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You Really Got Me: The Story of the Kinks
Voice Print / ABC Entertainment, 2010
87 minutes, USD $18.95
I have never seen a documentary about the Kinks, and that alone makes this worthwhile. However, I did see the band play the Felt Forum in November 1974. The opening act was themselves, doing their touring set. Then they came back and did the entire Preservation show (both parts).
The Kinks were one of those bands that cool people seem to like. Yeah, everyone who picks up a rock guitar plays “You Really Got Me” when they first start learning (along with “Louie, Louie,” of course), but they were different than, say, the Beatles or even the Rolling Stones, in that they were a bit off kilter (i.e., not following the norms in style either musically or vocally), despite their early strong blues bias. That is also what makes this documentary so interesting.
As documentaries go, this is somewhat light footed, but that’s fine. For the first few years of the band’s history (this film starts when the band is formed), the songs are represented by the Kinks performing live in concerts, usually made up of full songs, with no narration over them. Starting off with television appearances in the U.K., most of the rest of the early period songs are signified by two concerts, one from 1966 in black and white, and the other in color during the mid-1990s, where the full band, including Dave Davies on flashing guitar, plays their more famous numbers, sometimes faster than the original (“You Really Got Me,” for example).
Speaking of the b&w concert, I had forgotten how much lead guitarist Dave also sang in the early days, such as with “Milk Cow Blues,” since he is often overshadowed by his brother, with whom he shares vocals on this particular video. Ray Davies, in the later footage, ranges from extremely fey to solidly aggressive. It’s a shame they had such a tumultuous relationship, because they played off each other so well, both in the early footage and the later. Both Ray and Dave are among those who give first-person accounts in the doc.
Luckily, Max Leinwond’s narration is held at a minimal, especially at the beginning, though it becomes slightly more intrusive in the middle segments. Luckily, it’s not enough to ruin much of the music parts. The writing is kind of fluffy and not overly deep, but again, I would rather hear the songs with some dialog than the other way around, especially for a group like the Kinks, where their sound is king.
In the States (where they were banned from performing though the late ‘60s due to Republican misguidedness (there’s a redundancy for ya), they actually had more hits than most can probably think of off the top of one’s head. One of my favorites, and one of the very first 45s I ever purchased, is “Well Respected Man,” which is represented here. Dozens of their hits are, though I noticed a lacking of “Sunny Afternoon,” and then there’s “Lola” and “Tired of Waiting,” both great songs, which are mentioned in the narration but lacking in soundbites.
Speaking of their songs, and this is a digression, I never realized how much the rhythm of “Superman” sounds like Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” (which is funny because both characters are from rival comic companies…but I digress in my digression).
The footage used, along with those in concert, include backstage shots as the band roams around the dressing room waiting for their call, and home movies, and some interviews of Ray and Dave, among others.
Seeing the progression of the band in one overview makes it interesting to be able to track how the band changed over the years, from hard bluesy numbers, to a harder rock sound at the end of the ‘60s, to a rock opera, and then to ‘80s charting formulas. The latter period (post-MTV) is shown here as music videos rather than concert shots, including their later hits, “Predictable” and “Come Dancing.”
There is a brief interview with Ray in New York, where he discusses the Kinks in relation to punk. He posits that punk was not directly influential by the band, though punk may have adopted their quick playing. Personally, I believe their influence was more that Ray and Dave are not conventionally “pretty” singers, and their earlier songs were also not formulaic for the time.
Unfortunately, the odds of the original Kinks getting together again are slim, with Dave Davies having suffered a stroke and full recovery is not expected. This happened after the date of the DVD, so it is not mentioned, though neither is Ray’s fathering Chrissy Hynde’s offspring, not that it has anything to do with their music, I will admit.
Yes, this is not a perfect documentary, but very few are. That being said, I highly recommend this. Uberfans (like Gary and Doreen) will just kvell, and even those who just loved their music for what it was, will be happy.
Here is a taste of what’s on the DVD; notice the use of “sharp” elbows everywhere by the people dancing in very jerky motion…I just find that interesting, as well:
Bonus, unrelated video: