John Dalton : bass player in the Kinks - twice

 

The Kinks were one of the top British invasion bands, and a favourite of mine. I had The Kinks Greatest Hits, and fooled around on guitar playing along to some of them. I loved Arthur, and later learned how to play, alone on acoustic guitar, “Sunny Afternoon,” with its descending bass line running through the chords and the sardonic humour in the lyrics.

I got to see Ray Davies with his band, in Montreal in 2006 at the Olympia Theatre. But I did also get to see the Kinks once, in Boston. John Dalton was in the band then, his second tour of duty, so to speak, with the band. He now plays in The Kast Off Kinks, a group of mostly ex-members. His website is here.

This is what the Kinks played in Boston on November 5, 1972 :

1. Top of the Pops (from the album Lola Versus Powerman)
2. Till the End of the Day
3. Waterloo Sunset
4. A Well Respected Man
5. Sunny Afternoon (Face to Face)
6. Muswell Hillbilly (Muswell Hillbillies)
7. Apeman (Lola Versus Powerman)
8. Lola (Lola Versus Powerman)
9. Celluloid Heroes (Everybody’s in Show Business)
10. Here Comes Yet Another Day (Everybody’s in Show Business)
11. Brainwashed (Arthur)
12. Arthur (Arthur)
13. Mr. Wonderful (Everybody’s in Show Business – live LP)
14. Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues (Muswell Hillbillies)
15. Banana Boat Song
16. Alcohol (Muswell Hillbillies)
17. Skin and Bones/ Dry Bones (Muswell Hillbillies)
18. You Really Got Me
19. All Day and All the Night
20. Good Golly Miss Molly (encore)

John very kindly picked me up at the train station and we went to a pub for the interview ; it was August 26, 2015. When it was over, he dropped me back at the station, and while waiting for the train to return me to London, I noticed a poster for Sunny Afternoon, the musical about the Kinks that was currently playing in a theatre in the West End. Two days later, my wife and I went to see it. It was superb ! The original cast soundtrack album—all music and lyrics by Ray Davies—was recorded at Konk Studios and produced by Davies.

EARLY MUSIC DAYS

Craig Morrison : You met Bruce Welsh, who wrote What About Us : a Rocklopaedia of Britain’s Other Recording Groups 1962-1966. Fine fellow. He’s the one who gave me your coordinates.

John Dalton : He was a nice guy. I picked him up at the station with his wife. We sat in the back garden. It was a lovely summer’s day. At that little village just up the road, they was having a fete in the afternoon with a band playing. We started to chat, and you could hear the music going on right over there somewhere. All of a sudden, we heard the riff from “All Day and All Night.” He said, “how’d you get them to do that ?” He thought I’d laid it on for him. They’d done “Lola” later on.

CM : Look outside now ; it’s pouring buckets. You don’t have to water your garden today. Last night I was on Charing Cross Road and went into a little shop. I saw a Kinks book, so I looked you up and learned a little more about you. “Say Mama,” was a big song for you.

JD : How’d you know that ?

CM : Somebody interviewed you and there’s two or three pages about you. You talked about Cliff Richard being a prefect, and you mentioned “Say Mama.”

JD : Gene Vincent.

CM : That’s a song I play too ; I’m a guitar player. I thought, “He knows that song ?!” Not many people know that one ! When we play it, people ask, “where’d that come from ?” Tell me about your early inspirations. How did you first hear this music ? On the radio ? The Gene Vincents and the Elvises and…

JD : I’m very, very old. I’m ancient.

CM : When is your birthday ?

JD : 21st of May, 1943. I’ve gone 72 now. Don’t tell anybody though ! Where I come from, Cheshunt, Hartfordshire, was a very big music area. It’s just down the road from here.

CM : We just passed it.

JD : Yeah. I’ve never moved far. I used to live a short way from Cliff [Richard], and there was a lot of musicians around, like Russ Ballard from Argent, and Bob Henry, another drummer of the Kinks. He took over for Mick Avory. He was also in Argent and all this. Bob played with me when he was 14 years old, playing “Say Mama.” The first songs I was actually listening to were things like The Platters’ “Only You” [1955]. I’d done the bit with standing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush, singing along with it. I didn’t actually want to do anything else but music.

CM : Did you hear that on the radio ? On the BBC ?

JD : Oh yeah, it was only on the radio. No, it was on Radio Luxembourg. Or it might have been BBC, ’cause it was all silly songs, but you got the odd rock and roll one through. It was all Max Bygraves singing “You got hands to hold someone,” ugh, awful [“You Need Hands,” 1958]. We had some awful songs around.

CM : But there was also some skiffle music and trad like Ken Colyer’s.

JD : Oh yeah, jazz. Around here we’ve got a lot of jazz clubs, north London, a lot of jazz clubs.

CM : The day after tomorrow I’m meeting Chas McDevitt.

JD : Oh, don’t say this to him, but is he still alive ? “Freight Train.” Chas McDevitt and Shirley Douglas.

CM : And Nancy Whiskey.

JD : Yeah, Nancy Whiskey was the first one, but then after he’d have Shirley Douglas come along. Tell him I know a lot about him. That started it all. That was the first thing, we was playing skiffle. I was the tea chest bass player. You have an old tea chest turned upside down, you put a string through up there and you have a broom handle.

CM : Did you make it yourself ?

JD : Yeah, got to. You couldn’t get them. It was awful sound come out, no notes, you just go, “boom boom, boom,” and you just poke the stick.

CM : Right, but you had to put your foot on it to keep it from lifting off the floor.

JD : Yeah, you’ve got to or it was gonna fall over. And it was good, cause we weren’t drinking it those days.

CM : Were you were in a skiffle group ?

JD : Yeah, well you dabbled.

CM : Did you sing then ?

JD : I’ve never really sang.

CM : Except with the hairbrush.

JD : Yeah, the hairbrush. I wanted to be a singer, but didn’t really know I couldn’t sing. I thought I could. I thought I looked good but I didn’t. There was a few local bands about then. They weren’t good players or anything. But at that time, there was very few bass players around. The only bass player I knew of was Jet Harris out of the Shadows. They’d just come on the scene, the Shadows, around ‘59, but I didn’t take much notice of them. I had a guitar at home, just an old silly six-string guitar, but Jet Harris brought out this song called “Jet Black” [1959, released as by The Drifters]. I could teach anybody to play that in an hour. It was a hit for him and I could play it ; that’s all I could play. On the bass strings of the guitar.

