The culprit is always the drummer

The culprit is always the drummer

“The story of” Lola “had never been addressed in pop music, it was a pioneer in many aspects”

Fifty years of the famous “Lola” of the Kinks and Luis Lapuente approaches the emblematic group to chat with Mick Avory, one of the three original members who are still active. Here, his talk.

Text: LUIS LAPUENTE.
Fotos: BARRIE WENTZELL / RAY SHADES.

When other British groups were betting on rhythm and blues in the early 1960s, Ray Davies and his brother Dave invented hard rock with the memorable guitars from “You really got me.” Then, in the throes of psychedelic fever, Ray and his boys set out to recreate beautiful pastoral atmospheres on albums like The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, as vindicated today as misunderstood in their day. Always on the contrary, in the early seventies, when progressive rock was out in its respects, the Kinks bet on old pop wrapped in operetta colors (Arthur) or distilled bile against the record industry into perfect pills of transparent pop, like the ones enjoyed in the songs of Lola vs. Powerman and the moneygoround part. 1, an album that is now fifty years old and is being reissued in a big way.

Willing to talk about “Lola” (the song), about Lola (the album) and other stories and comics related to the band in which he held command of the drumsticks for two glorious decades, between 1964 and 1984, we picked up the phone one sunny fall afternoon to chat with the fireproof Mick Avory, one of the three original Kinks still active (after the death of Pete Quaife, the first bassist of the quartet, in June 2010).

I guess it’s a must to start the conversation around Lola
I think it was the first album we made at Morgan Studios. Yes, we actually recorded all the songs on the album there. It gave us a breath of life, thanks above all to the great success of the single. We had returned to the United States in 1969, it was the first time we performed there after they censored us, and the following year we scored that goal, which allowed us to climb the ranks of pop music. We had just had a little hit on the American charts with the album Arthur and with “Lola” our expectations soared to the highest level, we went up for a long season. Also, it was a slightly different style to what we had done so far, a single with bold lyrics about a transsexual’s sexual inexperience and club life, a story that had never been talked about in pop music, it was a pioneer in many respects. All that was taboo at that time, or it was talked about and lived in a covert way. In that sense we were ahead of our time, and it was great to write about something like that, talking about gays, queens, transvestites, it was difficult to write about those topics without being censored. Then, everything related to drag queens and others normalized, but “Lola” was a groundbreaking song.

Plus, it was an instant hit, as recognizable as “You really got me” had been.
I guess it was because of the way we recorded it, with very good arrangements, determined that everyone remembers the chorus. The truth is that “Lola” had everything it took to become a hit, and it was so, so much so that radio stations are still frequently listened to, perhaps not so much in the pop generalists, but in others. That album was called Lola because it was the title of the best known song, although it also contained “Apeman”, another great success.

“Apeman” was always one of my Kinks favorites. I remember that funny BBC video with the keyboard player, John Gosling, playing with an ape mask on.
Yeah I think I remember we played it to Top of the Pops. We called Gosling “the Baptist”, he was always joking, he was very funny, very different from us. Sometimes his humor was very clever and other times it was a little wild and wild. We are still very good friends, in fact, he is a member of Kast off Kinks, the group that we have with former members of The Kinks and that we are currently forming Dave Clarke [nota: no confundir con el líder de Dave Clark Five], John Dalton, John Gosling and myself. We give between seventy and ninety concerts a year for fans of the band, memorial gatherings and charity events. We have been with the project for twenty-five years, holding a convention every year, except this one, which we have not been able to celebrate due to COVID-19.

I think bassist Jim Rodford (also a member of The Zombies) and keyboardist Ian Gibbons, who were good friends of his, were also part of Kast Off Kinks.
Yes, I have worked many years with Jim, who died in January 2018, and with Ian Gibbons, who died on August 1, 2019. Ian’s wife was in charge of getting bowling and he came to all the concerts, she was in charge of the hotels too, along with the manager, so since Ian died, we haven’t performed again. And then the coronavirus came, so we’re on hold until we can pick it all up with a new bass player because also John Dalton [que estaba con los Kinks ya en los tiempos de “Lola”] He has decided to leave it, he does not want to play anymore. So we are looking for a new bass player, we have some names in mind, but we want it to have something to do with the Kinks. Maybe a guy who once took over from John Dalton when he had surgery… Although it probably won’t be the same, it’s going to be hard to find someone like him. Plus we’ll also have to find a replacement for Ian Gibbons, maybe Mark Haley, who went on tour with the Kinks in the eighties after I left the band. We’ll see. Last year we did the Convention [encuentro anual de fans de los Kinks] acted with us. And I hope that we can take everything back when the coronavirus disappears, hopefully.

