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

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Kinks Got Me singleThe first 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 long-battling brothers Davies – 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.

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 soon?

“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: A 50th anniversary edition of The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society is coming

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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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