The 60s are often over-romanticized by those who remember and those who wish. While they may not have been flower heaven, some would suggest, however, the decade-long period produced undeniably superb music that still influences and sounds amazing today.
It took many attributes to make them a top rock band. The songs, of course, but beyond that the youth appeal to tap into new consumers, and a certain aesthetic distinction to stand out from the herds of new bands. For that, you needed an incredible leader.
Some rock singers burst onto the stage like a force of nature, demanding that the crowd accompany them. Others would take a more reflective or mysterious approach, cultivating an aura and inspiring devotion through wit and charisma. Some were sex symbols, others were outsiders who transcended physical form through the power of music.
Whether they were the driving force behind the band or the spokesperson who hung it all together, these leaders were instrumental in creating immortal works, becoming icons themselves.
The Kinks’ frontman and primary songwriter wasn’t the most performative singer of the decade, but he may have been the most influential. By telling stories of everyday life in a simple and witty way, injecting humor into his lyrics but never delving into novelty, he paved the way for Billy Bragg, Damon Albarn and many others. still others.
Davies started as a guitarist around London bands of the early 60s, but when The Kinks signed a record deal, he quickly began experimenting and developing the band in new directions. “You Really Got Me” is often heralded as the birth of heavy metal with its then exceptional levels of distortion. He could write heartbreaking love songs, reference French history, provide addresses on the state of the nation, and wisely crack up with the best of them.
This Londoner also refused to Americanize his band’s sound; its resolutely British references, its influences drawing on the traditions of the music hall. He and his brother Dave were an unstable couple, and their tension would eventually see the Kinks fall apart. In the 60s, however, they were untouchable and entirely their own thing.