Sept 26, 1964: Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’ Milestone

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Kinks Got Me singleThe “You Really Got Me” single by The Kinks was a shot heard ’round the world… over time becoming one of the most influential rock ‘n’ roll songs to emerge from the British Invasion in the early 1960s. When it first charted in the U.S. on September 26, 1964, it was #1 on the British pop charts. It would reach #7 on the U.S. Hot 100.

It’s also the first bone of contention between the Davies brothers – Ray, the lead singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist, and his brother Dave, lead guitarist and sometimes singer of songs he wrote with the band. Ray likes to tell the tale that he stuck knitting needles through the speaker on what’s become known in rock legend as “the green amp” – Dave’s Elpico guitar amplifier – to achieve the distorted sound that characterizes the guitar riff at the core of the single’s sonic style. Dave insists that he alone achieved the fuzzy tones by slicing the amp’s speaker cone with a razor blade. Sibling rivalry has been a primary theme in the group’s dynamic throughout The Kinks’ career.

A persistent popular myth is that Jimmy Page, a busy London session player in the early 1960s, played the song’s signature riff. Page and both brothers Davies deny that, although Page did play on a number of early Kinks recording sessions as Ray preferred not to sing and play rhythm guitar at the same time.

“You Really Got Me” producer Shel Talmy says he’s been asked “hundreds, maybe thousands, of times” if Page played the solo. “I can unequivocally state that Jimmy DID NOT play that solo, that it was Dave Davies who did in one take, and as iconic as it’s become, it is Dave who should always get the credit –and that does not have any impact on all the brilliant, now iconic, solos that Jimmy Page has played for our enjoyment and amazement over the years!”

The first song that “You Really Got Me” helped inspire was The Who’s “I Can’t Explain,” which Pete Townshend freely admits. The song’s very basic structure, distorted guitar riff and Ray’s primal delivery of a lyric about carnal desire spiced with sexual confusion and frustration became stylistic touchstones for much of an entire genre to soon follow – garage rock. Depending on your point of view and musical preferences, the single can be considered either a proto-heavy metal song or a proto-punk rock number, or both. Guitar players have collectively spent a small fortune over the years on fuzz boxes and distortion pedals trying to achieve the crackling sound of Dave Davies’ guitar on the recording.

Related: Will we finally see a Kinks reunion?

“You Really Got Me” was also the first chart single by Van Halen off their 1978 debut album, reaching #36. Dave Davies has been dismissive of the Van Halen version, while reports of Ray’s thoughts on it vary from it being either his favorite cover of a Kinks song to liking it because it makes him laugh.

Whatever the case, one thing has become evident over time with the now-classic if not iconic recording. If you had to explain rock ‘n’ roll music to an alien, “You Really Got Me” would be one of the initial songs if not the first you would play for the uninitiated.

Related: TV’s Emma Peel “meets” The Kinks

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3 Comments so far

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  1. Well Respected Apeman
    #1 Well Respected Apeman 6 October, 2016, 23:28

    Ray Davies, Peter Townshend and David Bowie were the most influential and talented song writers of the 60’s and 70’s era- they created new genres that other people later expanded on. “Waterloo Sunset”, “My Generation”, and “Man Who Sold the World” will never fade.

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  2. mick62
    #2 mick62 27 September, 2020, 06:29

    Still sounds fresh and exciting today! Top notch song from a top notch band.
    One of the greatest eclectic groups ever!!

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  3. Da Mick
    #3 Da Mick 27 September, 2022, 01:40

    Beyond whatever anyone might claim or deny, there seems no more formidable proof that Dave Davies played those iconic riffs on this record than his near record-perfect solo rendition on Shindig! You don’t play a solo that’s been copied like that.

    I know I’ll catch hell from all the rabid Kinks fans out there, but, in my opinion, while the Kinks certainly recorded some great songs in their “middle period,” they made a left turn, at some point, away from their wonderfully melodic, and perfectly crafted pop rock songs into a more sardonically theatrical phase, one which, as I acknowledge, is vehemently loved, but at the sad cost of one of Britain’s most deeply effecting pop bands. Sure, they made occasional appearances again, with songs like “Victoria” and such, but Ray’s nature, which must have been initially subjugated to write such great pop tunes early on, could no longer be pulled back into the bottle after having success with his more flamboyant narrative song styles. There’s probably not a better singular rock “n” roll LP out there than “The Kinks Greatest Hits” — the very first one. It has it all. from one song to the next. And those songs go deep in one’s psyche.

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