The night The Kinks exploded

After The Yardbirds had finished their set, we all waited expectantly for The Kinks to appear on stage.

It was May 19th, 1965, and, along with around 2,500 other screaming teenagers, I was at the Capitol theatre in Cardiff with one of my school chums, Willy Stonehouse. (This was where, six months later, I was to see The Beatles give one of their last live shows in Britain).

It would turn out to be a highly memorable evening …

mojo

Credit: Mojo, March 2017

*            *            *            *            *
The lady from Bavaria, with her family, turned up on time. It was a sunny afternoon in summer and the terrace at the back of The Boathouse pub in Cambridge was a picture of social serenity, with people engaged in relaxed conversation or maybe watching the punts go by, boathousewith others on the grassy bank opposite, layin’ ‘cross the river.

I brought some drinks and snacks. It was good of them to break away from their long trip up to the Lake District; but after some initial pleasantries we started discussing the advertising launch of the new German yoghurt, plans for which we were in the process of finalising.

It was then that my eye was drawn to a couple carrying drinks down the steps leading to the terrace. They were particularly noticeable to me as I could see that the man was a Kinks fan. “Thinks he’s Ray Davies“, was my immediate thought, as he wore the classic velvet jacket, with similarly-styled long hair – and he even looked somewhat like the leader of The Kinks, someone I revered as a master songwriter.

raydavies

“Actually, he looks just like him”, I thought.

“Hang on a minute …”

*            *            *            *            *
I do remember that the stage setting was all white. A white background and white drum kit.

The first song they played, fans going wild, was the original big hit that shot them to fame, “You Really Got Me“.

Then there was a kind of awkward pause, and some chit-chat, as though they weren’t sure what to do next. They looked around at each other. But then, Dave Davies, brother of Ray, standing on the right of the stage, took a kick at Mick Avory‘s drum kit. Looking back at it, my guess is that his intention was simply to give the big bass drum a playful prod, rather than the great thump that he actually delivered.

Avory’s bass drum suddenly began rolling across the stage – I mean, right across the stage, from right to left a distance of maybe fifteen feet. This was weird, but some might have thought it was part of the act. It soon became apparent that it wasn’t.

Mick Avory stood up, picked up his hi-hat and advanced towards Dave. He moved behind him, still on the far right of the stage. Holding the hi-hat half way down the metal post, with the two cymbals to the top and pedal beneath, he raised the whole thing above his head and brought the cymbals crashing down on the back of Davies’ neck. My recollection of this part of the proceedings is crystal clear.

hihat1

Dave Davies’ knees buckled and he collapsed to the floor. What happened next is a bit hazy in my memory. I think Davies was pulled off the stage. The crowd became suddenly quieter as hysterical screams were replaced by gasps and more of a general hubbub.

“My God, he’s killed him!” I said to Willy, who nodded in agreement. The curtain was pulled across and the audience just stood in astonishment. People were dumbfounded. Some girls began crying. There was an announcement saying that the show would recommence shortly. There followed a twenty minute gap, before the announcer said “Ladies and gentlemen, The Yardbirds!” On came The Yardbirds again, lead singer Keith Relf half changed into his “civvies”, and the whole group looking very uncomfortable and playing badly …

Willy and I decided that it might be worth nipping round to the back of the theatre to see what was going on there. There was quite a big gathering of fans at the stage door … as well as an ambulance. We saw someone being carried out on a stretcher. After a while, the word went round that Mick Avory had fled the scene and the police were looking for him.

The whole thing was just so surreal.

*            *            *            *            *
I couldn’t concentrate on what the lady was saying. I’ve never been a shrinking violet and I thought “This is my chance”. I made my apologies and explained that Ray Davies was one of my heroes. I took the bull by the horns and strolled over to the table where (the) Ray Davies was sitting with a female companion.

“Excuse me, Ray”, I stuttered, suddenly starstruck to be addressing a pop music god. “I was there at the Capitol on the night of the fight”.

“Oh, okay, how did you see it?”, he asked. I was so nervous that at first I didn’t entirely understand what he meant. “Ah, what did I think happened?”, I thought.

keithrelf“It looked to me as though Mick was trying to kill him”, I said. Ray didn’t respond to that, but told me that he was writing a book about the group. He took my details and said that he might be in touch if he needed comments by a witness. He also reminded me that Keith Relf (right) met a very tragic end, electrocuted whilst playing a guitar which hadn’t been grounded correctly.

I’ve often wished I had plucked up the nerve to try to find out more from Ray. But, I confess, my awe in meeting such a songwriting legend overcame my ability to think straight. Maybe next time …

I returned to the table. Lady from Bavaria not impressed. Who are The Kinks? I’m afraid we must be making our way now. I’ll be in touch, etc., etc.

Oh dear.

*            *            *            *            *
To this day, controversy continues to bubble under about what exactly happened that night in Cardiff. An initial explanation was that the kick was deliberate and Avory was supposed to say “You nearly got me”. He’s also tried to make out that he hit Dave with the foot pedal of the hi-hat.

