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Ray Davies: Rock Legend Rocks On

Rock legend Ray Davies joins Fresh Air's Terry Gross to discuss his career with the '60s British band The Kinks, and as a solo artist. He also describes a harrowing incident in New Orleans that nearly cost him his life.

42:47

Other segments from the episode on February 29, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 29, 2008: Interview with Ray Davies; Review of the film "The other Boleyn girl."

Transcript

DATE February 29, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Singer and songwriter Ray Davies discusses his career
and music
DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.

Since I was a teenager I've admired the music of The Kinks, in part because
the lead guitarist is also named Dave Davies, but even more because of the
band's enduring rock anthems, written by its lead singer, Ray Davies. The
Kinks haven't played together for years, but Ray Davies has just released his
second solo album, called "Working Man's Cafe." Several of the songs mark a
return to the social and political commentary Davies is known for. Here's the
album's lead track, "Vietnam Cowboys."

(Soundbite of "Vietnam Cowboys")

Mr. DAVE DAVIES: (Singing) You better top off your suntan
Otherwise your skin is going to turn to leather
We'll make a movie in Vietnam
Tax break said we're going to shoot on location
The rug says made in Korea
Manufactured in a factory using cheap labor
And all over Asia
Third world becoming a major league player

Mass production in Saigon
While auto workers laid off in Cleveland
Hot jacuzzi in Taiwan
With empty factories in Birmingham
Now, it's baby boomers in Hong Kong
Cowboys in Vietnam
Making their movies

Big confusion in Hollywood
Now it's American major league in Japan
Hamburger in China
With sushi bars in Maine and Boston
The dollar sign says...(unintelligible)...
Now it's cowboys in Vietnam
Making their movies

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: In the second half of today's show, we'll hear about Ray's solo
career, but first let's revisit The Kinks, who hit American charts as part of
the British invasion of the '60s. Their early hits included such sexually
driven songs "You Really Got Me," "All Day and All of the Night," and "Tired
of Waiting for You," songs that influenced the new wave bands of the next
generation. After those early records, Ray Davies started writing songs that
were social satires of the time. Terry spoke to Davies in 1995, when his
autobiography, called "X-Ray," was released.

Let's begin with The Kinks' 1966 single about the swinging London scene,
"Dedicated Follower of Fashion."

(Soundbite of "Dedicated Follower of Fashion")

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) They seek him here
They seek him there
His clothes are loud
But never square
It will make or break him
So he's got to buy the best
'Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion

And when he does
His little rounds
Round the boutiques
Of London town
Eagerly pursuing all the
latest fads and trends
Cause he's a dedicated follower of fashion

Oh, yes, he is
Oh, yes, he is
Oh, yes, he is
Oh, yes, he is...

(End of soundbite)

TERRY GROSS, host:

Tell us the story of how the band got the name The Kinks.

Mr. DAVE DAVIES: Well, The Kinks were--we were in a pub after rehearsal and
Dave, my brother, and Pete, who was the bass player at the time, wore these
capes--leather capes and high boots, and I guess for the early, mid-'60s that
was quite outrageous. And "Kinky Boots," I think, was a single that--there
was a program called "The Avengers." I don't--it was a TV show. And this guy
standing at the bar sort of, you know, nonchalantly looking over, half drunk,
looking at us and saying, `You blokes call yourself The Kinks because you look
like them.' I just--I didn't know quite what to say to this man. And then a
man called Larry Page was standing there with us, who became one of our
managers, he said, `Yeah, you've got a point there. He's got a point, that
guy. You should call yourselves The Kinks.'

The good thing about The Kinks is it did leave an impression with people,
whether it was good or bad, it was a short, punchy, one-syllable word, and we
were on the bottom of the bill with other artists, and our name was the
smallest so it had to be just a few letters. So it seemed, you know, foot the
bill, or fit the bill in every respect, and it was a name that, really, people
remembered.

GROSS: So did you have to visually play up the idea of kinky?

Mr. DAVIES: I really, I've always hated the name Kinks. It's just--I think
it's a daft name.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: But I can't think of anything else to call us now except The
Kinks. It's just--it's evolved--it's got our own meaning. Yes, it has
kinkiness and whatever, but I think those connotations are not quite--I think
The Kinks mean in a true sense maybe the edges, though, the wrinkles in
society that maybe shouldn't straightened out and it's always opposed to
walking the straight line, always, because life isn't just a straight line.

