran up with an Essex blonde. You've broke the bank to keep two women. You're overextended, now it's all gone wrong. Now you're right back where you started. Still you shouldn't be broken hearted. Get your mind together, we can still climb together. Step out of time together. Brown, your world was turned upside down.

BLOCK: Do you ever find now that you may go back and hear a song that you wrote 40 years ago maybe...

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah.

BLOCK: ...and it means something very different to you now, not just what it's meant to your career, but that the words maybe have taken on a whole new meaning than you might have thought they would?

Mr. DAVIES: I'm thinking, I'm thinking out loud. Yeah, when I sing You Really Got Me and All day & All of the Night, I thought they were about teenage rebellion and my first obsession with romance. And I realized that nothing has changed, because it still has that impact on people when they get caught up in that strange phenomenon, you know, romance and love and obsession.

So that I find quite worrying that I had that insight when I was 18, 19 years old, and I've still got that tendency, I could possibly be that way. Song called Waterloo Sunset, people like that song. I don't know why they like it so much.

BLOCK: Do you like it?

Mr. DAVIES: I love it. It's, I don't think of it as a song. I think it's part, it's an arm or part of my soul.

(Soundbite of Waterloo Sunset)

Mr. DAVIES: (singing) Dirty old river, must you keep rolling, flowing into the night. People so busy, make me feel dizzy. Taxi light shines so bright. But I don't need no friends, as long as I gaze out Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise.

Mr. DAVIES: But what the song was really about, and I didn't know it then, is that I come from this family, I've got six sisters and they're much older than I. And my oldest sister brought me up. And I think deep down I was writing it for her generation, the post-war, Second World War generation. Many of them were disillusioned. They didn't get their new deal that was promised.

(Soundbite of Waterloo Sunset)

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) Millions of people swarming like flies around Waterloo underground. But Terry and Julie cross over the river, where they feel safe and sound. And they don't need no friends, as long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset they are in paradise.

Mr. DAVIES: The first time I'd realized I've been writing about a big picture, rather than just these two lovers by the water, and this guy was not with anybody looking at them, imagining their future, their love and just admiring the sunset. There's more to it than that, with a big picture there, too.

(Soundbite of Waterloo Sunset)

Mr. DAVIES: (singing) Waterloo sunset.

BLOCK: I realize that I'm very grateful for you answering the question on this album definitively. Is their life after breakfast?

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah. I got this from a, an ailing elderly relative, who complained all the time. She says, ah, I can't get up. There's no point to life after the news goes off in the mornings. I might as well just die. I thought, oh, please, and she said if I can exist until lunchtime, there's a possibility I can have tea with you, and once we're done with tea, I'll go to bed. Hopefully, if I don't die in my sleep, I'll see you in the morning.

I thought, what a thoroughly depressing person, but she had reasons to be, and there is life after breakfast, but I think the title is makes people smile.

(Soundbite of Is There Life After Breakfast)

Mr. DAVIES:(singing) Lift yourself out of the doldrums, make yourself a cup of tea. Drag your emotions out of the gutter, don't wallow in self-pity. When you wake up all of a fluster, thinking life has passed you by, give yourself a kick on the backside, jump out of bed and punch the sky. Is there life after breakfast...

BLOCK: So the answer's yes. There is, in fact, life after breakfast.

Mr. DAVIES: When the lonely voice, you listen to the record, and it, and that's the thing, it's performance art, too. You got a wimpy voice, got a little guitar solo in the middle, and the voice says, is there life after breakfast, and the big chorus comes in and says, yes, there is, okay? You've got to believe that. Every day, wake up and do your exercises, and there is life after breakfast.

BLOCK: And that's the answer.

(Soundbite of Is There Life After Breakfast)

Mr. DAVIES: (singing) Is there life after breakfast? Yes there is.

BLOCK: Ray Davies, it was great to talk to you. Thanks for coming in.

Mr. DAVIES: My pleasure.

(Soundbite of Is There Life After Breakfast)

Mr. DAVIES: (singing) Is there life after breakfast? Is there life after breakfast...

BLOCK: Ray Davies of The Kinks. His new solo CD is titled Other Peoples' Lives. You can hear more of our conversation about a lonesome train and hear more music at our web site, NPR.org.

(Soundbite of Is There Life After Breakfast)

Mr. DAVIES:(singing) Is there life after breakfast? Is there life after breakfast? Put the kettle on, mate.

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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