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on 7 October 2013
The book is a page-turning stroll through Ray's recollections of stateside music, tours, lovers, buddies and periods of living there, including his shooting in New Orleans in 2004, it mostly covers the 70s, 80s and 90s as as is well known the Kinks were banned from the US for a large chunk of the late 60s. Of course he also touches on his domestic life, family and his relationship with his brother. It's not chronologically written but jumps forward and back in time which I found helped retain my interest.
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on 26 October 2013
Obviously I'd recommended this to any fan of the Kinks, but it's a fab book which deserves a larger readership. Quite deliberately it focuses on Ray's relationship with America so it's not a real autobiography in that it isn't complete. It weaves in and out time, frequently returning to Ray getting shot in New Orleans.

The Kinks, in particular brother Dave, loom large in the book but while he acknowledges the differences and arguments it's not about their relationship and there's very little dishing of dirt. An excellent read which is entertaining and interesting throughout.

More please Ray.
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on 19 May 2014
During his book talk at Norwich Playhouse on Saturday 10 May 2014, Ray Davies says, ‘I didn’t use a ghostwriter, I could have done.’ This isn’t news to me because I’ve read it, and there’s no doubt in my mind he weighed and wrote every word.

There is nothing inherently wrong with rock stars using ghosts for their memoirs. These books, composed from hours of recorded interviews, are filled with pleasing anecdotes captured in the speaking voice of the ‘author’ and are often eminently readable. Keith Richards virtually shared credit with his ghost, James Fox. The problem with the ghost-written conceit is that when an artist comes along who actually does write their own book – and in doing so creates a work of dignity worthy of being read – there’s no way of telling the difference by looking at the cover.

In ‘Americana’, Davies tells two stories about his life and work in the United States. The first narrative spans three decades, beginning with the Kinks’ arrival as part of the British beat invasion in June 1965 and subsequently getting banned due to ‘bad management, bad luck and bad behaviour’. What follows is the slow rehabilitation of the Kinks’ credibility through years of touring and some 20+ studio albums until, in 1990, they are officially accepted back into the hearts and minds of America when they’re inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The second story is more recent, recalling the dramatic events surrounding a day in January 2004 when Davies was shot by a mugger in New Orleans. When news filtered back across the Atlantic that the lead singer and songwriter of one of the most influential bands of the twentieth century was hospitalised with a gunshot wound, the obituary writers must’ve been ebullient . . . but they were left unsatisfied because Ray Davies survived.

Enough is written in print and on the internet about Ray Davies’s accomplishments so I won’t repeat them here, except to say ‘Waterloo Sunset’ is a flawless masterpiece. In ‘Americana’, he calls his song-writing muscle the ‘doo-di-dum-dums’ and describes it as too personal to share, an explanation that will frustrate music theory scholars for years to come. Characters and their stories are the lifeblood of his songs, and his book introduces the reader to several characters of note over the Kinks’ career including loyal roadies, trusted security minders and foppish managers. By no means is this a tell-all autobiography. There are no insights into the cause of apparent bad feelings between himself and his guitarist brother, Dave Davies, merely an acknowledgment of them and a tenor of regret. Gossip here is limited, so readers looking for vicarious sex-and-drug fuelled experiences will have to go elsewhere (although the part when Dave Davies and Keith Moon are unable to throw a television out a hotel widow because the window was too small did make me laugh).

Instead Davies builds a picture of years of touring and recording, of a relentless pressure to deliver the next show and the next album, and how these obligations have taken their toll. The road is not conducive to a stable family existence, and he missed the court appearances of his shooter and, by an unkind twist of fate, the death of his mother due recording commitments he felt he had no choice but to fulfil.

The creative life once chosen does not always go according to plan. Anxiety comes with the effort of producing and perfecting work. There’s a lovely chapter set in March 1978 in New York when Davies admits to having writer’s block and struggles even to leave the apartment:

‘Who were music people, anyway? It’s just another business, after all, and I don’t have to put myself through all this. I wanted to cry out, “I am a successful songwriter with many songs to my credit. I am an artist. I deserve to be heard.” The reality was that I didn’t feel like a songwriter because I couldn’t produce at that time. Questions kept running through my head. What are you trying to prove, anyhow? You just got lucky a few years ago, so why should the world open up to you just because you wrote a few hits in the distant past? I thought about going home to get a trade and a day job. I was ready to quit the music industry altogether . . .’

In his talk as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival (a literary event, not a music one) Davies says that when he gives a bad performance, he walks the streets. It’s easy to imagine the stream of self-reproaches, the over analysis of each mistake, the resolutions to get it right next time. In the Q & A part of the evening, I ask how the creative process has changed over the years? He replies he is more refined and more critical now, that it’s important to get the bad ideas out as well as the good ones, that no matter what else has gone before, the writing still begins with a blank piece of paper. It is refreshingly honest. And this is the real thrill in ‘Americana’, the honesty with which he deals with the recent past.