GROSS: Now, the first hit that you had was with your song "You Really Got
Me," and you write in your book that this was considered too risky to record.

Mr. DAVIES: Well...

GROSS: What were the problems?

Mr. DAVIES: Well, it was--it wasn't, I suppose, wholesome enough to be, for
the time, something that would be palatable for radio. Now it sounds really
innocent, and, you know, people say, `well, what's wrong with the lyric?' But
for then, you'd have to understand, it was as time when people still, although
The Beatles were supposed to be a rough and ready outfit and The Rolling
Stones were, there was still an element of polish about what everybody did.
And the Kinks were a rough and ready outfit. There's no question about it.
And so the record company eventually relented and let us record it to get our
character, and that record really epitomizes a lot of the way we feel, that
the fuzzy, raw sound Dave worked so hard to get is really the way the band
sounded, and that's I think why it was a success.

GROSS: Well, it's such a great record, why don't we hear it? And this is The
Kinks' "You Really Got Me."

(Soundbite of "You Really Got Me")

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) Girl, you really got me going
You got me so I don't know what I'm doing now
Yeah, you really got me now
You got me so I can't sleep at night

Yeah, you really got me now
You got me so I don't know what I'm doing now
Oh yeah, you really got me now
You got me so I can't sleep at night

You really got me
You really got me
You really got me

See...

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: What were you thinking about when you wrote this song?

Mr. DAVIES: Not a lot, really.

GROSS: How did the line come to you?

Mr. DAVIES: I'd written a song a few years--as I said, I try to write
instrumental phrases. You know, I'd been writing those a few years earlier,
and there was this repetitive phrase--da da da da da da da, da da da da--you
know and going through strange accents and things. And I just probably sat
there. We just had dinner at home and I went into the front room, or the
parlor, where we had the piano, little upright piano, and I started thumping
this idea I thought of a few years earlier, and the words just came out. I
think the subconscious was composing. It was not thought out.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: And I think that's the trick. Just the words evolved with the
notes and they match, and looking at the lyric, if I'd bought the lyric, you
know, to somebody and said, `Write the music to that,' they'd probably tell me
to get out, you know, because it's not very--it doesn't look very inspiring.
But it's like all these things. When you put the two pieces together, lyric
and music, it adds up to something in a strange way.

GROSS: Now, you said that in your book that someone in your management said,
`well, I don't know whether you're singing to a boy or a girl, so you'd better
put a girl's name in there somewhere.'

Mr. DAVIES: That's right, yeah. Well, he was concerned about my--about
what, you know, who I was singing to and what my audience was. And I'm
thankful in a sense that he suggested that I make it--I personalize it
because, although I didn't use a name at the end, I thought "girl" would be
appropriate and--but just thinking about that change probably gave me the--I
know it sounds--it's not pretentious, but maybe it is--a psychological-- my
voice, the way I sang it, sounded different. I sang the thing like I knew
roughly where it was directed. And so I--although I didn't use Susan or
Barbara, whatever, `Barbara, you really got me going,' I sang `girl,' and I
had an image of somebody there.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Now, you say in your book that you managed to keep the R&B
feel even though making a pop record...

Mr. DAVIES: Hm.

GROSS: ...and I think, yeah, that's really true. And also you write that you
made a conscious effort to make your voice sound pure and to sing clearly...

Mr. DAVIES: Hm.

GROSS: ...which I think is really interesting considering that kind of really
like fuzzy...

Mr. DAVIES: Mm.

GROSS: ...aggressive guitar sound, and you're trying to sing, you know,
purely and clearly. It's a really interesting contrast.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah, I think, it's like the old line, the Noel Coward line, you
know, `Remember the lines and speak clearly.' We had made "You Really Got Me"
once before, I mean, gone in with these producers and everything. And I'd
been on tour. My voice was a bit croaky, a bit like it is now. And (speaks
in very hoarse voice), Yeah, you really got me going. It's like really down
there, so I remembered that when we came to do the vocal, and we only had
three hours to do it, so there was I, like 10 minutes to go, and it had to be
right. So I thought--I took my voice up a bit and, again, thought I was
higher, singing in a higher register than I was, and so emotionally I was up
there in the mid-frequencies, even though my voice was quite gravelly.

GROSS: Yeah, because your voice got more purer and clearer...

Mr. DAVIES: Hm.

GROSS: ...in later records I think, don't you?

Mr. DAVIES: I think so, yeah. Diction, the diction kicked in.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: The diction factor.