CM : Was that the first thing you learned how to play ?

JD : Yeah, “Jet Black.”

CM : How’s it go ?

JD : [sings melody] “jet black, jet black,” that’s it.

CM : Did you find it yourself, or did somebody show you how to play it ?

JD : I just found it myself ; it was five notes. But that’s all I could play, nothing else. I went to a party around my friend’s house, and this little band come along, The Bluejacks. They didn’t have a bass player, and I picked up this guitar and played “Jet Black.” “Oh, do you know that ? That’s good. Oh, the rhythm guitarist could play a little lead on it.” And they said, “Do you want to join our band ?” I said, “I can’t really play the thing.” They said, “don’t worry, we’ll teach you.” At my first gig, I stood up on the stage, couldn’t play a note. I was very, very shy.

CM : Not like now.

JD : Honestly, I’m shy now. I’m alright when I’m on stage.

CM : Did the Bluejacks record ?

JD : Yes. And Jimmy Virgo and the Bluejacks done “Say Mama” [on an acetate].

CM : I didn’t hear that yet.

JD : Well you don’t want to. Yeah, you don’t want to get that one. That is bad ! Jimmy was a great singer. He could sing like Little Richard. He’d go around Anfield singing like Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Elvis-like. Now and again, I still play with him. So, I got in the Bluejacks, but—it was nothing to do with me, don’t get this the wrong way—one by one, I seemed to get rid of everybody. Then I’m thinking, “I ended up the only original in the band.” I wondered, “What I’ve done wrong here ?” Then we changed from the Bluejacks into the Mark Four. That’s when I met Eddie Phillips. We got him in. He’s a brilliant guitarist, still going out, still playing.

CM : He was in the band Creation.

Eddie Phillips

JD : Yeah, Eddie Phillips. We’d done a lot with him, toured Germany and things like that. Mark Four were a really, really good band. Shame they didn’t get higher.

CM : Well, you did make some records.

JD : Yeah, made a couple of silly records, but not really first-class records. I decided to leave the Mark Four. Then I joined the Kinks ; I didn’t know it was all gonna go downhill. Only joking, right, I’m only joking !

CM : You’ve got lots of tattoos. Where does that come from ?

JD : From the early days. It’s easier to explain now because of what’s going on with tattoos today.

CM : Everybody has one except me.

JD : If I was to get all my old friends from around about when I was 15 or 16, if I was to get them all together today in here, they’d all have something on their arm. Because that was the phase then ; that was what you had to do. I don’t know why. I worked in a normal job on and off ; I made sure that it could always be covered up, if you just wear a sleeve.

CM : Do the tattoos have significance ?

JD : No, nothing at all. Just it started off as a little teeny thing there, then I added to it. People say, “do you regret them ?” I say, “well, most times I don’t know I’ve got them, I don’t think about them.” But what I said to my two boys, they were thinking of getting a tattoo, I said, “not while you live in my house.” “But you’ve got one !” I said, “I don’t care. When you move out, you do what you want. When you’re in my house, you can’t have a tattoo.”

CM : Do you know this song by the Who, called “Tattoo” [on The Who Sell Out album]. It’s a good song, you’d probably enjoy it. He sings “Me and my brother were talking to each other ’bout what makes a man a man.” They get tattoos. One line says “Welcome to my life, tattoo, we’ve a long time together, me and you.” Of course then there’s the parents’ reaction.

JD : Did Pete Townshend write it ? I suppose he did. He’s a very clever boy.

CM : When you were growing up, was your family musical ?

JD : Oh no, no. It wasn’t about, really, was it ? We’re talking about the ’50s, and there wasn’t much music about.

CM : What did they think of your music later on ?

JD : They couldn’t understand it at all. Even when I got to ’66 and when I joined the Kinks, my dad said, “Are you daft ? What, giving up a job ?”

CM : That is a job.

JD : He didn’t know that, did he ?

CM : Were they proud of you ?

JD : My dad didn’t say a lot. But I’m still very close to my sister, and she said, “Oh, he was very, very proud of you.” It’s nice. My boys today, they don’t say a lot. They’re very, very proud of what I’ve done.

JOINING THE KINKS #1 IN 1966

CM : Tell me how you joined the Kinks, replacing Pete Quaife.

JD : I didn’t know what was going on in the band ‘cause I didn’t know any of them. I didn’t know what they looked like. In fact, when I got asked to do the audition, the first thing I done was, went and got a picture of the Kinks and looked at it, trying to find out what one Pete Quaife was. Of course, it didn’t have the names on the bottom of it. I was looking at four of them, and I looked at Mick Avory and I thought, “He looks evil. I hope it’s him” [that’s leaving the band]. He turned out the nicest of the lot.

CM : You would have heard the records that they made.

JD : Yeah, I’d heard “You Really Got Me” on the radio, but I didn’t take much notice of them. They were a rival band to the Mark Four. We’d play at a place and they were following us the week after, or the other way around.

CM : So you were on the same circuit.

JD : In certain gigs, yeah. I got the audition on Thursday, went straight from the audition to Top of the Pops, not knowing the song, or anybody. Having no proper clothes to wear, just what I’ve got on from the auditioning. Same day. Straight from the audition in London. It was non-stop. There is a video of it.

CM : I’d love to see that.

JD : No, you wouldn’t. I’m shy. I didn’t know what they were playing. I couldn’t join in with any vocals.

CM : Were they miming or were they actually playing ?

JD : Yeah, miming. All Top of the Pops at the time was miming, but Ray used to like to sing the lead vocal at times, and then just put the backing tape on, which was good for us cause we would go in the bar then, beforehand. The song was “Sunny Afternoon.” I look horrified when I was doing it. Click to see it on youtube.

CM : At least you know how to play it now !

