Record #443: The Kinks – Greatest Hits! (1966)

kinks greatest hits

Somewhere in an alternate universe, it was the Kinks, and not the Beatles who landed in New York in 1964 to screaming fans and cultural acclaim.

And that universe might be a little more just than this one.

Despite revisionist history, the Beatles were not the best band in the world during the British Invasion. They were certainly the fan favorites, but when it comes to the actual musical output, those early Beatles songs pale in comparison to what the Kinks were doing at the same time.

“You Really Got Me Now” and “All Day and All of the Night” rip with a punk energy that predated the Ramones by ten years (and “My Generation” by one). “Tired of Waiting on You” would become the blueprint for many pseudo-retro acts like Black Lips and Foxygen. “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” is so tongue-in-cheek it’s a miracle Ray Davies face didn’t have a hole through it.

The ten songs on this compilation were all culled from the three albums they released in 1965, plus a couple B-sides.

And yet, the Kinks have nowhere near the cultural following of The Beatles, Stones, or the Who. In America at least.

And the reasons are tragic.

The Kinks’ live show matched the violent energy of their songs. Drums were punched, guitars were smashed, and brothers Ray and Dave Davies would get into fights. This was too much excitement for 1964 audiences (they loved it when the Who did it the next year). Venue managers were pissed. They called ahead to the next stops on the tour and warned them.

Shows were canceled by the dozen. The Kinks returned to England, effectively blacklisted in the States.

With no live shows, Stateside interest in the Kinks waned. Record sales in the US tanked (their early albums are still notoriously difficult to find domestically). The ban was lifted in the 70s, in time for the masterfully witty “Lola,” but by then the Kinks’ legacy was already swept under the proverbial rug.

But listening through these tunes, it’s easy to see a world where the Kinks, rather than the Beatles, led the charge in the British Invasion.

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