GROSS: Right, which was never a big thing in rock 'n' roll.

Mr. DAVIES: No, no. But, again, our agents, who did come from another
era...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: ...it was that sort of transition, I don't know, from theater, I
guess, they always said, `Sing a nice blues, but you must be heard.'

DAVIES: Ray Davies of The Kinks speaking with Terry Gross. We'll hear more
after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's 1995 interview with Ray Davies, lead singer
and songwriter of The Kinks. His new solo album is called "Working Man's
Cafe."

GROSS: Let's play another song...

Mr. DAVIES: Mm.

GROSS: ...another one that you wrote. Let's do "Tired of Waiting for You,"
another early hit...

Mr. DAVIES: Mm.

GROSS: Anything you can say about writing it?

Mr. DAVIES: That's from the original bunch I wrote, instrumentals, two years
before, and there is an interesting story because we'd just had this huge hit
with "You Really Got Me" at number one. And we were our first album, and they
said, `Wow we found a new writer'--you know, that was me--and I'm supposed to
come up with all this material. But I didn't tell anybody I didn't actually
have anything except a few chords, and we went in and did the back track to
that one morning, and they said, well put the words--we used to put the vocal
down at the same time. And I said, `Well, I've got a sore throat this
morning. Can I just do the back track first, the instruments first, and then
I'll do the vocal later?' Because I hadn't written the lyrics, you know, and
we did the back track. And afterwards I said, `Well, I really feel I'm coming
down with something, flu or something.' So I couldn't sing that day, and I
went home, went out that night and came in the next morning. I made the words
up on the spot, really.

And it is one of those--another one of those repetitive lyrics but somehow it
works, because even though I didn't think--again, I don't want to keep
laboring the point, but I thought that I wasn't writing. I was. I was taking
in ideas, although they weren't going on notepads or, you know, written, they
were inside my head. They just came out. It's your life and you can do what
you want. And basically I was telling myself, you know, I'm on this journey
now. I've had this hit record and it really is up to me what I write. So it
was an interesting combination of being a bit of a con artist, telling them
I'd written something when I hadn't and letting myself, letting my emotions,
my subconscious take over and do the work for me. It's very easy, really.

GROSS: So you were fooling them but you fooled them into thinking that you
could do something that you actually found out that you could do.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah, exactly.

GROSS: Yeah. So, OK, let's hear "Tired of Waiting for You," The Kinks from
the mid-'60s. My guest is Ray Davies.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) So tired, tired of waiting
Tired of waiting for you
So tired, tired of waiting
Tired of waiting for you

I was a lonely soul
I had nobody till I met you
But you keep-a me waiting
All of the time
What can I do

It's your life and you can do what you want
Do what you like
But please don't keep-a me waiting
Please don't keep-a me waiting

Because I'm so tired...

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: You know, you were talking before about the guy who was brought in to
help you improve the stage act, but at the same time, you said that The Kinks
just stirred up an atmosphere of violence.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah.

GROSS: What was it about the--was it something that happened onstage or
offstage that you think was behind that?

Mr. DAVIES: I think inevitably violence--the music has a knock-on effect to
what goes offstage.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: And I--it's also do with, you know, being very young doing this
thing. I suppose we were the first--well, first or second generation of new
musicians making a career out of rock music in England, and nobody taught us
how to do it. And, as I said, I was a student a few months earlier, living on
a small grant subsidized by the government, you know, to go to college. My
brother was at school. Pete, the bass player, had just an ordinary little
job. So we were suddenly thrust into the spotlight, you know, on television
all the time and in newspapers, and we couldn't go anywhere because,
literally, it was like lots of screaming girl fans. And I think that's--if
you've put people--caged people up like that, I think inevitably they
will--something will erupt into violence. And so all that put together ends
up with quite a lot of friction.

GROSS: Well, early on in the band's career, your brother Dave was dragged off
the stage by fans and had a big bleeding cut on his head, I think. Did that
scare you?

Mr. DAVIES: Mm. Well, it, yeah. What scared me even more was the cut was
administered by the drummer.

GROSS: Oh.

Mr. DAVIES: It's, you know, he hit him with a cymbal, which is...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: A cymbal is quite a sharp instrument, but it was, again, from
just being--living together and this is pent-up anger. I think both sides
were equally to blame. I didn't actually see what happened, but I looked over
and saw drum kit kept fall to the ground, and Dave on the floor with blood
coming out of his skull, whatever. It was quite scary, and I thought the band
was over then; they'd never get together again. But they did eventually and
it was still a success.

