Willesden Green Old Library
Many famous bands have a member or members who write some, most, or all of the band’s music. Lennon and McCartney were great creators for The Beatles. But few band members have a track record as long and as successful as Ray Davies, rhythm guitarist for the UK band The Kinks. Ray was the main man.
You wouldn’t be far from wrong by saying that The Kinks were a back-up band for Ray Davies. He led from the front, literally, and has been described as “… almost indisputably rock's most literate, witty and insightful songwriter.”
Like many great musicians and songwriters, Ray Davies and The Kinks kicked off in humble surrounds. Ray and his brother Dave had 6 older sisters and Saturday nights in 1950s and 60s in the family home in North London, not far from Willesden Green, were musically charged. There were sing-a-longs, gags, beer, and then some. The brothers enjoyed a wide variety of musical styles at home, so it was no surprise the songs they performed featured many styles, including rhythm and blues, English music hall, and country.
To start with, The Kinks recorded covers, but their single "You Really Got Me," written, of course, by Ray Davies, struck gold in 1964. It went to Number 1 in the UK and then quickly to the Top 10 in the United States. Dave Davies on lead guitar cut the speaker cone, giving his guitar riff a unique and gritty sound. After all, you’ve gotta have a gimmick. "You Really Got Me" is credited as the start of hard rock and heavy metal.
For the next 30-odd years The Kinks toured widely and recorded heaps of songs, including "Willesden Green." They were successful in many countries and often involved in controversy. They used the words "Coca-Cola" in one song, which the BBC chose to ban citing product placement, which today is all the rage in music video clips. The band re-recorded the lyrics using "cherry cola" on record, but sang the original lyrics in live concerts.
Bench at Willesden Green
Their album Percy
was the soundtrack for a movie about a penis transplant. The track "Willesden Green" featured on this album.
Growing up in North London made writing about Willesden Green easy peasy. It’s a suburb of North London with a colorful history. Today it’s home to many ex-pats, Aussies, Kiwis, and even Canadians.
When Ray mentions Fulham Broadway and Golders Green, he is referring to two other suburbs in north London. It’s not like they’re miles away and Ray is hankering for a far-off home. Sure, he says he’s "gotta get that train," but he means the Tube, London’s famous underground. And it’s not exactly a train with a sleeping car and a journey of many hours. In fact, it would be quicker to walk
to Willesden Green from Golders Green, and the line to the famous Wimbledon tennis courts passes through Fulham Broadway.
The Kinks are "retired" as of 2011, with occasional hints at a reunion. And Willesden Green is still around with hints of the good old days.
~ Cenarth Fox
Willesden Green Songfacts
Browse all Songplaces