Viv Hardwick reports on Ray Davies’ determination to put an authentic Sunny Afternoon on stage
PUTTING The Kinks' story into a warts and all musical, the West End and touring success Sunny Afternoon, would not have worked for legendary Sixties founder member Ray Davies if it wasn’t authentic.
“The Kinks were arguably one of the most dysfunctional and hard-edged bands around before punk. Someone said to me the Kinks were one of the bands the punk bands looked up to. It is a coming of age story, it is about sibling rivalry, a changing society, the pitfalls of the music industry, about loss of self, and it is about being on tour with my brother (Dave). It is compelling on several levels and, of course, it has got the songs as well,” says Ray.
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With the touring version about to play York’s Grand Opera House from Tuesday (February 21) Ray admits that Sunny Afternoon was inspired by the show he created from the later Kinks’ hit called Come Dancing.
“In 2005, I found myself thinking about significant times in my life around the time of Sunny Afternoon. So many things were happening to me around that time: overworked, infighting among band members, lawsuits with managers and publishers that nearly gave me a breakdown and the rest,” he says.
Ray decided the 1966-set plot needed a British producer and opted for Sonia Friedman. “Then Joe Penhall came on board to do the book, we did a few workshops and after that Ed Hall offered to direct. After another workshop the production started its life with a trial run at Hampstead Theatre, before it transferred to the West End and now it is on tour,” he says.
Although he was retelling the band’s heyday period, Ray was keener to reflect the historic times in Sunny Afternoon. “We were leading the world with music, arts and fashion.The classes were merging and it seemed as if we were all as one. As one of the characters says it was ‘a very special time’. I think it is quite a compelling story about how I began this journey and the story is important. It needs to be a great story for The Kinks fans, but also for those who maybe don’t know much about the band, their origins or music for that matter.”
Of course the musical had to include Ray’s conflict with his brother and the band being banned from the US because performances often descended into violence.
“It sounds strange now but at the time, we were seen to be invading America. People in the US thought the British invasion was taking their music away from them and possibly corrupting a young American generation. It is also about how different classes band together. There is a very touching moment in the show where our manager who is from the upper class and us bonded. I think that was a very key thing in the Sixties because we all had a common quest and it was more about social bonding,” he says.
In spite of The Kinks enjoying success by creating their own sound, Ray feels that some areas of the industry haven’t changed in spite of online enterprise.
“Music is more accessible now than it used to be and the internet is really useful for bands these days. However the big corporations hover around. In many ways the internet giants have replaced the old record company model,” says Ray.
After Sunny Afternoon, what about the band opting for a final reunion?
“I often hear rumours of Kinks reunions but we can’t do that of course because we lost Pete Quaife, one of the originals a few years ago. I miss Pete and I miss that team effort a lot; I’m not sure it’s something we could do without him. But never say never and one never knows,” says Ray.
- Grand Opera House, York, February 21 to 25. Box Office: 01904-678700 or www.atgtickets.com/venues/grand-opera-house-york