June 17 – Jolly Rubbish Behavior Won Kinks No Yankee Fans, Wot?

1965. North America was in the grips of “Beatlemania”, and loving all things British. So, hot on the heels of the Fab Four and the Rolling Stones, the Kinks set out to conquer the “new world.” They set foot in the U.S. on this day 57 years back, preparing for a tour they figured would elevate them to the level of the other two bands.

It could have worked perhaps, it should have worked perhaps. While they didn’t have quite the writing or playing creativity of the Beatles, it could be argued they were as talented as the Stones and as talented as pretty much any American band of the day. At the time, they’d rolled off three-straight top 10 hits in the States, “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All of the Night” and “Tired of Waiting For You.” As Far Out put it, “they should have had no problem…their music at the time captured the spirit of Britain which at the time…was of such intrigue to American audiences.” But as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men…whether or not the Kinks should have been a giant hit in the States, fact is they weren’t. Certainly nowhere near the level of the Beatles or Stones, or even later acts like the Yardbirds. Turns out they were their own worst enemies.

The Kinks didn’t get along that well together. They did drink and party a lot together, and the combination wasn’t a winner. Earlier in ’65, at a show in Cardiff, Wales, only minutes into the show, guitarist Dave Davies said something to drummer Mick Avory that he took offence too; more words were exchanged then Davies kicked over Avory’s entire drum kit. The drummer retaliated by clubbing Davies with a hi-hat stand, knocking him unconscious. Avory fled, and later ended up in a Welsh jail, trying to convince the police it was all part of their stage show! And you thought the Sex Pistols were the original Brit punk bad boys…They had to cancel their next nine British shows after that, just as “Tired of Waiting For You’ was going to #1 there.

So fast-forward about six weeks or so and they land in New York, preparing for a TV appearance the following day; for reasons unclear their arrival was about a week later than expected and they’d had to cancel shows in places like New Hampshire and even New York City itself.

That TV show went alright, and over the next four weeks they’d play 11 concerts, sometimes opening for others (like a July 3 appearance at the Hollywood Bowl with the Byrds and Beach Boys), sometimes as a headliner, often with Dobie Gray opening for them. But they canceled four more shows, including the only Canadian date scheduled, in Vancouver. And not all of the shows went smoothly. In one show they cut their set to just 20 minutes after agreeing to play 40 because they only got paid half their fee in advance.

That was bad, but it got worse. One of , or maybe both of two appearances during the tour landed them in musical purgatory.

On June 28, they were slated to appear on a TV show called Shivaree, run by Dick Cavett. Singer Ray Davies remembers “some guy who said he works for the TV company walked up to me and accused us of being late. Then he started making anti-British comments, things like ‘just because the Beatles did it, every mop-topped, spotty-faced Limey juvenile thinks he can come over here and make a career for himself. You’re a bunch of commies!’” As he put it, “punches were thrown.” Someone from the TV crew complained.

Add in a San Francisco concert they blew off because the promoter wouldn’t pay them in full ahead of time and him complaining, and they had troubles. Turns out even musicians have to follow rules. In the U.S. and Canada, the American Federation of Musicians is a union which more or less governs live performances. They have the right to “withold work permits for British musicians if they misbehaved on stage, or refused to perform without a good reason.” With the Davies Brothers and co. checking off both those boxes, the AFM did just that – refused them work permits in North America for four years. As Ray Davies years later rued, “that ridiculous ban too away the best years of the Kinks career when the original band was performing at its peak.”

Eventually he negotiated a truce with the AFM, and they let the Kinks return midway through 1969. On October 17 that year, they performed at the famous Filmore East in New York, opening for Spirit, and would play 27 shows by December 8, including ones at the Whisky A Go-go in L.A. and their first Canadian appearances, in Toronto on Dec. 6. However, they were touring for Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), an album that even their fans at home couldn’t warm up much too and the shows weren’t sell-outs nor especially well-reviewed. The “British Invasion” had pretty much departed by then, or at least left itself to the next generation of acts like Led Zeppelin and the Who. The Kinks would have some success in the ’70s and ’80s here, but never lived upto what many considered their potential was.

Was Ray Davies mad about that? Well, yes. But he also says being banned from the U.S. for four years “made me root myself more in Europe, the folk tradition of Britain,” which in the end might be the thing they’re most beloved for.

