The Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society album finds Ray Davies paying tribute to some of the colorful people he knew growing up in London ("Do You Remember Walter?," "Wicked Annabella"). On this rocker, he recalls "Johnny Thunder," a rebellious biker he once knew.
Johnny Thunder was inspired by the Marlon Brando movie The Wild One and also a cockney Ray Davies knew, whom he told Rolling Stone he saw "as a Neal Cassady type character."
"All rebels look like Marlon Brando on a motorbike, but they don't wear a bowler hat," he added.
Ray's brother, Kinks guitarist Dave Davies, has different memories of the inspiration for Johnny Thunder.
"There was a guy that I knew that I thought Ray modeled Johnny Thunder after," he told Rolling Stone. "He was a loner, and he'd drive around and didn't say much. In the middle of Muswell Hill, there's a big roundabout, where you go 'round just before the hill itself. It's very steep. This guy used to sped on his bike 'round the roundabout and the story has it one day his footrest hit the road and he toppled and that was the end of Johnny Thunder. But Ray has different memories of that."
Ray Davies returned to the Johnny Thunder character in The Kinks' 1973 Preservation Act 1 song "One of the Survivors."
See Johnny Thunder sitting on his motorbike Riding along the highway, Rock and roll songs from the 1950s Buzzing around in his brain