GROSS: Now, what was it like for you when the band caught on in the States?
Maybe you could tell us about your first American tour.

Mr. DAVIES: Our first American tour was an absolute catastrophe because we
were unprepared for it. As I said, it was just after my wife had our first
child, a daughter, Louisa, and I left the country, I think, when she was a
week old. So we were living in this tiny--a bedsit is like an apartment.
It's got a bedroom, I suppose, and a little living room on the side. So
it's--I felt bad about leaving her.

So we went on this tour. I was really emotionally unready for it. I was
unprepared for it, and Dave and Mick had just gone through this incident
where, you know, they'd had this fight onstage and David had had these nine
stitches in his head and had the cymbal thrown at him, so it was a disaster
waiting to happen, really, or tragedy waiting to happen. And we just didn't
get along. It was just a series of really unlucky events, and eventually it
culminated in, I don't know, not a lawsuit so much as a band, but again, I
don't really know--promoters or the union or whatever. It's just, sometimes
it's best to leave it alone, and they did and we couldn't come back for four
years.

GROSS: Now, how did that affect you professionally?

Mr. DAVIES: Oh, I think we lost a lot of so-called revenue, money, from not
doing tours, but I kept making records. And the records, I think, were hits
here and they did well here. But I think the sad thing was it was difficult
for the audience to keep up with us because on our first tour here we were
still playing the heavy rock songs like "You Really Got to Me."

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: But the years I didn't tour here I developed this sort of I
suppose laid-back style, "Sunny Afternoon," "Well Respected Man," all those
songs, and "Waterloo Sunset." And I suppose it--and not having videos to
promote us so they couldn't see us, must have been difficult for our fans to
actually keep up with what we were doing, because we could tour in England and
everywhere else but we only had the records here.

GROSS: I mean, when you got back after the American tour, I guess that's
about the time that your music changed from, you know, the more rock 'n'
roll-oriented style to a more almost like social satire.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah.

GROSS: You know, songs about people living in the suburbs...

Mr. DAVIES: Hm.

GROSS: Songs that commented on, you know, the social mores of the time.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah, well, I realized I was on this, as I said, a journey, this
wonderful journey that started with "You Really Got Me" and "Tired of
Waiting." Now I could really get and write about people I knew about because
"You Really Got Me" was about this frustrated, or this tormented teenager, you
know, just wanted--I suppose it was a girlfriend--for the sake of it. You
know, just take a girl out after a dance and go out together in the car,
whatever. But now I could write about people I'd known when I was growing up
and, you know, I was still learning about people. So I found that really an
interesting period to write about. Songs like "Dedicated Follower of
Fashion," songs like "Autumn Almanac," which was really about a man, a little
hunchbacked man who used to lived near me who was a gardener, and he used to
walk around the streets and kids used to be scared of him because, you know,
he was an oddity. And I've always, in a sense, been drawn to people like
that, odd people who are like, not outcasts from society but don't walk the
straight line again. You know, the kinks of society, I guess.

DAVIES: Ray Davies of The Kinks, speaking with Terry Gross in 1995. He'll be
back in the second half of the show. I'm Dave Davies--no relation--and this
is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross.
Today we're listening back to Terry's interviews with Ray Davies, the lead
singer and songwriter of the British invasion band The Kinks. He's just
released his second solo album called "Working Man's Cafe." Terry spoke to Ray
Davies in 2006. He explained why his first solo album, "Other People's
Lives," came 10 years after The Kinks stopped playing together.

Mr. DAVIES: I didn't realize until I wasn't with the band how life-consuming
it was, how much of my life was wrapped up in it. And me as a person, you
know, you have to remember that I started this when I was just--college. You
know, I was barely formed as a human being and as a character, and I grew up
in that band. My life experience in many respects is limited to being in the
band. So when I came to record this record, I had to find out who I was as an
individual because all The Kinks' music, it was part of a machine, part of
a--I know I wrote the songs so I had an element of freedom, but everything had
to be targeted. It was a Kinks, as you say, product. And although I don't
like those sort of definitions as a rule, I was writing for a unit, like I
said, a piece of machinery. And it wasn't till I left the band--I did the
Storyteller Tour, where I sang acoustically and anecdotes and my book, that I
actually discovered there may be a me in there somewhere.