22 thoughts on “June 17 – Jolly Rubbish Behavior Won Kinks No Yankee Fans, Wot?

  1. Dave, do you believe in telepathy? This morning when I got up I had housework to do because a visitor was coming over, so I put on some music. “The Best of The Kinks 1964-1971.” I really appreciate the info in your write-up. Since I started blogging regularly in 2018, I’ve continued to expand my musical knowledge, thanks to you, Max, Hans, Steve for the Deaf, and several others. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you that’s nice to hear! I must say I learn a lot from all of you bloggers too…. and I’ve learned a whole lot just doing the ‘legwork’ for my own. Even that blog, for instance, I saw on some site that they started their first US tour that day , so I thought ‘well let’s have a look, see how long a tour it was, how it went’ and so on then came across the whole story about them getting banned that I didn’t know about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. for sure. I have to thank Alan Cross- he was a late night DJ on a station I listened to in the 80s (CFNY, ‘The Spirit of Radio’)…talked to him now and again back then. At the time kind of looked like weird Al and he was a ‘High Fidelity’ type music nerd. anyway, now he’s had maybe ten books published on alt rock and is a ‘go-to’ guy for Canadian broadcasters looking to make sense of music stories and has had various syndicated shows. He did his radio syndicated shows in a kind of ‘conversational ‘ way, like ‘U2…you two think you know ’em? Well here’s some things you probably didn’t know about the Irish sensations… like, what’s up with the sunglasses Bono?’ and he’d either run an interview clip or quote the reason…obviously I’m just kind of conjecturing and paraphrasing, but point is, he tried to both cover a subject in depth but also add an intersting, human bit into it . I kind of try to imitate that overall feel of, ‘hey let me tell you a story…’

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  2. Badfinger (Max)

    The Kinks were the most British of any of the bands…at least to me…and that was because Ray wrote that way… but yea being banned hurt them bad.
    When people mention the big 3…it’s the Beatles, Who, and Stones. The Kinks should be in there also.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think they were the only ones who wrote with a specific British frame of mind in their forefront…. I think Blur (years later) are the only other one that did well internationally that had the same mindset. Of course, the beatles, all the others would be influenced by everything around them in the UK, obviously, but I think most tried to think kind of universally , whereas Ray Davies seemed to definitely look for uniquely British things to celebrate or diss.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Badfinger (Max)

        Townshend with the flags and symbols projected a Mod image but their music was more universal… I’ve heard Springsteen called the American Ray Davies

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I can sort of see that, though I think DAvies has a bit more wit or whimsy (not a knock on Bruce though, in a 1 on one competition, I’d pick him over Davies) but they both reflect life for the ordinary people in their respective lands quite well

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think they get overlooked even over here in UK. Certainly, I have been guilty of that in the past. They have a totally different image to The Stones an Beatles, I think. They erred on the Mod side which perhaps alienated them to some.

    The lyrics are always very clever and their sound is ‘crisp and clean;’ they don’t seem too influenced by the Blues (Stones) or Rock n Roll (Beatles) so maybe potential USA fans wwere turned off by that. And of course their antagonistic approach to things would have helped endear them.

    Remember too that Ray and Dave Davies have now gone many, many years of not talking to each other. Noel and Liam Gallagher are amateurs in comparison! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Badfinger (Max)

      I didn’t know they were overlooked in the UK also. Pete Townshend really likes them a lot…and he doesn’t like many bands…don’t ask him about Led Zeppelin lol. I guess the Who were more close than the Beatles or Stones because of the Mod thing.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yep, like I said to Max, they seemed like the only ones who deliberately set out to highlight their British-ness and revel in it, which perhaps didn’t help them here , but neither would that four year concert ban. I am no expert whatsoever about them but I wonder why Ray didn’t fire Dave years ago… it seems like Dave Davies is always in the middle of all the hostilities and from what I’ve read Ray and Mick Avory get along fine but Dave more or less demanded Avory be fired later on. DD’s contribution could probably have been replaced without much difficulty.

      Like

    1. I like quite a bit of their music, there’s no denying Ray’s talent as a songwriter… great hooks and quite witty lyrics. But it seems like almost all their problems were self-inflicted.

      Liked by 2 people

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