Davies goes to New Orleans in search of inspiration, to soak up blues, jazz, the spirits of musicians living and dead. He stays at a house where he can hear a high school marching band practicing nearby and decides to facilitate a project with them.

Then he tells the story of being gunned down and it is astonishing.

After being circumspect about the history of the Kinks, the reader is taken fully into Ray Davies’s point of view: the weather on the day, the face of the attacker, the instinct to fight back that was later the source of victim-blaming in the press by New Orleans authorities. The wound, the shock, the miasma of pain relief. The fact that for a time in hospital, because all his cards had been stolen, the medical staff called one of England’s famous sons, ‘Unknown Purple’. These chapters are full of intimate detail and stark vulnerability. The author wears his heart on his sleeve and whatever can’t be said directly is illustrated through selected lyrics.

‘See the sun, the day has come, and the night is just a memory / Do you live in a dream or do you live in a reality?’

It is a sincerely attempted self-portrait and a revelation.

‘Americana’ is not Davies’s first memoir. ‘X-ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography’ was a playful experiment in semi-fiction published in 1994. Twenty years later he is using prose to tease out personal truths and as healing; the result is a piece of writing of rare and thoughtful quality. With perhaps one or two exceptions (‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith springs to mind) the vast majority of Davies’s musical peers are simply incapable of this much depth and self-awareness in book form.

In the audience in Norwich, I suspect I am the only person who has read ‘Americana’ in advance and is more excited about meeting Ray Davies, the author, rather than Ray Davies, bona fide rock god. I want the interviewer to ask about his literary influences, not his musical ones, but the questions put are predictable and crowd-pleasing. The crush in the book-signing queue after is not conducive to writerly confidences and I sense an opportunity slipping away. There are several things I wish to know from this author and only the length of a signature left to ask; so I take a leap of faith based on the person I’ve met on the page.

‘It’s a great book,’ I say. ‘Are you going to write another?’ Yes, he replies. ‘What are you going to write about?’ And he tells me.
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on 16 November 2013
Found the beginning a bit tedious but couldn't put it down once I became hooked. Sadly most folk only know about the Kink's Pye singles and nothing about Ray's best album work on RCA & Arista. I hope this book helps them explore Muswell Hillbillies, Misfits, etc.
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on 25 January 2014
I found this book interesting and very personal, so I am happy to have read this part of the story about Ray and The Kinks. I had a little difficulty with the - missing or anyway camouflaged - chronology in the book, but anyway very well written. Ray is probably going to write even more in the future, I guess, because he has to write songs and stories to keep "living". With all that said, I have read biographies by ian McLagan of Small Faces, Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Keith and Clapton and more, that was at least just as good and interesting, some of them even better in my opinion. The strange thing is I lost The Kinks after the first 3 or 4 years of their existence, maybe because they focused so much on USA and also because they lost some of the raw bluesy rock'n roll attack to the music (wonder if not Dave Davies will agree with me?). But in all fairness and to sum up, I can easily recommend this book, and I will soon go on reading Ray's book X-Ray.
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on 9 February 2014
Ray writes with humour, sensitivity and a degree of candour in his illuminating autobiography. The book is cleverly written with a non-linear narrative allowing the reader to dip into different stages of Davies' life story. Therefore the writing is not predictable or mundane and remains interesting and informative throughout. In true Davies style the highs are understated and the lows treated with a concise understanding of the situation and its relationship to the bigger outside, comercial picture. This is documented especially during the America unions ban and the Clive Davis Arista years.
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Overall I found this book hugely disappointing. I have always liked the Kinks and appreciated Davies' songwriting and the numerous classics that have dripped from his pen over the years.

This isn't really an autobiography (that has gone before) but more of a series of vignettes about travel and Americana. And that's where it fails for me as it moves all over the place. There is no chronological order and it is very episodic and at times I juist wondered what the author was trying to achieve. The book doesn't hang together very well and the writing style is at times rather simple. He refers to the Kinks as though we , the readers, have never heard of them.

Overall a disappointing read that could have been a valuable insight into America and its musical traditions and the pitfalls that the Kinks came up against
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on 30 March 2014
This is written with Kinks fans and friends in mind. If you've not followed Ray's career then I don't think this book will make much sens e to you. But for us long serving members of the Village Green Preservation set it's great that we are finally given some background into the RCA and Arista days. I would have preferred Ray to go a bit deeper but the I am a saddo and like to know who said what and why. Overall, a great read for Kinks fans and a must for your Kinky library.
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on 2 February 2014
Ray's experience in the music business could cover many books and topics, and this one mainly relates to touring and personnel views of touring in the USA, which mixed with the potentially life change experience of getting shot makes for a really different way of looking at the more usual rock and roll lifestyle book.
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on 3 June 2015
A good insight to the formation of the Kinks and how the young Ray Davies coped with fame and his older self eventually touring America. The hospital scenes are vivid after he was shot. There are good descriptions of friends he made on tour and excellent excepts from his songs.
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