GROSS: So you had to figure out who you were as a solo performer outside of
The Kinks before you could write more songs?

Mr. DAVIES: Or where I was as a solo performer, you know, what my range was
that I've got. You know, people think of me as that tiny voice and all those
power chords and my brother's great guitar and me trying to get my voice
through. I think that's how people think of me. In fact, when people meet
me, they're surprised I'm quite tall. They expect a 5'2" guy.

GROSS: Hm.

Mr. DAVIES: Because I--my voice was always squashed up between--and
compressed--between the vocals and the guitars.

GROSS: Now, the way I've read it, it sounds like you came to the United
States as part of that process of writing new songs. You wanted to get away
from the environment that you'd written in all along...

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah.

GROSS: So was that the reason for moving to the States for a while?

Mr. DAVIES: Well, "Things Are Going to Change" was written while I was still
living in Surrey, in England, you see...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: ...nice, very rural, yeah, there. And maybe I was saying to
myself, `Things have got to change in my life. I've got to move on.' You
know, I don't know how a person can sit in one house all their lives and write
lots of books, songs, poetry. I needed to go on a journey, and that's what it
felt like. It wasn't enough being not with the band. I needed to have an
upheaval of some sort. You know, it's easy to say it now, but I didn't know
it then. So I came to America, 2001, toured here, just after 9/11, and I was
writing songs and shooting my own video diary on the road.

GROSS: So I know you spent a good deal time in New Orleans. Did you move to
New Orleans?

Mr. DAVIES: After the tour was over, I went back to New York, where I was
based, and realized I needed to find--and this sounds very grand, but I wanted
to find the source of the music that inspired me when I first started out, and
the country that made me want to pick up the guitar was America. You know, it
was American music. And all the people I was inspired by, from Hank Williams,
country music, Big Bill Broonzy, who came from Chicago, but I think was
actually born in Mississippi, all somehow had a connection with the South.
And, you know, I liked Dixieland as a kid. You know, we had a lot of that
music in the house. And I went to the Highgate Jazz Club where I grew up, saw
Dixieland, so I wanted to go there and see it. And I went for some personal
reasons. I went on a personal visit as well, but I grew attracted to the
place. Initially I stayed in B&Bs, you know, a few weeks, looking for
somewhere to rent and looking for somewhere to buy at the end.

GROSS: Let's hear one of the songs that I think relates in some way to New
Orleans. It's called "The Getaway," and it starts with a line about, you
know, a "lonesome train." And that's such an American blues kind of thing.

Mr. DAVIES: Hm.

GROSS: I don't know--there's a lot of trains in England, I don't know that
you'd associate them with like the lonesome train.

Mr. DAVIES: Absolutely. It--well, that song, "The Getaway," in parentheses,
"Lonesome Train," was written on my first visit to New Orleans. The first
time I was down I wrote that song, all in one pass. It was a first draft.
And I didn't feel--I'm very coy about using phrases and terms that have been
used by other people. You know, I love blues music, but I never attempt to be
a blues man.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: And lonesome trains, yeah, the lonesome whistles and all that
from the classic Hank Williams songs and the blues men, as you said. But I
was there and actually every morning I would hear that train coming in, and it
woke me every morning and I loved hearing it. It was like a friend. And it
reminded me of where I grew up in north London. I lived very close to a train
track. And it made me--it was a comfort zone for me to be there.

GROSS: Well, let's hear "The Getaway," and this is from Ray Davies' album,
which is called "Other People's Lives."

(Soundbite of "The Getaway (Lonesome Train)")

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) Every time I hear that lonesome train roll down the
track
Going away to unknown destinations
I believe there's someone out there making the great escape
Just moving on, suddenly gone, and so unexpectedly

It might hit you on a sunny afternoon
Without a warning
There's a thought, it just comes over you
And it's the shadow on the sidewalk, someone like you
In a blink of an eye, leaving goodbye
It's time you made your getaway

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's "The Getaway" from Ray Davies' CD, which is called "Other
People's Lives," and it's his first solo CD.

I really like this song a lot, and to me it's a song about, you know, somebody
who makes their getaway from a relationship, or from a neighborhood, or a
home, or maybe even from life itself.

Mr. DAVIES: Mm.

GROSS: Somebody who's just, you know, made the final exit intentionally.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah.

GROSS: I think it--I don't know if you feel that way, but as a listener, it
seems to me it's speaking on all those levels.