JD : Just learned it ! It was all too quick. It was Top of the Pops ; I think we went in the studio the following night. This is Friday. We’d done two gigs on the Saturday. I’m going, “I’ve got no time to learn these songs.” I don’t know what I’d done. Funny enough, we’re doing an anniversary gig for me next year, 2016, in the place I first played, Kings Heath in Birmingham, my first [Kinks] gig. I think I was in Madrid on the Monday. In the meantimes, what was happening behind the scenes [that] I didn’t know about, was the producer Shel Talmy, big, big, big producer - what I could read between the lines was Ray wanted to be the producer himself. It was gonna come ; I can see it now, knowing Ray, and he’s produced everything since, well, most of it. They’d done “Dead End Street”—I’ve got both copies—they’d done a copy with Pete playing, Shel Talmy produced, and then we went in and done another one. And I’d done a couple tracks off of Face to Face, like “Big Black Smoke” and a couple of others. It was all hectic, it was all strange for me. Young girls tearing at your clothes, not knowing I only had one shirt ; “Don’t rip it !” Pete had been injured in a scooter or some sort of accident.

CM : It wasn’t because Ray beat him up or anything ?

JD : He said he was injured ; he said he’d done something to his ankle. I did think at the time, “You don’t really play bass with your ankle, do you ?” But you know, I think he needed to get away. I think he met this girl, as well, in Denmark ’cause he went straight out to Denmark. So I’m only [supposed to be] in there for however long it took for Pete to better ; but then we got the call saying, “He’s gonna leave, he doesn’t wanna come back.” So I got instated as a Kink. I was then officially a Kink.

Then in November that year I suddenly got the phone call—again on a Thursday, I don’t think the management work the rest of the week, they just worked on Thursdays—I got the phone call, and went up to see the management, Grenville [Collins]. They told me, “Pete wants to come back. We can’t stop him ’cause he’s a quarter of the Kinks company.” That was their excuse. But I had a feeling it wouldn’t last. So, I got sacked when he came back.

CM : How did you feel about that ?

JD : Well, a little bit upset that none of the band told me. They got the management to do it.

CM : How long had you been in the group at that time ?

JD : From the start of June till November.

CM : A good run.

JD : Oh yeah, we’d done loads of gigs, when they turned up for a gig. Often, one of them decided not to turn up. I couldn’t understand it myself, ’cause I’d been playing in gigging bands

CM : You don’t do that.

JD : All sorts of things happened. You know the story of the Kinks, right ?

CM : Well, some of it.

JD : Everything went on. People send me photos, lovely photos, and there’s four of us, and we all look very loving. We used to get on so well. We used to travel everywhere in a big car, the four of us, there’s only four in the band. We used to right laugh in the car ; it was really a fun band. I can’t remember when the arguments started, but they obviously went on before I joined. Unless they were trying to behave themselves because I was a new boy.

CM : You got to know them and they got to know you. Six months together.

JOINING THE KINKS #2 IN 1969

CM : When you joined up again in ’69 was it because at that time Pete left for good ?

JD : Yeah, and the greatest thing for me is when they got back in the States after being banned [by the musician’s union]. That was great, going to America. Yeah, in ’69 Pete decided to leave again. They asked me. First of all, I didn’t want to go, but Ray offered me certain things. I never got them, mind you. But he offered them to me. It was one of those things.

CM : Well, that’s how you got back in. You don’t resent that ?

JD : Of course I resent it. Yeah. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s just… nothing I can do.

CM : Do you hold it against him now ? When you see him you do you bristle ?

JD : Oh no, not really.

CM : You have to let things go. How would you describe the personalities of the two brothers ? Were they similar or different ?

JD : Very, very, very different. I still can’t really work out Ray. Off-stage he was very quiet, and would try to keep to himself a little bit. The rock nightlife, the loud and noisy part, he would keep out of that. If we went out to tear up Los Angeles, he wouldn’t be there with us. We used to call Dave “Mr. Hyde,” from Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, because you never know what person was gonna turn up that day. You see what I mean ? He’s got two sides of him.

Ray went to college, but I don’t think Dave did. All of Ray and Dave’s family were proper East-Enders. [He does an impression of an East-Ender : “woo, cor blimey, mate.”] Lovely. Ray’s mom was lovely. The dad was a right old, you know, flat cap and scarf, in the pub. They were lovely people.

CM : Can you tell me what Mick Avory was like ? You said he’s a sweet person. Was he when you first came in the band ? You were a total stranger.

JD : Mick hasn’t changed a bit, not from the day I saw him. Even in an off-time, he’d come over to my pub and meet all my mates. It was a long way away, on the other side of London. Sometimes I would go to his pub and meet all his mates, and sometimes all the mates would get together and there was the same sort of rough and ready [attitude].

CM : Was Mick the drummer during both periods that you were in the band ?

JD : Yeah, I couldn’t have done anything without Mick. We’re from the same background, so that’s why we got on ever so well. All his friends were builders.

CM : Did the Kinks feel a rivalry with various bands ? When you heard their records, did you think “they’re over there, so now we should do this” ? Or were you just doing your own thing, kind of in a bubble : you’re in the band and you’re recording. Was there much sense of what else was going on at the time ?

left to right : Ray Davies, Mick Avory, Dave Davies, John Dalton

JD : No, we didn’t really pay attention. It annoyed you if somebody kept you off the number one spot. The Who never had one number one in the charts over here. There was some silly record that kept you off number one. In the ’60s and ’70s we had two charts over here : the BBC chart and the NME chart. “Lola” should have been a number one. At the time, people knew roughly about transvestites, but you couldn’t speak about them to anybody. We just brought a record out about them.

CM : And it was done with humour, taste, and cleverness : the “dark brown voice.” You had to pay attention to catch it.

JD : Yeah, that’s right. “Looked like a woman but talked like a man.” In the BBC charts, it got to number two. But in the NME, it got to number one.

CM : There was something like that with the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen.” They say they kept it purposely from number one, ’cause they didn’t want that insulting punk rock song to be a number one. Some people say the charts were manipulated that way. Too disruptive to be celebrated.

JD : There were a lot of bands warned off us. I mean, told not to come near us, ’cause we were a little bit wild.

CM : You don’t say !