I remember a video from the early days of the Kinks, with Ray performing (voice and harmonica) in a very wild plan a Slim Harpo classic entitled “Got live if you want it”. You could practically only see Ray and you, both very dedicated.
Yes, of course I remember that video, sometimes they replay it in retrospective shows about us on televisions. I was playing a tom tom, an old rhythm, and on top of the head was a newspaper or a rag. Yeah, when I first joined the Kinks, we played a lot of blues and stuff like that, good rhythm and blues.

I always liked drummers, you are a special people. In some interviews you talk about your devotion to Shelly Manne and Joe Morello, but when I see you perform I can’t help but remember Gene Krupa. Do you remember the fantastic number that was marked with a matchbox in the movie? Ball of fire, de Howard Hawks?
Oh yeah, amazing. I wasn’t that crazy about drums during Gene Krupa and Shelly Manne’s heyday, but I did like that kind of thing. And then Buddy Rich came along, I saw him several times, he was amazing, not like Gene Krupa, but amazing in many ways. He was my biggest influence as a drummer, very technical and an awesome guy as well. showman with the big bands.

Do you consider yourself a muswell hillbillie boy? At least you all were on that glorious Kinks album, Muswell Hillbillies.
I don’t come from the same part of London as Ray and Dave, but other members of the band lived there for some time. I moved to the West End, not far from Muswell Hill, and lived there for many years. Them [Ray y Dave] They were in the north and I was born in the southwest of the city, in Kew Gardens, very close to Richmond, which is where I live now.

Do you share your passion for football and Arsenal with Ray and Dave?
I’m not a big fan of soccer, although I did like to play it at school and I got into a team when I left school for a year. But I got injured and I didn’t hit the ball again, I lost interest. I got into golf, it’s another story and I’m very good at that.

«It never seemed to me that [el regreso de los Kinks] focus in the right way »

Another of your post-Kinks projects was the group Shut Up, Frank. Are you still with them?
Oh yeah, what times, we don’t do anything together anymore. I knew Noel Redding, who played with Jimi Hendrix at his Experience. Sometimes we’d hang out for a drink and one time he took me to a pub gig and there I saw Dave Clarke for the first time, a singer and guitarist who was later on Kast off Kinks. So I had already left the Kinks and was looking to start a band with people in a similar situation to mine, who came from other groups, so we started talking and they liked the idea, and in the end we got together. Above all, it was a bluesy vibe that the three of us loved. Before Noel joined we had another bass player, Jim Leverton, who had been on Humble Pie. With Noel, we did some concerts in London and also in Sweden. The group did not last long. We did covers of songs that we liked, but it wasn’t new blues. I think that’s when we started the Kinks Convention, we got involved with that and then with Kast off Kinks, and we continue there.

Before the pandemic exploded, there was much talk of an imminent reunion of the original Kinks, at least Ray, Dave and you with some other musician, overcome or perhaps parked your old quarrels with Dave or those of the Davies brothers themselves between them. What about the matter?
I think now is the time to do that. There was a lot of talk, it’s true, Dave and someone else wanted to do it, but it never seemed to me that it was approached in the right way, several of our historical companions had died … The correct idea would have been, I think, to go through all the eras and the songs of the group, but Dave wanted to do it differently, a more familiar thing. And he never believed that I was qualified to be in the band, even though I was one of the Kinks for twenty years, so in the end the idea was shelved. Many people still ask me, like you do now, and I think it would be more of a resurrection than a reunion, because it would not be a reunion in the strict sense.

What’s your favorite Kinks album?
They were all favorites at one point. Maybe Arthur. Sometimes I listen to it and I think it sounds better than I thought when we recorded it, that even then it sounded better to me live. But time has passed and now we know a lot more about recordings, studio tricks that didn’t exist, and sometimes all of the above sounds a bit flat, production details, you know. Arthur he had great songs. There are always things early in the race that you think you could have done better, but that’s not the point. The case is how it was recorded at the time, what it meant and how it reached people. And yes, we did a lot of good songs, songs that have stood the test of time very well, so I think Arthur it’s definitely one of the Kinks’ best albums. But Lola It is also an extraordinary album, although maybe a couple of songs sounded a bit hasty: since I was directly involved, I find things that I could probably have done better. It was probably my fault. Always blame the drummer, that’s what I say [risas].

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The culprit is always the drummer