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The Greatest Record Ever Made: “You Really Got Me”

An infinite number of rockin’ pop records can be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns.  Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!
This post was originally published privately, for Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) subscribers only, on January 4th, 2017. This is its first public appearance. For as little as $2 a month, supporters of Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) on Patreon receive one exclusive bonus post each month: Fund me, baby!

THE KINKS: “You Really Got Me”
The record had no precedent.

Link Wray was the closest thing it had to a prototype; the growling, cantankerous power chords of Wray’s “Rumble” sounded like a force of nature, a monolithic, lumbering whamwhamWHAM! pouncing through cheap speakers to devour unsuspecting radio listeners in 1958. “Rumble” influenced anything loud and threatening that was ever played at 45 rpm from that second forward. And one imagines it must have influenced The Kinks, as well. Nonetheless, even six years later in 1964, there had still never been another record quite like “You Really Got Me.”

It’s not just a matter of velocity; “You Really Got Me” seems faster than it really is, and attempts to play it too fast or (worse) too heavy–like Van Halen‘s meatball cover in the late ’70s, or even The Kinks’ own live renditions in the ’80s–feel insincere, wrong. No, the song is methodical, deliberate, but still pounding with desire and passionate, right-now insistence. Its implied speed, its breakneck illusion, makes it all the more powerful, menacing, like a cobra poised to strike and rob you of your last breath. It’s a punk song, even a proto-metal song, but it has a groove. It has a soul. It has a heart.

And it seethes with the frustration from which it was born.

The Kinks had released two previous singles: a perfunctory cover of Little Richard‘s “Long Tall Sally” (backed by a great beat raver, “I Took My Baby Home”) and a lovely Britpop number called “You Still Want Me.” The former had sold respectably (but unspectacularly) in the UK, and the latter had been a relative stiff. The song’s composer, Ray Davies, is said to have pounded out “You Really Got Me”‘s bluesey creation at home, on his parents’ piano. Frustrated. His frequently estranged brother, Kinks guitarist Dave Davies, couldn’t get the dirty, gritty six-string sound he wanted on the song–Frustrated!–and wound up slashing his amp with a razor blade just to get the guttural effect he could only hear in his head. Ray Davies thought the first recording too polite, too polished, too smooth. FRUSTRATED!! He begged the record label to let them have another go at getting it right.

And they did. Release! Girl, you really got me goin’. Cigarette?

With “You Really Got Me,” The Kinks had their first big hit, and not just in the UK. That simple, ferocious riff echoed across the Atlantic, and The Kinks were suddenly part of a British Invasion, an insurrection armed with guitars, bass, and drums, a rock ‘n’ roll police action that reclaimed the colonies for Her Majesty. Yes, of course, The Beatles were the shaggy-headed faces of this unexpected Britmania, and those Liverpudlians’ wit and style and sheer pop brilliance were the driving force of that scene and its sound. But no other rock ‘n’ roll group was more British than The Kinks, and no song ever summed up the British Invasion as well as “You Really Got Me.” 

The Rolling Stones tried to surpass it, tried to make a record that could beat the overwhelming, transcendent urgency of “You Really Got Me.” And while the Stones created a lot of terrific singles in the process, they couldn’t match The Kinks. Nor could The Who, nor The Sex Pistols, nor even The Ramones, though Forest Hills’ Finest likely came the closest. The Kinks also tried; their follow-up single “All Day And All Of The Night” was arguably even better, a steamrollin’ refinement of “You Really Got Me”‘s primal attack. But “better” isn’t the same as Greatest. In the visceral realm of pop music, of rock ‘n’ roll, immediacy can be immortal. God save the greatest. And God save The Kinks.

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Birthdays

Ray Davies

Born on this day in 1944, in London, England, founder of The Kinks, Ray Davies.

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Quick Spins

The Kinks / Word Of Mouth

The Kinks

Word Of Mouth (Sony)

http://www.thekinks.com

The music of my teenage years will stay with me unlike any of the other music I’ve enjoyed in my life. It is forever entwined with first love and loss, disappointment and doubt, Spring break and Fall football games, dances attended and dances sat out. These songs are as indelible as my most personal memories, and as inescapable as each mornings’ new gray hair. This music is quite literally in my heart.

Word Of Mouth was released in 1984, and fell on my ears as junior year in high school was turning into senior year. My band played Do It Again in the school talent show, and I remember just loving the hell outta that song, from the first time I heard it. I worked overtime trying to get Dave Davies’s guitar parts down, and our little group sounded pretty damn good. Our singer forgot the lyrics, but I didn’t even notice. I was too busy pretending I was a guitar hero like Dave, bashing out those power chords.

I was happy to find that my friend Robert was into Word Of Mouth, and I’m sure that one of us had a cassette of it that was always getting shoved into the tape player in his Pontiac. We did a lot of driving, sometimes with our friend Cheryl. Just like in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, we’d cut class, stop at 7-Eleven to pick up a bag of cheese popcorn, jerky and soda. And we’d head for Chicago, which was about 45 minutes south of us. The sun was always shining.

Living On A Thin Line was released as a single, cementing my love of this record. There are some songwriters, Ray Davies & brother Dave being two, that have the ability to write a song that pulls multiple emotions out of you, and, boy, Living On A Thin Line does that to me. It’s love, regret, hope and sorrow, all tangled up in a seemingly-simple pop song.

Sold Me Out and Guilty are both top-notch rockers, and sound unbelievable cranked in the car, on a warm, Spring day. I love every song here, but these two really lift my mood. Every time.

Closing out the record are two songs that are perfectly suited to close it out. Knowing that Robert, Cheryl & I really only had one more summer together (before the reality of adulthood seriously began), I felt like Summer’s Gone was being sung directly to the three of us. Regardless of what the meaning behind Ray’s lyrics might have been, I took the feeling of this one personally.

The very last song is Going Solo, which is what every member of our trio would soon be doing. Although it’s an upbeat song, it’s theme of separating from the people you love always chokes me up.

By Dan Pavelich

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Quick Spins

Lolas / Bulletproof

Lolas

Bulletproof (Kool Kat)

http://shop.koolkatmusik.com/

The Lolas have existed in one form or another, since 1998. Head Lola, Tim Boykin, has been the one constant since then, providing lead vocals and guitar. Lolas’ records have always been tight, no-nonsense affairs, and Bulletproof is no exception. Most of these tracks clock in at around the three-minute mark.

Boykin’s voice cuts through the mix like a young John Lennon, although the songs have many influences. Destroy comes on like Ray Davies at his roughest and Oceans Of The Moon combines a Motown beat with a 90’s alt-rock attitude. It’s refrain of “Would you believe, there’s an ocean on the moon?” is catchy as can be.

My fave of the set is the driving She Will Shake The World. With a relentless drum beat and Ramones-inspired guitar work, it’s a head-bobber of the highest order. Bulletproof is probably the best full-on rock album I’ve heard yet this year, and will no-doubt end up on many year-end-best lists.

D.P.