JD : No, it was a rumour ! For instance, we were somewhere in Germany, I think, with the Hollies : “We’ve been told not to mix with you.” The management told them not to. They were all clean-cut, but we got on. We were gonna do a few gigs with the Who and I thought, “This is gonna be great ! We’re very similar as people. Mad Mooney, and oh God, we’re gonna get on.” We done two gigs with them, it’s all going well, got back to the hotel and Dave had an argument with a glass Exit sign. He didn’t like this Exit sign. It was really annoying him, so he decided to punch it. That’s the end of that tour. It was a big down point in my career.

CM : He wrecked his hand ?

JD : Yeah, you can’t punch glass without… And we went, “no !” We could have had so much fun. We got on well with Zeppelin. They were slightly…

CM : Wild ! Did you tour with them ?

JD : No, we used to meet. Everybody used to stay at the Hyatt House in Hollywood, but it was actually re-named the Riot House. That was where the Zeppelins actually rode their motor bikes up the corridors of this hotel. We didn’t get that far ; we didn’t have their money.

CM : To pay it off after.

JD : When we used to feel you got to wreck a room, we just got the lamps down and gently placed them on the floor. And perhaps dropped a couple of sweet wrappers on the floor. That was our wrecking of the room !

CM : Sure, that’s what you could afford. [We laugh.]

JD : Our management gave us a budget. Ha ha ! You could only go up to that much damage, and you can’t go over that. But overall, I really enjoyed myself with the Kinks. It was a shame it went a bit argumentative. Normally, during the course of the Kinks, it was only around Dave. They’re family, you got to remember that ; you’re going to have the arguments. At the start of their career, it seems to me that Dave was lead singer, but no matter what anybody thinks, at some time or other, Ray’s talent was going to show through. I’m not saying Dave’s untalented, but Ray’s an exceptional talent. So, that was gonna show through. Dave’s younger. But he was still the lead singer. He could sing the rock and roll ; that’s why their first record was “Long Tall Sally,” that was Dave’s vocal on it. He ruined it by singing it slow. But we don’t do that version.

THE SHOW I SAW

CM : I had told you that I saw you perform in Boston [November 5, 1972].

JD : Well, I apologize if it was bad.

CM : It was wonderful !

JD : What was the theatre ?

CM : At the time it was called the Aquarius. Now it’s called the Orpheum, right downtown, by Boston Common. The opening act was Lindisfarne. I remember the Kinks show ; it was full-blast rock and roll heaven, and it was very funny. Ray was wearing tight white pants, and dancing around and being wild and crazy.

JD : He was in a good mood, then. Yeah, he is a show man.

CM : I enjoyed myself immensely.

JD : Lovely, I’m glad you did.

CM : That would have been on one of your big tours of the States.

JD : Yeah, we’d done lots. We used to go out quite a few weeks at a time, and come home wrecked.

CM : That was after “Lola” was a big hit in 1970, so you guys were again on top, or back on top. The name of the Kinks was strong.

JD : We went out in ’69, and although we had to build ourselves up, the Kinks had a big name out there before. In ’69 we had to go back and then start probably from the bottom. We loved the Whiskey a Go-Go in Los Angeles. We actually made it our home in the end. We used to do crazy things in there what I can’t tell you about, X-rated things. But they used to love us in there. It was just good fun. Little places, and we gradually had to build ourselves up. It was nice, because I preferred, and I still do today, smaller places. You’re more intimate with the crowd.

CM : Well you can see them !

JD : We played once in Copenhagen ; and we’d done an afternoon and evening gig. The afternoon gig was in the Tivoli Gardens. I think it was about 52,000 people in there. The evening gig was a little club. Funny enough, the club belonged to some relation of Pete Quaife’s wife, or had something to do with it. People said to me, “You must have loved the Tivoli Gardens.” I said, “I actually preferred the club we played in after, ’cause they were there, and I like people ’being there’.

CM : You get a direct connection. When I got in touch with Chas McDevitt and he knew I was looking to do some interviews, he told me to get in touch with Rick Wakeman [the keyboard player in Yes]. Do you know what the connection is ? The Water Rats.

JD : The charity thing.

CM : Chas McDevitt was the head Water Rat at one point, and now Rick Wakeman is the head Water Rat. He said, “you gotta call my friend Rick.” I was surprised. They seem like they’re from such different eras : 1950s skiffle and 1970s progressive rock.

JD : There’s a funny story about Yes. We played with them, years and years ago. Rick’s a bit like Rod Argent : they don’t just do their best bit and then get on with it ; their solos go on for three days. We’ve got to be on at a certain time, but the time comes when we’re waiting to play, and they’re going on and on. “This is ridiculous. We’re gonna get no time.” Mind you this is in the old days when there was little amps, and they were plugged into the wall, not like today. Rick’s solo was going on and on. We just stood there, but Ray was totally like, “No, this is no good.” He just went and pulled the plug out. Of course there was pandemonium. The last thing we see is Rick Wakeman coming out the dressing room with Ray’s foot up his butt.

There’s so many funny stories, you forget. Someone said to me once, “write a book.” I said, “oh.” Because what used to be funny to me and Mick wouldn’t be funny to other people just reading it in black and white. It’s a bit funnier telling people. Like, what we used to get up into the Whiskey. Well, let me give you a start. As soon as we landed in L.A., a joke shop, where they sell silly masks and all silly things, would be our first stop. We’d stop there even before the booze store. We used to buy all these silly things, and we’d turn up at the Whiskey, a night club. Anything, totally out of character. It’s the Kinks doing this, so people would come in to see what outrageous stuff…. Nothing nasty at all, just a good laugh. We all loved to laugh. It was all good fun.

CM : I was in a band that was doing that kind of thing in the 1970s, crazy signs and props on stage, and weird, goofy antics. I made up a bank of sound effects by doctoring some old cassettes so they would have only 20 seconds of time. My little cassette player was right beside me on the piano, and I would cue them up to play at appropriate moments, and the sound would go out over the PA system. There was one of a toilet flushing, to be played after one of our guys told a bad joke, and one of people laughing for a good one. Another was applause. After we’d do a really good number, people would start applauding but I would mix in the recording of applause tape that I had, so it sounded like the place was going crazy.

