Monday, September 7, 2015

Stalking Ray Davies

In the new Johnny Rogan biography  A Complicated Life, Ray Davies is apparently depicted pretty much unanimously as the asshole of the century — whichever one you pick.  I demur.

Ray Davies, the author, and Mo Ostin
In early 1969, while serving my final year as an undergraduate at one of the University of California’s biggest campuses, I was given a copy of a Kinks album called The Village Green Preservation Society to review for the campus newspaper. I was rapturous about the album. The Kinks’ record company was rapturous about my rapture, and, because they felt the group was underachieving sales-wise, hired me to oversee a publicity campaign that might get radio program directors and the nascent rock press to pay attention to the group. The record company was pleased, and offered me a full-time job. When The Kinks launched their first American tour in four years, it flew me as their emissary to New York.

I hadn’t been in my room at the midtown Manhattan Holiday Inn before the phone rang. Ray Davies calling. It was like getting a phone call from God. From the moment I realized that he seemed to enjoy my company, I was all over him like a cheap suit, the most shameless groupie anyone had ever seen, an implacable stalker. It’s terribly embarrassing to remember having been so rapacious a little creep, but the truth shall set me free. Their second night at the Fillmore East, I importuned him to let me join the group on stage for their last number. I would play…well, how about tambourine? I had no shame, and thought my guest spot was sure to get me laid.

A stage hand wouldn’t let me onto the stage, though Ray apparently introduced me. I got laid anyway, by a slightly overweight Italian girl from Queens in a see-through black lace top who’d had her sights on Ray, but settled for me. It wasn’t very good.

I flew back to LA. A few weeks later, The Kinks followed. I was all over them like a cheap suit. The record company had actually assigned this extremely obnoxious old-school promotion man, Russ Somebody, to shepherd them around, but: over my dead body. Russ drove Dave and the rhythm section around while Ray rode with me in my VW minibus. At a press party for the group at a swanky nitespot in West Hollywood, around 45 people asked Ray if this was his first visit to America, and I came up with the idea of writing, “No, I’ve been here several times before,” on a card that he could remove from the breast pocket of his blazer if anyone else asked. The idea amused him. It was as though I’d delighted God. Lots more asked, and the card got quite a workout.

By and by, the old-school promotion man complained to my boss at the record company that I was getting in his way, and I was ordered to stand down, but not before Ray had given me the orange velour tie he’d worn at the press party. It was [all together now:] like getting God’s tie.

In fairness, when I saw The Kinks again a year later, I saw the Ray Davies Rogan’s informants knew. He was almost impenetrably sullen, and made a big display of tape-recording our interview, apparently to ensure that I wouldn’t misquote him. Nobody had ever done that before, as no one has since, and my feelings were considerably bruised. But in that record company parking lot the year before, he could very easily have told me to get lost, and ridden with the rest of the band in Russ the promotion man’s car. His acceding to my probably desperate-sounding invitation (it’s excruciating to remember what a creep I was) to ride with me was an act of sublime kindness.


  1. Your honesty and self awareness (now) of your behaviour (then) is admirable.

  2. Your honesty and self awareness (now) of your behaviour (then) is admirable.

  3. Interesting John! Any chance you have copies of any Kinks itineraries from back then?