Although The Kinks have long been one of our most influential and cherished groups, in the last couple of years since the hit musical “Sunny Afternoon” and especially since Ray Davies joined brother Dave onstage in London back in December 2015, fans have been hopefully awaiting the reformation of this most wonderful of bands. Although The Kinks back catalogue spans over forty years it’s the halcyon Pye years from 1964 to 1971 in which the band constantly released classic hit records which have collectors scouring record shops, fairs, and the internet for hits and rarities, and a full set of UK releases will set you back a fair few quid should you wish to complete the set. For this two-part article, we’re going to give you a run through of the hard to find releases from the debut 45 back in early 64 to the “Percy” soundtrack eight years later. The first part will concentrate on the “Pink” years, when the band had a string of top ten singles, including three UK number one hits, the second part will then concentrate on the “Blue” years when Ray was at his songwriting peak but the record buying public were not buying the records in such great numbers. Hindsight shows how wrong they were.
Hailing from Muswell Hill in North London, Ray, Dave and bassist Pete Quaife were originally an R’n’B combo called The Ravens who came to the attention of ace producer Shel Talmy after he heard a demo tape and helped get the group signed to the Pye record group where they were enlisted drummer Mick Avory to complete the classic first line up. On 7th February 1964 their debut single “Long tall Sally”, a R’n’B cover of the Little Richard classic was released on the pink Pye label (7N15611) was unveiled to the record buying public. Although the single hit the lower reaches of the NME chart it was a commercial flop making copies a nice rare collector’s item today with prices usually reaching £75-120 depending on condition. The next 45 was released in April 1964 and like all the Kinks singles after the debut, it was a Ray Davies penned number “You still want me” (7N15636). Although the first single sold in respectable amounts, this one was an unjustified complete flop and is by far the hardest Kinks UK 45 to locate in nice condition. Expect to pay at least £200 for a copy of this, one even reached the amazing price of £400+ at auction in 2016! With Pye threatening to cancel the band’s contract if they didn’t have a hit single, Ray composed one of the most influential two and bit minute slabs of musical perfection ever committed to vinyl, “You really got me”. With Dave’s incendiary and groundbreaking lead guitar bursting through the track, it couldn’t fail when it was released on 7th August 1964 (7N15673). And fail it didn’t as it shot up the UK charts, reaching the coveted number one spot shortly after where it stayed for two weeks. The Kinks had arrived.
From then on every single the group released up until 1968 hit the upper regions of the UK charts, with every single release apart from “Everybody’s gonna be happy” hitting the top ten, two of them reaching the top spot. As runs of stellar 45’s go, the following one takes some beating for songcraft, influence and sheer greatness: “All day and all of the night”, “Tired of waiting for you”, “Everybody’s gonna be happy”, “Set me free”, “See my friends”, “Till the end of the day”, “Dedicated follower of fashion”, “Sunny afternoon”, “Dead end street”, “Waterloo sunset”, “Autumn almanac”. Being massive chart smashes these are usually findable in nice condition for around £3-5 each, with a premium for truly mint copies. All the Kinks singles were also pressed as demonstration copies in small numbers, these are very desirable to collectors and can reach top prices at auction, especially in top condition with unblemished labels. Also look out for UK export release 45’s, mainly for the European market. There are four in total, including album tracks “David Watts”, “A well-respected man” and “Milk cow blues” on a 7″ format. Ray’s songwriting prowess also resulted in some fantastic and very rare releases by other artists around this time. “I go to sleep” was covered by The Applejacks, Peggy Lee, Marion, Fingers and The Truth in 1965-66 although none were hits and it wasn’t till a few years later The Pretenders took the song into the charts. Other great, obscure and coveted releases include Barry Fantoni “Little man in a little box” (Fontana), The Thoughts “All night stand” (Planet), The Cascades “I bet you won’t stay” (Liberty) and Leapy Lee “King of the whole wide world” (Decca). Ironically it’s Dave’s composition “One fine day” which was covered by Shel Naylor and released on Decca in 1964 which fetches by far the most money, with prices sometimes hitting the £500+ mark!
With the band constantly having smash hits Pye also released a nice series of EP’s in wonderful colour laminated sleeves. Five were released in total, the first three”Kwyet Kinks”, “Kinksize hits” and “Kinksize session” are not particularly hard to find, but the fourth “Dedicated Kinks” from 1966 is more elusive and the final EP “The Kinks” from April 1968 is incredibly scarce easily reaching £200+ at auction in top condition. The band’s first three LP’s “The Kinks”, “Kinda Kinks” and “The Kink controversy” were good sellers but easily sell for £50+ in nice condition with clean sleeves. Particularly coveted are rare export Stereo pressings of the first two LP’s with stickered UK sleeves as they were mono only releases in the UK. “Face to face” from 1966 was a move towards Ray’s late 60’s songwriting style and is an absolute classic but strangely failed to chart resulting in scarcity of copies today. This was followed by the live album “Live at Kelvin Hall” in early 1967 and lastly by the masterpiece “Something else by The Kinks” in September of the same year. All were released in both Mono and Stereo, the latter being the scarcer of the two, especially with the Stereo sticker still attached! Prices vary wildly from one week to the next but be prepared to have a large bank account if you want a truly mint copy of any of them. As 1968 approached Ray’s songwriting grew more world-weary and pastoral and the band embarked on an influential but poorly received at the time run of releases on the newly redesigned light blue Pye label. We’ll have a look at these next time around…
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