JD : It would go in all together.

CM : Yeah, and the people would applaud more because it seemed like everybody else was really into it. The I would cut off the tape, stop it dead, and then you would hear only a handful of people clapping, looking around, thinking “what happened ?”

JD : And they would be on their own. I think you’ve got my sense of humour.

THE KAST OFF KINKS

CM : Tell me about the Kast Off Kinks. You just did a gig in Norway.

JD : We formed them 21 years ago. It started off with [former Kinks drummer] Mick Avory and our lead singer and lead guitarist, Dave Clarke. I had a birthday party in my back garden ; I’ve used it for many of them, I love to party. I had a special one, my 50th, and that was the first time I met Dave Clarke. He’s played with the Beach Boys, with Noel Redding [of the Jimi Hendrix Experience] a lot, and Tim Rose and several other people, but I didn’t know him at all. Mick said, “I bought a friend along. Is it okay ?” I said, “yes.” I had 50 or 60 musicians there, and they all have to have a play. Mick said, “Dave’s a singer and guitarist. Is it alright if he gets up ?” I said, “of course, the more the merrier.” He got up and sang Elvis’s “One Night With You,” which was I think his favourite song at the time. ‘Course we liked that cause it was rock and roll.

CM : Here’s a little fact you might enjoy : “One Night” was first recorded by Smiley Lewis, a black rhythm and blues singer from New Orleans. When Elvis did it, he sang, “One night with you is what I’m now praying for.” But on the Smiley Lewis original, it’s “One night of sin is what I’m now paying for.”

JD : That’s good. Didn’t know that. Too risqué. Mick and Dave were going to the Kinks convention up north of England. At the Kinks convention, in those days, they didn’t have anybody playing, just a get-together for the fans. Mick Avory was the name going up there. Dave just went along as a friend. I said, “how did it go ?” And they said “yeah, it really went well.” I said, “Why don’t we, for the next one, put a little band together ?” They was all very keen about doing it, and at the time, I was still very good, well, I still am now, but I was playing in a local band with [former Kinks keyboardist] John Gosling—we call him John the Baptist—and I said, “would you like to be part of this ?” He said, “yes.” So, it was John Gosling, Mick Avory and myself from the Kinks, and then Dave Clarke.

At the convention, we played for something like 30 minutes, because we had to quickly put some numbers together. The fans loved it, obviously, something totally different. I think that since that year, we’ve done every year. After the first week, we moved to the Archway Tavern in Finchley, because we had a famous album cover done up against the bar, Muswell Hillbillies. We’d done that for years, but then it closed down for a while so we moved to the Boston Arms in London. We’d done it ever since at the Boston Arms.

To start off, we were just doing two or three gigs a year, mainly for my charity, Leukemia Research Fund. I lost a little boy, six years old, to leukemia, years ago, so I was doing a lot for leukemia in those days. Then our Dutch fan club got in touch, said, would we go out and do their convention ? And we said, “yes.” All for leukemia, though, for the Dutch leukemia, which was nice, that’s what made a change. Then the gigs started growing, more and more gigs, not that many still, only a few a year. But then, at the time I had a day job, so I was working during the day, and then I decided to retire.

CM : What kind of work were you doing ?

JD : I was working for a building firm, a construction firm, but I stopped doing manual work. I was doing organizing and the management and that. But it was going into London every day and coming out, and everything was getting too much for me, and we had gigs. I was also playing for a local, small band, so all of a sudden I decided, “I had enough, I’m gonna retire.” Of course, the only way I could retire was to have a party around my house again. It was funny because Ray Davies turned up.

I was saying to Ray, “Would you come up and sing a song ?” He said, “Only if you stay in the Kast Off Kinks." I said, “Well, I can’t stay in the Kast Off Kinks. You know, I’ve got to go, got to finish.” But where I went wrong, was that I retired from everything. I retired from work, I retired from the Kast Off Kinks, and I retired from 5% Volume, which was the small band I was in.

CM : Then you had nothing to do.

JD : Absolutely. I didn’t really know how boring it was going to get, but then, I made my bed, so I’ve got to lie on it. So, I missed that year at the Boston Arms. Baptist, John Gosling, retired at the same time. That just left Mick and Dave. They didn’t know what to do, but then Ian Gibbons, the [Kinks] keyboard player from the ‘80s, well he still works with Ray today, came in, and Jim Rodford [of the band Argent, who then played in the Kinks from 1978 to 1996] as the bass player. Ian and his wife Nadia are very good organizers. They started sorting out the organization of the Kast Off Kinks, and they got touch with agencies and they was getting more and more work in, quite a lot of work. Then all of a sudden, Jim Rodford, his cousin is Rod Argent, wanted to reform the Zombies.

CM : Yes, I’ve seen that group.

photo of The Zombies 2017 - left to right Jim Rodford (bass), Rod Argent (keyboards), Steve Rodford (drums), Colin Blunstone (vocals), Tom Toomey (guitar)

JD : Yeah, but he could only get [Zombies singer] Colin Blunstone, so he asked Jim Rodford.

CM : And Jim brought in his son on drums.

JD : Steve, yeah, and a guitarist. Then they started getting more and more work, and the Kast Off Kinks were getting more and more work. They approached me and said, “Would you do the odd gig while Jim’s playing with the Zombies ?” “The odd gig !” I wrote that down when they said it.

CM : They’re all odd !

JD : Yeah, that’s the thing. The gigs started getting more and more, we were probably doing it half and half.

CM : You and Jim.

JD : The Zombies started going more and more to the States. If the gigs were coming in for the Kast Off Kinks for a year’s time, Jim couldn’t commit to the Kast Off Kinks. He didn’t know whether he was playing or not !

CM : I’ve seen the Zombies twice in Canada !

JD : The thing is about the Kinks, we’ve got a legacy of wonderful songs. I’ve never, ever said, which was what a lot of old bands say, “Oh no, I’m not playing all that rubbish.” No, they were good songs ! I enjoy playing “You Really Got Me” as much now as I did then. “Lola” is an absolutely brilliant song. You’ve always got to put in all the hits, but then we sneak in different ones. We write down a set-list, but we’ve got in a couple of places, “Dave’s choice.” We never know what he’s gonna play. It keeps us on our toes ! I suppose we’ve done about 90 this year and we’ve got just over 50 in 2016 [already booked].

