I was so excited to begin my 2009 in books project that maybe I forgot to add an important rule. We’re keeping it sporadic, but we’ll also be reading primarily fiction, and probably NO decorating or cooking-related books.
That said, X-Ray is non-fiction, though the author takes liberties to alter what otherwise might be considered a straightforward rock memoir into something different. For those unaware, it’s a book by the legendary songwriter/lead singer of the Kinks. With much anticipation, I expected to start the year off reading this one, but it took too long to arrive.
I always imagined Ray Davies to be the gentle, kindhearted type. Maybe because he’s always smiling while singing in the videos I’ve watched. But asshole Ray is just as charming. There were pages and pages about difficult feuds and unhappy marriages, which made me wonder, ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone?’ He completely debunks the myths of the ‘swinging sixties,’ and displays it to be a complete mess of an era. One of the big themes is the greed and corruption within the music industry, and how he was one of its first victims. A lot of the time the book is really funny, too, like when R.D. talks trash about bands, including a few comments about The Who copying his style. The infamous scene of Mick Avory nearly decapitating Dave Davies’ head with a cymbal is there, and one with Keith Richards being drunk and yelling up at brother Dave from the sidewalk.
One of my favorite excerpts:
(John) Lennon walked up over to me and stared over at my guitar, on its stand next to my amplifier. He put his hand up to his cheek and looked over the instrument as if it were a rare antique. Without asking permission, he touched the tone control, while I looked on in astonishment. I suppose that I should have felt privileged to have one of the Beatles take the trouble to make a comment about us or our instruments, but in the circumstances I felt as though I had been violated.
‘Is this yours?’
‘Once my mum has paid off the hire-purchase.’ I thought that this working-class comment would impress him, but he was unmoved.
Then, as Lennon’s arm raised to brush a little bit of dandruff from the shoulder of my red hunting jacket, he paused to take a peep at the audience through the curtains.
‘Excuse me,’ I said nervously. ‘It’s our turn. You’re on after us.’
Lennon gave a stern look down his magnificent long nose, while his mouth broke into a broad grin. ‘With the Beatles, laddie, nobody gets a turn. You’re just there to keep the crowd occupied until we go on.’ As he left the stage he threw out a parting comment: ‘Well, lads, if you get stuck and run out of songs to play, we’ll lend you some of ours.’
I wanted to shout that we didn’t know any of theirs, but the lights had dimmed and the curtain had started to open. An imaginary bell sounded for round one. We were on.
I also enjoyed the stories about the sexy mod groupie chicks (or the less-young women, whom he calls “a nice bit of old”). I’d keep going but I’m running out of time before the season premiere of LOST begins. Plus, breaking rule #3 will mean I’ll turn into one of those annoying amazon.com reviewers. I dragged along while reading this one, because I was trying to take it all in, and was distracted by less important things like hanging out with actual people, and working on grad school app materials. I should also note this was actually book #5. #4 gets a placeholder, because it was done for a music-related review job to be in First Draft magazine sometime in the future (this might be cheating, but Randy Owen has so little in common with Ray Davies, that I think it passes as an exception to the rule).
Next we’ll be making the strange jump to start reading a way-too-famous book about wizards, a caged snowy owl, and a phoenix-feather wand.