Category Archives: Music

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

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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 …”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Remembering Jupiter

It’s been all about Jupiter recently …

I watched in awe the gathering strength and ferocity of Hurricane Matthew as he hovered over the Florida coastline recently. Using the wonders of the Periscope app, I was able to empathise with people all along the coast who broadcast their experiences whilst readying their homes for the onslaught. Some expressed their fears; others were angry that their families had decided to stay put and not evacuate; many others gave live broadcasts from the windows of their homes or even from the beach.

I can’t record Periscope broadcasts but I certainly remember a ‘peri’ (the other jargon term is ‘scope’, of course) from Juno beach in Jupiter, a town in Palm Beach County, where so many people seemed prepared to risk their lives as the storm advanced with ever-growing force. They either stood, just taking it all in, or filmed, or even – unbelievably – went swimming. I even saw a hang-glider in flight over the pounding ocean. At least the people shown in the video above were being reasonably sensible, though at that point Matthew had still to reach full strength.

There’s much more drama in this kind of broadcasting. Live, uncut, unslick, unrehearsed … the amateurishness adds to the feeling of being at a newsworthy event in person. Professional, live outside broadcasts are better than studio-sourced replays; but for a real frisson of actualité, give me a peri anytime.

Speaking of the unrehearsed …

Once again, the Proms season has come and gone and there were many performances I wanted to see but either had no time or forgot to set up a recording. Fortunately we now have the i-Player – so all is not lost. Of those I saw, there were some really memorable moments. For me, one particular highlight was the Aurora Orchestra‘s performance of Mozart‘s Jupiter symphony. Astonishingly, they played the whole work from memory, without sheet music.

I would expect solo virtuosi to be able to play major works from memory, of course; but for an orchestra to do so strikes me as something of a minor miracle. No doubt Aurora’s musicians spend much, much longer than usual in rehearsal. But the result is a seemingly impromptu performance that sounds more spontaneous – unrehearsed – than usual, with all the belief and conviction of an orator who needs no notes but gives an affective speech drawn from a well of deeply-laid passions.

In a piece* on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hans Keller describes the Jupiter symphony as “the most important work historically as far as the birth of the Symphony with a capital ‘S’ is concerned”. This symphony clearly has wider significance for the genre. But what does it actually mean for the individual listener? In the same chapter, but referring to music more generally, Keller suggests that we don’t need to know. Indeed, with a nod to a remark by Einstein, he demolishes the idea that typical listeners wrestle with meaning or want to dig down to discover what the composer’s intentions were, pointing to the “supreme paradox” of

“… the ready acceptance of music not because it is understood, but because it isn’t. The idiom sounds familiar … so what more do we want? Do we really want to get down to the clear substance, when pleasantly vague feelings are so readily aroused on the surface?”

We have the composer’s contribution (the writing); the players’ contributions (the performance); and – ultimately as ‘consumers’ – our own interpretation. Full marks to Keller, whose advice, by the way, seems largely to parallel the Reader Response theories of literary critics such as Stanley Fish, Jauss, Iser and others.

But getting beneath the surface was a key objective for NASA‘s Juno mission to the gas giant Jupiter …

juno600b

Whereas Hurricane Matthew’s winds touched 155 mph at their peak, the winds on Jupiter can reach a speed of 384 mph. Hang gliding? I think not.

According to the NASA mission pages,

“The spacecraft’s name comes from Greco-Roman mythology. The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, but his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and see Jupiter’s true nature”.

The task of the Juno spacecraft is to do that very same thing. The mission is almost symphonic in structure, comprising a series of thirteen movements, including its presto launch on August 5th, 2011; then a two year andante voyage around the Sun, including an Earth ‘flyby’; a lengthy voyage to the planet itself, culminating in an accelerando phase in which it reached 165,000 mph before a ritardando “insertion”, slowing it for orbit around the planet; a series of thirty-seven largo , information-gathering orbits around the planet; and a prestissimo finale lasting 5.5 days during which it will be ‘de-orbited‘ and ultimately crash through the Jovian atmosphere into oblivion.

All the while, the tennis-court-sized Juno spacecraft is sending home data and photos of its excursion to the biggest planet in the solar system. The information gathered will be analysed for around two years.

But the mission itself will be remembered for far longer than that.

 

 


* The Symphony: 1. Haydn to Dvorak, ed. Robert Simpson, Penguin Books Ltd., 1966; ch. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hans Keller.

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