CM : So, you’re busy again ?

JD : Very busy, yeah ! But I’m loving it. We’ve introduced a bit of humour into the band, because we get a lot of theatres now. They sit watching, so you got to entertain as well, you can’t just stand there playing. We have great fun.

CM : Do you have favourite songs that you play with them ?

JD : When it comes to “Dave’s choice,” often he says, “We’re gonna have John’s favourite ever song with the Kinks now. He played on the album, he played on the song, but his favourite song of all the Kinks songs is ‘Shangri-La.’” I secretly think it’s his favourite song as well. Yeah, he blames me ; it’s not a well-known song. But, somewhere very recently, we got a cheer for it.

CM : You got to pull out some of the deep catalogue items for the fans.

JD : Oh, we do that. In the Kast Off Kinks, at a normal gig, we play about an hour and 50 minutes. The first set’s 50 minutes ; the second set’s an hour. When we do the convention, we do three hours, but that can consist of many old band members. We often have three keyboard players there. We always have two drummers ; often have two bass players ; and some of the old backing-singer girls that was on Preservation and that. It’s amazing how all ex-Kinks have stayed close, like a family. It’s very, very strange.

CM : And you have the blessing, so to speak, of Ray also, ’cause he’s played with you guys.

JD : Sometimes he only speaks at the convention, what mood he’s in and things like that, whether he’s fit, and he’ll often do a number or two, sometimes four or five.

CM : Have the Kast Off Kinks recorded ?

JD : Yeah, we’ve done a little album, not at a major studio just a local studio, just to sell at the gigs. It gives someone something to take home. We’ve done a couple ; we’ve done one with the very early Kinks. We didn’t know what we was doing then. At a studio just down the road here, we done it in one day. Only about five tracks, I think. We’ve got one out now called Horses for Courses, but again, you’ve still got to include the numbers on it.

We played not too far away from here, a few months ago, and we had a friend over from Washington DC. He comes over quite a lot ; he keeps appearing., I think he’s coming next weekend as well. When we’re in the middle of nowhere, Bruce is there, Bruce McQueen. Last year he got in contact with Dave and said, “Would you play a song for me on my birthday ?” Dave said, “Of course we will. You’re our number one fan,” thinking he’s gonna pick one of the big ones. And he picked “Misfits.”

CM : I don’t even know that one.

JD : No, nor did we. It’s off the album Misfits, a really late album.

CM : Oh, I can picture the cover.

JD : Yeah, well, I’d never heard of it. Looked it up ; that don’t sound too bad. So, we done it and we was all thinking, “It’s quite a nice song.” We done it for Bruce’s birthday, and then very often we put it in.

CM : Now, it’s in the repertoire.

JD : Yeah, when we done it at Potter’s bar, ’cause it’s close, loads of my friends turned up. During the break, half-time, they said, “it’s great, ‘Misfits,’ why don’t you record it ?” I said, “it’s already been done, by the top people.” They said, “No, your version was absolutely super.”

CM : So, the Kinks live on in the fan’s lives, and the Kinks live on in the former members of the Kinks. It’s fantastic.

JD : Oh, yeah ! We’ve been lucky because I think that the show Sunny Afternoon that’s in the West End has helped us. People know it’s the Kinks, but then they hear Kast Off Kinks, and they think, “oh !?” It helps publicity. Also, on television, now and again they use Kinks songs as adverts.

CM : Right, that keeps it in the public ear.

JD : Yeah, it seems to be getting bigger. I’m always asked to say a little. Sometimes on stage I say, “It’s wonderful being in the best band about in the ’60s and early ‘70s, the Kinks,” and I say, “It’s even nicer to be with the Kast Off Kinks today, playing all this great music.” We get on so well, again, like family. We just laugh all the time. You can’t do anything else than laugh at Mick Avory. He is the nicest person I’ve ever met. He’s just laid back, he doesn’t normally say a cross word. He can get annoyed, but he doesn’t normally say a cross word against anybody. He’s just a nice person, he is. And so are the other two as well, and their wives.

CM : You are with really nice people.

JD : I find it very, very hard with the Kast Off Kinks, getting used to playing theatres where people are “back there,” sitting and all clapping politely. So, what I do is make everybody stand up for the last number, and I don’t sing it unless they stand up.

CM : What is the last number ?

JD : “Louie, Louie.” It’s the second encore. We finish, we do a false ending with “You Really Got Me.” Great song, great way to finish actually. Then we do an encore of “All Day and All Night,” and then “Louie, Louie.” I make sure everybody’s standing before we do it.

CM : There’s a few bands that are doing the kind of thing that you’re doing. The Kast Off Kinks are mostly guys that were in the Kinks. There was an Electric Light Orchestra II with ex-members that did not have Jeff Lynne. The Searchers are still going.

JD : At one time, there was three Searchers [groups] going around.

CM : Yeah, there was Mike Pender’s Searchers, and then the John McNally one that they’re calling the Searchers.

JD : And another one as well. Because the trouble is, they had different members. Very strange, and of course there was loads and loads of law suits going on.

CM : There’s also the Manfred Mann band that’s going around.

JD : Yeah, but they had to just call themselves the Manfreds, because Manfred Mann actually was a person.

CM : It’s funny because they’ve got Paul Jones from the original line-up, and Mike D’Abo from the second line-up, and they’re both in the same band now.

JD : Both of the singers. They were lucky, because, Paul Jones was an excellent singer, a blues singer, but he was an excellent singer. To replace someone like that would normally be hard, but Mike D’Abo’s come in and done an excellent job.

CM : He did. Kind of like the Kast Off Kinks. It’s these guys and those guys ; put them all together. Have you seen the Zombies recently ? They’re fabulous.

JD : Yeah, a few months ago.

CM : It was funny when I saw them, it was at an outdoor show at a festival [in Ottawa, Ontario], with the Yardbirds.

JD : Keith Relf, the singer, died, didn’t he ?