Mr. DAVIES: That's the precisely the level I was--or the levels, I was
writing about. You know, you don't--the secret is, though, not to know it
when you're writing it.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: To just to feel, do all the analysis later on. I'm not very--I
don't intellectualize what I write because I think my instinct is smarter than
my actual being. And there's a long fade out in that song, and there's a
reason for that. It goes on and on and on, and if you just think about it,
it's like a--there's a punchline, a deep voice comes up at the end, like
whispering in my ears, the singer's ears, saying, `Yeah, man, it's time to get
out the door. It's time to make that move. You've been saying it all your
life. Do it. You know, make the move or you're going to get the lonesome
train.' So the lonesome train is isolation.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So, I want to play another song from...

Mr. DAVIES: That's what we're here for.

GROSS: ...from the CD.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah.

GROSS: And this one's called "Run Away from Time."

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah.

GROSS: I think it's a great song, and I think...

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah?

GROSS: You know--yeah.

Mr. DAVIS: I wrote it for somebody else, I forget who it was.

GROSS: You wrote it for somebody else?

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah. You know what it really is? The subtext of this, I
think, is you can't run away from your back catalog. Think of it that way.

GROSS: That's a very existential thought.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I forget how...

GROSS: Or run away from your own hits?

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah. You can't run--it's difficult, you know. It's always
been a problem. It's wonderful having a back catalog, but coming to do new
music, people always want to hear the hits.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. You know, it's funny, you know, when I hear "Run Away from
Time," I don't think of it as a song about getting away from your catalog of
songs, obviously. I think of it as being about, you know, trying to run away
from aging...

Mr. DAVIES: Oh, right.

GROSS: And, of course, you can't really...

Mr. DAVIES: Hm. Hm.

GROSS: ...but you try.

Mr. DAVIES: Oh, no, but that's an element of it, and that's the obvious, you
know...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. DAVIES: ...starting point.

GROSS: And that's why I like this.

Mr. DAVIES: I never write...

GROSS: This is like...

Mr. DAVIES: I never write things that are that easy.

GROSS: Right. And there's this like `run, run, run, run away' chorus.

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah.

GROSS: And, of course, this isn't about like the kind of physical running,
and so it...

Mr. DAVIES: No. No, no.

GROSS: It really works.

Mr. DAVIES: I think there's an element of that, being of a certain age on
the circle, which I'm absolutely proud to be...

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. DAVIES: And I think it's something that should be--I think we've gone
through a terrible phase of agism in world and in the media, but I think now,
I think, you know, when I was 16 years old I was buying tickets to see Sonny
Boy Williamsom play, when I was a student. I think smart kids always look for
good music that would interest them, and it's not always dictated by the
charts or what they see on television.

GROSS: Well, let's hear "Run Away from Time," and this is from Ray Davies' CD
"Other People's Lives."

(Soundbite of "Run Away from Time")

Mr. DAVIES: (Singing) Hey, my friend
You can't run away from time
They say you can't fight fate
Time won't wait
You can't run away from time

And time is the avenger
But why should we just surrender to it?
Why go through it?

Run run run run, run run run away
Let's run away from time
Run run run run, run run run away

Girl, you and me
We've got...

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Ray Davies from his first solo album. We'll hear more of his
conversation after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's 2006 interview with Ray Davies. He'd just
released his first solo album of original songs called "Other People's Lives."
He might never have finished the album if he hadn't been shot.

GROSS: This is a pretty horrible story. Some of our listeners, I'm sure,
have already heard it. But while you were living in New Orleans...

Mr. DAVIES: Well, it was when--I had moved out to start--I came back to
England to--at the end of 2003 to finish the recording. All the songs on this
album were written prior to 2004 and recorded. But when I was in New Orleans,
we were going to have a holiday there, New Year's, spend New Year's. We had a
good New Year's Eve there. And about the fourth of January 2004, I got
attacked and shot, yeah. It was quite harrowing.

GROSS: Would you describe what happened?

Mr. DAVIES: Well, we were just walking around a street, walked around. I
used to go jogging a lot at night, on my bicycle. I loved cycling in New
Orleans. And this was a sunny afternoon, late in the afternoon, and guy came
up with a gun, attacked us and stole my girlfriend's bag. And I ran after
him. I'd just had a bad day, I think, and this was just the topper. I didn't
really want to deal with anything, but I just felt--you just never know until
it happens to you, I suppose, how a person reacts.

