How The Kinks Roughed Up Their Sound

How The Kinks Roughed Up Their Sound


To come up with the fuzzy distortion on ‘You Really Got Me,’ members of the Kinks distressed their speakers with knitting needles and razor blades. A look at how the influential 1964 hit took shape Before garage rock and heavy metal, there were the Kinks. In 1964, the London band’s use of power chords and fuzzy distortion on “You Really Got Me” influenced the Rolling Stones (“Satisfaction”), the Beatles (“Think for Yourself”), the Yard birds (“Heart Full of Soul”) and other groups in 1965 and beyond.



When “You Really Got Me” was released in August ’64, the single went to No. 1 in Britain and No. 7 in the U.S., and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Fifty years later—with the release of “The Essential Kinks” (Sony)—Ray Davies, 70, the song’s composer and band’s lead singer; his brother and lead guitarist Dave Davies, 67, (whose CD “Rippin’ Up Time” is due out on Tuesday); and the single’s producer Shel Talmy, 77, talked about the hit’s inspiration and development. Edited from interviews:


Ray Davies: Just after I formed the Ravens in 1963 with my brother Dave and bassist Pete Quaife, we began wearing colorful outfits bought in boutiques on London’s Carnaby Street. Months later at a pub with our manager, Larry Page, I insisted we needed an edgier name than the Ravens. A drunk who had been watching us said we looked like kinks to him—short for kinky or weird. Larry picked up on that and said, “The Kinks! That’s perfect!”


Before the Ravens, while I was still at college, I played in the Dave Hunt Blues Band, a gritty R&B-jazz crossover group. Around this time I wrote “You Really Got Me” on my guitar at my sister’s house in North London. My influences were country and blues—something that [blues guitarist] Big Bill Broonzy would play.


The inspiration for the lyrics and title came to me one night while playing with Dave Hunt at The Scene Club in Soho. During our set, I looked out in the darkness about 10 feet from the stage and saw what appeared to be a 17-year-old girl moving better than anyone else on the dance floor. She had ash-colored hair set in a beehive style popular then. When we finished, I went off to find her, but she was gone and never returned to the club. She really got me going.

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