CM : Yeah, a long time ago. They had Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja, so two originals. Also on the show with the Yardbirds and the Zombies was Spencer Davis, singing the Steve Winwood parts.

JD : Oh, that’s hard to do ! The Spencer Davis Group played with the Mark Four. I don’t know how old Stevie Winwood was, but I was young.

CM : He was quite a bit younger.

JD : An amazing voice. He started playing, this kid playing keyboards, and this voice was coming out. No one can do that ; that’s an old person’s voice ! It’s got so much maturity in it.

CM : Exactly, and when he left they got this guy named Eddie Harding.

JD : I’ve never heard of him, no.

CM : That was the second lineup of the Spencer Davis Group. Then Harding played in a duo with the Spencer Davis Group’s drummer, Pete York, calling it Harding and York. They played mostly in Germany and got famous there. Click here to read my interview with Pete York.

QUITTING THE KINKS

CM : When did you depart from the Kinks ?

JD : In ’76.

CM : What happened ? Did the band split, or did you decide to leave ?

JD : I just decided to leave. It was a hard decision. We were halfway through an album [Sleepwalker]. It was actually fate, I’m sure of it. Don’t know whether anybody believed in fate ; I didn’t really, but I think it was fate. I wouldn’t have known that just a short time after I’d left, my little boy got leukemia. I wouldn’t have been able to go away to do anything. It was at a London hospital, everyday. But I’d had enough anyway. I was away all the time ; I had three boys, a wife. To be truthful, we wasn’t earning a lot of money. I still tried to be fair to the Kinks ; I made sure that every bass track was put down. The album wasn’t finished but every bass track was put down. That’s when I told them I was leaving.

I didn’t play then for two years, ’cause of what was going on in my private life. We’ve got a hospital here in London, the greatest children’s hospital in the world, Great Ormond Street. My son was in there and it opens your eyes when you go in a place like that. I thought, I’ve got to help in some way, so I got a load of my old musicians back and formed this band called the Bullettes. I managed to persuade the Baptist to come in there, John Gosling. I said there’d be a beer in it for him. Yeah, I had lots of people playing ; all different musicians, playing over the years, different drummers and things like that. Then I carried on after that. We’ve got a lovely hall, just up the road. Every year I used to do a big concert for leukemia, and to get six different bands on there. When I asked Dave Clarke to do it, he loved it. We just start playing anything to start, then I said, “We’ve got to do this different.” Then, each of the six bands had to do an act ; choose a band and do one.

CM : A tribute.

BASS PLAYING

CM : Let me ask about your bass playing.

JD : I wouldn’t, I don’t know much about it.

CM : Were you mostly self-taught ?

JD : Totally self-taught. I’ve never admitted to being a good bass player. What I am now, is—I don’t know where this comes from—I think I’m a good show man. Jim Rodford is a far better bass player than me. I’m a rock and roll bass player, that’s all. I was brought up with rock and roll. As soon as I hear a bit rock and roll these days, I’m just straight there.

photo : Eddie Cochran

I think the greatest rock and roller would have been Eddie Cochran. I know stories, from really big people. Eddie Cochran was a great player. We had a guitarist in England in those days, a bloke [named] Big Jim Sullivan. The reason you’ve heard of him is ’cause he was the top session guitarist. Eddie Cochran come on over as a kid.

CM : He was touring with Gene Vincent.

JD : That’s right, and he got killed [in a car accident in England in 1960]. He came over when he had “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” out [1959]. So he’s doing a recording with this local band, good backing musicians, and they all met each other. He said, “right, we’re gonna do ‘Hallelujah, I Love Her So.’" Eddie Cochran turns to Big Jim Sullivan and says, “Look, in the guitar part, I want you to play,” and, as he said that, everybody went, “He thinks he’s gonna tell him how to play this. Ah, this is gonna be funny, a kid.” And he goes, [sings riff with bent strings]. They went, “He bent his strings !” That hadn’t been seen over here. No one was bending strings over here. On “Something Else,” they tell me he played all the instruments on it, done the whole bit. I just loved all his songs. Unbelievable, he was so talented.

CM : [singing] “Who cares ? C’mon everybody.”

JD : I still do that today. I just like the bass intro [sings it]. That’s why Dave Clarke and I get on so well ; rock and roll. At Broxburn Civic Hall, with the Kast Off Kinks last year, 50th anniversary, big hall, just to please me and Dave Clarke… We’d done, obviously, all the Kinks stuff, except for the last half hour I said, “Right, you’ve had your day. It’s all rock and roll now.” They all went crazy with joy and everything. We was doing Elvis stuff, “Big Hunk of Love.” Dave wanted to do it for years. Even in Norway last week, I’m packing away ; we’d done the encore after the encore, and I said, “Thank you very much,” pulling out. Then Dave said, “we’re going to do ’Long Tall Sally.’” Well, everybody went wild. You can’t beat rock and roll. You can’t, whatever it is.

CM : Have you had contact with Dave Davies ?

JD : No. I don’t think he’s too pleased about the Kast Off Kinks.

CM : Ray’s okay but Dave’s not ?

JD : Yeah. Dave stopped us going to the States. Well, he didn’t really ; we could have still gone, but at one time he threatened to sue us. He couldn’t sue us ; we weren’t using the name the Kinks.

CM : Who came up with the Kast Off Kinks ?

JD : We were arguing about that. I say it was me, Mick says it was him. Have you heard of Bootleg Beatles ?

CM : Yes.

JD : It’s one of the biggest Beatles bands. They do more work than the Beatles did. In saying that, the Kast Off Kinks do more work than the Kinks done. The Bootleg Beatles are really popular, and it rolls [off the tongue when you say their name]. I was looking for something with a K in front. Now, when I first joined the Kinks, I think a lot of them still do it, every word, if it began with C, they changed it into a K. Right, the Kinks. If they’d written down, “I can’t go to there,” it would be K [as in, kan’t]. I’m trying to do it on the same line as that, but K was hard. And then I put, Kast Off Kinks. Ray, light heartedly, had a go at us ; he said, “There’s not one of you been actually cast off. You’ve all left.”

CM : But you can’t put a K in front of that !

JD : No. But it just stuck. One time, they were thinking of trying to change it and someone said it’s too well-known now.