Nope, it was definitely the cymbals. Given the force with which the blow was delivered, I’m amazed that it didn’t decapitate Dave. I can only assume that his neck was partially protected by his jacket.

Avory ran from the theatre and went into hiding. The story hit the headlines and there were updates on the search for him – it was a major news item on ITV‘s News At Ten and was all over the national press. The police wanted to charge Avory with attempted murder. Eventually he re-surfaced, Dave having recovered after a spell in hospital, deciding not to press charges, despite having had to have fifteen stitches in his wound.

Ray was much more forthcoming about what actually happened in an interview with Wales Online not so long ago.

His recent knighthood was so well-deserved, a songwriting genius awarded for services to the arts. He was already a CBE.

*            *            *            *            *
The yoghurt launch was a flop, no doubt due to the appalling creative work produced by the ad agency that I was working with.

But I often think back to the time I met a personal hero, one memorable Sunny Afternoon in Cambridge.

 

 

 

Image credit: Ray Davies – By Jean-Luc (originally posted to Flickr as Kinks) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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7 Comments

Filed under Music

7 responses to “The night The Kinks exploded

  1. A hard competition then – extreme working condition – a lot of money, alcohol, and drugs and not much experience and back-up to very young boys thrown into it all … that all makes up for some of the problems described …

    Here in Denmark I have seen not the Kinks themselves but part of the public actually smash the seats of two different concert halls to stop the show of those “long-haired-no-good-not artists” 🙂

    (And yes “they” got the Yardbirds, Pretty Things &.c. (sob!))

    Buuut quality survives … and some of those “bad boys” still play music “Winning Ugly” as The Stones put it …

    Hope that you join me thinking about “Rock’n’Roll Fantasy” and the dream to see Ray & Dave back on stage and in the studio for a final take (or two). 🙂

    And P.S. You might have tried Danish A-38 instead of that yoghurt 🙂

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  2. A Reader

    I’d also like to ask a few questions about that event, Richard. What time of the day did it happen? Was this an afternoon show? An evening show? Did it happen around 5-ish? 6-ish? 9-ish? Any memory of that?

    Also, aside from The Yardbirds, who else was on the bill? Were The Kinks billed second?

    Thanks again.

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    • I’m afraid I don’t personally remember the start time of the show but according to this website it was 6.30pm: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/the-kinks/1965/capitol-theatre-cardiff-wales-73c18a31.html (I recall that it was getting dark while we were at the stage door. Bear in mind it stays light till quite late in May in the UK. There were maybe a hundred people there and we stayed for a fair time – maybe 40-50 minutes. Strangers were talking to each other about what had gone on. I remember flashing lights). The Kinks were the starring act – the show would have finished after (if …) they’d completed their act. I’ve read somewhere that The Koobas were a supporting act. I remember seeing The Koobas just the once but not at which show. If they played with The Kinks I assume they were on the bill that night. No recollection of any other act. So the running order might have been Koobas – Yardbirds – The Kinks.

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  3. A Reader

    If this story was ever covered in the U.S media, I never saw it – and I’ve never known any other American teenager who did. A year or so later, there was a mention in Gloria Staver’s ’16 Magazine’ of an on-stage fistfight during a performance on a U.S. Navy ship, but that was the only indication of trouble within the band that I ever read about.

    In October 1969, while I sat in the Fillmore East waiting to see The Kinks perform for the first time in the U.S since their first (and last) tour in the summer of 1965, I remember being puzzled, as I read the Fillmore East’s playbill. In their section on The Kinks, Dave was quoted as saying that they didn’t fight with each other anymore – and that they were more like a family now. I had no idea what he was talking about.

    Thank you very much for your account, Richard.

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  4. Yes, Lulu, it was no fight. At best it was GBH, but it certainly looked like an extreme case. I certainly agree with your comment about the Cardiff police’s mishandling. And just think – all those stitches – that was some wound!

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  5. Lulu

    Thank you for that account, Richard, it’s the only first-hand description I’ve heard from a witness. I doubt ray (or Dave) saw what happened that night, so no wonder ray asked you for your take on it – well done for having the guts to talk to him. Dave suffered no lasting damage,so ‘the Cardiff incident’ has entered kinks folklore and makes for a cool story, but it does bug me that it is often referred to as ‘a fight’ in Cardiff following the previous evening’s ‘fight’ in Taunton. Reality is that mick Avery beat up the much smaller, 18 year old Dave, blackening both his eyes and then launched a completely unjustifiable, mindless attack on him the next night. People die in less violent assaults. If the Cardiff constabulary had taken witness statements, they could have prosecuted mick for GBH, without Dave’s cooperation. He’d have served time. The search for a new drummer would have required cancellation of the US tour, so Dave must have been under great pressure to carry on and not cause a fuss.

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