GROSS: Well, that's the thing. Did you decide to chase after this guy with a
gun, or did you just reflexively do it without even thinking?

Mr. DAVIES: Well, the irony is that, you know, I--near the end--this record
took a long time to make...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: And I was really losing my temper with myself and everybody
around. I was irritable, not nice to be around, because I hadn't finished my
work, and that was left in England. But after that, we'd been to a restaurant
and I had just decided to be a calmer, better, easygoing person. And
actually, `I don't mind if I don't finish this record, or I don't mix this
record. I'm going to relax here and maybe buy a place here and live in New
Orleans.' And walk out and get shot. And, in a sense--I was put into hospital
and my injuries were quite more severe or serious than the people realized.
But it gave me the incentive to get back and come to terms about finishing my
record and getting it done. That was my quest after that.

GROSS: So it sounds like you had--you were in a real grouchy mood before you
were shot.

Mr. DAVIES: I was...

GROSS: You were going to shelve the whole record?

Mr. DAVIES: yeah, I was on the verge of just stopping. I said, This is
taking--I started principal recording in January 2002, and it was the end of
2003, and it was a long time to finish a record, and I actually felt I was in
a frame of mind I didn't want to finish it.

GROSS: So when your girlfriend's purse got nabbed by this guy, or guys--guy?

Mr. DAVIES: Hm. Hm.

GROSS: Guy with a gun, did you just reflexively run after him, or did you
make a conscious decision?

Mr. DAVIES: It's a question I'll always ask myself, and I'm still trying to
work that out.

GROSS: You're not sure?

Mr. DAVIES: I'm not sure. I just didn't feel it was right to be treated
that way. And what--this is so difficult to talk about, but he was really
scared, and he's the one that had the gun. I got a close look at him. I
think he was really scared. I just felt it was not right to let him get away
with it, and I didn't know there was a car waiting with a driver. He
stopped--I nearly caught him, and he stopped at the car and just turned around
and shot me.

GROSS: If you don't mind my asking...

Mr. DAVIES: Sure.

GROSS: ...was there a moment where you saw the shooter looking at you and
taking aim and you knew you were--was there a moment you knew you were going
to get shot?

Mr. DAVIES: Yeah, it was a classic, you know, how they train people to shoot
guns, you know, that position, that crouched position.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: And so I just ran, dived like they do in the movies, and yeah.
I try not to think about it because there are only fragments, you know. It's
like writing songs. It's one line. It's not a constant memory, a constant...

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Mr. DAVIES: ...replay.

GROSS: So I mean, like even when you think about it, you only have fragments
of that memory.

Mr. DAVIES: Mm. Mm.

GROSS: There isn't one complete connected narrative that you have.

Mr. DAVIES: Yes. Just like songwriting.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Would you ever write a song about this?

Mr. DAVIES: I already had at that time. The song was called "I, the
Victim." And that's what's the most harrowing part of this whole process. It
was the recovery process that was the most difficult, because I had to go back
to my music. And there's a song on the album called "After the Fall." There's
a song on the album about tourists, "Take the Money," you know, attack the
tourists, whatever. And I'd written a song "I, the Victim," which was almost
the incident played out. I don't know if I'll go back to that. It may come
out in another record. But it's--but I didn't...

GROSS: Would you recite or talk a few of the lines from...

Mr. DAVIES: I didn't write the song called "You Really Shot Me." I don't
recommend it for any aspiring songwriters if they're looking for source
material.

GROSS: Ray Davies, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. DAVIES: My pleasure, as always.

DAVIES: Ray Davies of The Kinks speaking with Terry Gross in 2006. His new
solo album is called "Working Man's Cafe."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: David Edelstein on the film "The Other Boleyn Girl"
DAVE DAVIES, host:

Philippa Gregory is a British academic who's used her background in history to
write romantic historical novels, many set in the Tudor period. In 2002, her
first Tudor novel, "The Other Boleyn Girl," became a best seller and was
subsequently adapted for BBC television. Now it's a movie starring Scarlett
Johansson and Natalie Portman. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: Anne Boleyn is the subject of countless books, plays,
movies and ballads, and well she should be. She wasn't just a party to the
end of a royal marriage, but to the beginning of a religious denomination, a
shift that triggered one of Britain's bloodiest schisms. She's been portrayed
as a shrewd hussy, a thoughtful heroine and now, in "The Other Boleyn Girl," a
bit of both. But in the end, the Anne of Natalie Portman is a feminist
victim--not an innocent, but still a pawn of arrogant and overweening males,
her power illusory. Her finale solace of her enduring sister Mary, played by
the movie's other American it girl, Scarlett Johansson.

