Monday, 14 October 2013

Ray Davies at The Purcell Room - 'Americana'

On Saturday we went to see Ray Davies at the Purcell Room being interviewed about his new book, 'Americana', that tells the story of his relationship with America.

It opened with Ray doing a short reading from the book and then showing us a home-made film he'd pieced together on his computer. It's based largely on video clips he took during his Storyteller tour of America a couple of weeks after 9/11 when flights were routinely cancelled so he had to travel mainly by car. Travelling those vast distances on the road with only a driver showed him different aspects of the America he'd travelled so often with The Kinks in the air. It finished up in New Orleans a couple of years later where he'd settled to write but got shot instead.

It was quite fascinating in some respects, if only for the clips he'd chosen to show us, such as the many shots out of hotel bedrooms of the tall buildings everywhere, of driving into cities that all looked the same, of his hotel rooms. The film lasted for about half an hour and then out came Ray for an interview with John Wilson for about an hour, including some random questions from the audience.

I've been to quite a few of these 'in conversation with' things and usually the interviewer isn't terribly prepared or likes to voice their own thoughts and theories (yawn) rather than letting the interviewee talk (and it's them we're there to hear). In this case John Wilson did really well, relevant questions, keeping it flowing and picking some good audience questions.

He tried to get an honest answer about why The Kinks were banned from touring in America in the mid/late 60s and got as much of an answer as Ray is ever likely to give. That was all in the context of Ray writing many of his most English songs over the same period and whether that was a reaction against being banned from touring America. I think the conclusion was that it was since he tends to write about what's around him - which is one reason for going to New Orleans to write.

Some quite random bits of information came out in discussion, like Ray having dinner with Candy Darling and not realising that she was a he, meeting the Warhol people and the back room of CBGB's, and Wayne/Jayne County. He said that after 'Lola' he just seems to attract 'them'. And meeting Candy is not the inspiration for 'Lola' since the meeting was after it was a hit. I saw a film about Candy a few years ago if you're interested.

There was a quite long session on New Orleans and the shooting, him winding up in hospital and asking if he'd chase after the mugger again, to which he answered 'yes' since it was a fight or flight thing and his instinct in that situation was to fight. It was all quite fascinating but Ray managed to say a lot without really answering the question. He has his secrets and will dole out information when he chooses. He finished by teasing us with a new album for which all the songs are written.

Mr Davies was looking in good form, skinny as ever and, when he eventually turned up to sign books he was in his coat and scarf and with a glass of beer. There was a huge queue to get books signed and when it was my turn for a few seconds with him I asked whether there were any plans to record the 'Come Dancing' songs. His answer was that he'd love to. I said I'd seen it four times and also the concert version last year which perked him up a bit and he said it was a great cast to which I had to agree. It was a great cast with great songs and a good show. It should be staged again and recorded.

The book is now on my pile awaiting reading - my pile of rock autobiogs and biogs is growing so I should make a dent in it really...

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