We’ve heard Dave and Ray Davies comment on Van Halen’s cover of “You Really Got Me” but what about Kinks’ drummer Mick Avory?
Rock journalist Greg Prato recently interviewed Avory for Allmusic and asked him about the song originally recorded by the Kinks in 1964 (the year Avory joined The Kinks) and what he thought of Van Halen’s 1978 version. Avory gave credit to Eddie and the band for taking the Kinks classic and “Van Halen-izing” it.
Prato: Was “You Really Got Me” the first-ever punk rock song?
Avory: “I never thought of it that way, but I suppose…it certainly started off that guitar sound. It was in your face and had impact. Whereas all the other bands at the time — the Searchers and all that — they were good musicians and played nice melodies on the guitar, and nice little solos. But this was in your face — the riff. There was nothing else like it. So, that set a patent for people to cling onto and it all develops and it became sort of ‘punk’.”
“And it went over the top — you didn’t even have to play the instruments in the end. I think the drummers were the best musicians in the bands. But it was an exciting time for the youngsters — spitting at each other, misbehaving, and being as horrible as possible. But Dave, it was probably just an accident — an accident that worked. And he had somewhere to put it because Ray wrote that song — it married the two things together. I couldn’t believe it when they first introduced it to me. We played it on stage and I thought it was a departure from what we were doing. But as we played it more and we recorded it, it made more sense then. So yeah, it definitely started off a trend.”
Prato: What did you think of Van Halen’s cover?
Avory: “It was just an exaggeration of what the Kinks did, really. Because he [Eddie Van Halen] never played a real melodic solo — it was just a lot of notes, and very good technically. And the sound and everything was really good. It was just an exaggeration — ‘I’ll play more notes than Dave did and go over the top with it.’ That’s how things move on though, don’t they? But I think it stopped there — at least they didn’t just copy it, and did their own thing to it. I listened to ‘Jump’ the other day and I liked that song. But that’s all synthesizer then — but it was interesting. He does do a short guitar solo, but the main theme is all synthesizer. Just a good song.”
In 2010 Ray Davies commented on Van Halen’s version of the song he wrote. He told Classic Rock magazine: “Van Halen’s version was very Middle America. It was like, ‘Hey man, look at me with my tight trousers! Here’s our version of ‘You Really Got Me’!’” There’s the thing: good art isn’t always about having the comfiest technique. I shouldn’t encourage him. But I’m sure Eddie Van Halen played better when he was drunk. But it must be a good record if people like it.
“We got pissed off though,” added Ray. “When we played America. The Kinks had an album out called ‘Low Budget’ (1979). We ended up touring and playing stadiums. Some kid came up to me after one of the gigs. (He) said: ‘I like your cover of Van Halen’s ‘You Really Got Me.’ You have to smile sometimes.”
While it was Kinks front man Ray Davies who wrote “You Really Got Me”, it was his brother Dave who created the influential distortion sound of the guitar. In 2013, Dave was asked by the VHND what he thought of Van Halen’s version of his band’s song:
“When I heard the guys’ [Van Halen’s] version of it, I felt, you know, ‘This sounds really flashy,'” said Ray. “But it depicted the era, didn’t it? In that it was in the era when stadium rock was big, and guitars were flashier, and tight trousers, and swanky.
“When I first heard it, it sounded like someone trying to cash in on my own music, like get on my coattails with their music,” Ray continued. “But then they made it their own with Edward’s playing, which is so of that genre, of that era, which is special in its own right. That’s not cryptic—it’s just different.”