"The Other Boleyn Girl" has a novel take, that the ambitious Boleyn
patriarches pimped out these sisters for the sake of power and prestige, and I
know that that phrase got MSNBC news commentator David Schuster suspended a
few weeks back, but I'm not talking about the same family. And by the way,
Schuster was lucky. If it had been England under Henry VIII, he'd have been
suspended from a gallows.

At the instigation of her covetous uncle and father, Anne comes close to
bewitching King Henry, played by Eric Bana, but makes the mistake of looking
more proficient on a horse than he does. So it's Mary, a dewy newlywed who
becomes his mistress while Anne, livid with jealousy, hatches a plot to flash
her dark eyes at the monarch and then refuses him, driving him into a
libidinous frenzy.

Directed by Justin Chadwick from a script by Peter Morgan, who wrote "The
Queen," "The Other Boleyn Girl" is, historically speaking, balderdash. It has
the feel of a game of telephone, in which, from whisperer to whisperer,
information is progressively mangled. The Boleyn sisters, who in life weren't
close, are in Philippa Gregory's best-selling period romance both subtle
rivals and intimate co-conspirators. Morgan transforms them into total
opposites, the famously promiscuous Mary now a goody-good country girl with a
demeanor that's vaguely Amish; the thoughtful Anne now a Scarlett O'Hara type
in brilliant green. Their conflict goes from a simmer to a boil as Anne, now
the green apple of the king's eye, visits her sister, bedridden with a
precarious pregnancy.

(Soundbite of "The Other Boleyn Girl")

Ms. SCARLETT JOHANSSON: (As Mary Boleyn) Anne...

(Soundbite of church bells, kiss)

Ms. NATALIE PORTMAN: (As Anne Boleyn) I meant to come sooner. I'm sorry I
did not. I've been kept occupied.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Mary Boleyn) So I hear. Amusing the king.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Anne Boleyn) Only that, sister, I assure you.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Mary Boleyn) Despite your best efforts.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Anne Boleyn) What, and not yours? How is it?

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Mary Boleyn) The child is strong. Gives me no rest, like
his father.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Anne Boleyn) Do you feel as awful as you look? You know,
in France, no woman would allow herself to get in such a state.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Mary Boleyn) Why did you come, Anne, if all you desire is
to torment me?

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Anne Boleyn) Perhaps now you know how it feels to be
deceived by your sister.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Mary Boleyn) I did nothing.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Anne Boleyn) You stole the king away, and then you betrayed
me over Henry Percy.

Ms. JOHANSSON: (As Mary Boleyn) If that's what you think, fine, tell
yourself that.

Ms. PORTMAN: (As Anne Boleyn) I did, sister, every day and every night I was
in exile.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. EDELSTEIN: As soap opera, "The Other Boleyn Girl" offers none of the
kinky pleasures of Showtime's "The Tudors," in which Jonathan Rhys Meyers
emits the kind of twisted pansexual vibe that could conceivably upend an
empire. Eric Bana's Henry is a relative cipher, and the movie is all on the
surface. But the pace is brisk, the lines have snap, and the feminist
revisionism does have weight.

And what of these young American actresses putting on British accents to vie
for the king? They seem at first like coeds in a college production of "The
Importance of Being Ernest," but once our dislocation fades, their Yankee
gumption wins us over. For starters, they're so gorgeous they're worthy of
oil paintings. When Henry studies Anne at prayer, the downy hairs on the back
of her neck have a glow that's first angelic, and then devilishly alluring.

Portman gives "The Other Boleyn Girl" what it needs, a drama queen who grows
on the scaffold into a real queen. Even more surprising, Scarlet Johansson
pulls off Mary, a role that's a muddle of innocence and opportunism and dopey
passivity, a potential career killer. But with no evident strain, with almost
everything internalized, Johansson makes sense of her character's
contradictions. She keeps her head and makes you understand why Mary kept
hers.

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.

(Soundbite of "The Simpsons" theme song)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) The Simpsons

(End of soundbite)

DAVIES: Finally, this just in from Springfield: Our very own Terry Gross
will make her animated debut with Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa on the next
episode of "The Simpsons," appearing as a special guest voice. That's Sunday
on "The Simpsons" on Fox.

(Credits)

DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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