Tuesday, 19 April 2011


X-Ray by Ray Davies

Kronikles of a Kink

This is a genuine oddity - rock autobiography as metafiction. Rather than give us a straightforward memoir (never really on the cards) Davies talks to us through a fictional nineteen year old orphan who has been brought up to be a faceless mediocrity by the all powerful Corporation and has now been told to "document the life and times of one Raymond Douglas Davies, who was a composer and the lead singer of the Kinks, one of the leading beat groups of that era*." (*the sixties)

A series of interviews then take place in "the legendary Konk studio" "festooned in cobwebs and dust." MetaDavies waits in the gloom and one of the first things he says is that "There is no time here. No future nor past."

MetaDavies reads from diaries, inhabits the dreams of the young narrator, plays him tapes and video but all the time there is a layer of uncertainty as we are not sure if we are reading truth or fiction. The persona of the Davies figure is very much the music hall comedian, often veering into crudely uncomfortable territory, savouring the showbusiness cliches, the queens, the randy landladies, the backstage gropings as well as wallowing in nostalgia and self pity. "..he pushed out his vowels in a way that made him sound like a pantomime Cockney. It was as if every word had a question mark after it."

We get the progressions from schoolroom to  artschool; frontroom to smalltime clubs and pubs to Ready, Steady, Go and Top of the Pops; contracts to courtroom; romance to wedding to courtroom and on until we see the death of the fictional/factional Ray Davies. His obituary appears "underneath the obituaries of a little-known nuclear scientist and a former member of parliament."

The book deals mainly with the sixties and very early seventies and there is a lot of background on (the) life stories behind particular songs. It's not clear whether the incidents led to the songs or whether Davies has invented the episodes to expound on the meaning of the songs. All we know is that the timeline seems right and the public events did happen.

In the end I didn't miss the photos and dates and confessions. Davies gives you a view into his head, his inspirations and experiences and even if delivered sideways it seems to have an honesty missing in many more 'straight' autobiographies. Davies doesn't lionise himself or overdo the false modesty. He admits mistakes and to having an unpleasant side.

The title reads many ways: this is a story of who Ray Davies used to be, or a story told by the man who used to be Ray Davies; a view inside the head of R.D. or a way of seeing the injuries sustained by R.D.
"The most explicit analysis of a person's exterior can show us only a fraction of what the person is about. An old X-ray photograph of R.D.'s injured back fell out on the floor and I picked it up and studied it. I felt that while the physical world can see two people - the outer and inner person - there is also the third person, a spiritual driving force that constantly intermingles with the first and second person. Intangible and totally inseparable."

Strangely just as I post this rumours abound again of the Davies' brothers burying the hatchet and reforming The Kinks once more.

There's a few photos here.

And here's a couple of reasons to love Raymond Douglas Davies.

1 comment:

  1. I think the book was more of an insight into Ray Davies than an ordinary autobiography would have been. There are some truths and some fiction - much like an ordinary run-of-the-mill autobiography but this story is told in such a way that every page is an experience and you wonder what will happen next. I loved it. I wish more authors had the insight Raymond Douglas Davies has.