CM : It works, it’s beautiful. What did you think of the music the Kinks did after you left ?

JD : Ray went through, just straight after us, what I thought was a bit of a punk period. But he was trying to out-sing. That’s not his voice. His voice is “Waterloo Sunset,” “Sunny Afternoon.” He’s got a different voice than people realize. The only way you can tell what sort of voice Ray’s got is if you try and to sing his songs. He’s got a bigger range than you think. Although it all sounds easygoing, when he tries to sing like “Lola,” there’s not many people [who can], ’cause he goes right up there. How’s he do that ? You don’t know. Dave Clarke does a really, really good job. He doesn’t try and copy Ray ; he does his. So he’s not gonna sound like Ray.

CM : That’s the way to go.

JD : It is, yeah. Because, Ray’s got a unique voice, and no one can sing his songs, or most of Ray’s songs, like Ray could sing them. I mean, “Sunny Afternoon” ; we do a good version of it, loads of people do it, but Ray’s got that tone in his voice. But we’ve done some bad albums in the past, and we’ve done a lot of stuff we didn’t want to do, when Ray was trying to go for this vaudeville stage. Another thing about the Kast Off Kinks, well we’ve done Percy. People shoot me down when I say this, but Percy was an awful album to me. Then the Kast Offs suddenly pulled “God’s Children” out of it. Lovely song ! We haven’t got time to do everything. We do at the Boston, yes. And so, off of each album, we’ve pulled nice tracks out. Even if you don’t like School Boys in Disgrace—we didn’t like doing it—but there’s couple of good songs on it.

CM : The Kinks catalogue is immense. It’s fantastic.

JD : Immense, yeah.

photo left to right : Craig Morrison, John Dalton

CM : Were you older than the other guys ?

JD : Yeah.

CM : So maybe you had a little more of a taste for rock and roll ?

JD : No, the Kinks started off with “Long Tall Sally” and stuff like that. Dave’s encore used to be “Good Golly, Miss Molly.”

CM : That’s what you played in Boston.

JD : Yeah, probably did. I’m sure Ray used to put little rock and roll riffs in for me. In “Apeman” [he sings a little of the song and the riff], there’s a little bit just in the middle.

CM : Did he show you or tell you what to play ?

JD : It’s hard to say. Most of the time we went around Ray’s house and then we start playing, put the keys down, put the chord sequence, and then you start doing what you were, but then if anybody would come up with something, “Oh, that might be good there,” you say, “oh, that might go nicely over.”

CM : You were able to throw in your two cents ?

JD : You can do it. We don’t really remember who done what.

CM : His wife sang backup harmony on some songs.

JD : Yes, Rasa. Lots in the old days, all the high bits on “Waterloo Sunset” and that. She features a lot in his show Sunday Afternoon. I know her well, I’ve seen her a lot since ; when I used to live down there, she’d come stay with us a lot.

CM : Are they still married ?

JD : No, cor blimey, he’s on about five or six now. She was in the early days.

CM : She could be in the Kast Off Kinks.

JD : She’s sang with us. No one gets out of it ! Even if they do just one gig with us. Put her on the list.

CM : How many former Kinks are there in all ?

JD : I don’t know. There’s a couple we haven’t used. One because he died ; he was a keyboard player [Gordon John Edwards]. Didn’t know much of him, but he died [in 2002]. Andy Pyle, the bass player that took over from me—he’s played with a lot of bands [including Blodwyn Pig, Savoy Brown, and later, Wishbone Ash]—we’ve never used him.

CM : They don’t need him ; they have you.

JD : Can’t help that. Dave Davies’ never done it, ‘cause he wouldn’t.

CM : And Pete Quaife died. He moved to Canada.

JD : He did play with the Kast Off Kinks, just before he died. It was a Dutch convention. Pete was in Copenhagen, I think. We said, “It would be nice to get him across.” He was on dialysis at the time, so I said, “It’s gonna be awkward. They’ve got to hook up with a hospital somewhere, and get him the treatment the next day.” I said, “If you can get him there, what we would do, especially for the fans, which is very unusual, but if you get him there, I won’t give him too much to do.” Because I don’t know his fitness levels, and “I’ll get him up to do two numbers, so they can see him. He can play my bass ; I’ll play rhythm guitar ; and we’ll just do two numbers. I’ll sing the songs, and then we can stand together, anyone who wants to take pictures, they’ve got the two bass players of the Kinks.” It was lovely. He brought his wife across with him, and we sat down afterwards like we always do and have a drink together. He said, “I haven’t enjoyed myself so much for years. If it had been like this in the Kinks, I never’ve left.” I said, “Well, that’d be no good, ’cause I wouldn’t have been in and this wouldn’t have happened, would it ?”

It’s nice that you’ve actually mentioned the Kast Off Kinks. I’m enjoying it now better than I ever have done. We’ve got so much work on, but then, if I get a week off, jokingly I say, “well, haven’t got a gig this week.” It can get hard at times. Last week, the week before the Norway trip, we done five gigs on the road. Now, that is hard work.

CM : Five gigs in a row ?

JD : Driving. But what Nadia does is, she tries to get them so they’re en route, so you’re not going all over the country, which agents would do. When we went to Scotland, she tried to get one on the way up and one on the way back down. We’re lucky to have Ian’s wife Nadia doing all the organization. She does all the bookings from the agency, and books all the hotels for us. She does a lot. It’s lovely to have her in the band.

CM : Makes life a little easier.

JD : Yeah. I’m not worried about the gig or what theater we’re playing at. When we get to the hotel, I need to know what time the bar is closing at night. ’Cause me favourite drink of the day is the one after the gig. It’s quite funny . I can pack up the quickest, and get back 20 minutes before they close. Ian’s got all his keyboard stuff. I walk in on me own and have a pint of lager quickly. Then I say, “Here, let me buy a pint of bitter, and this, that, this, and this, that.” I say, “Thank you very much.” I go and sit at the table ; it’s full of beer and drinks. Even the people that are getting ready to go home say, “There’s a strange man, look. He’s got a table full of beer and no one there with him.” Like I’ve got imaginary friends. Then they all come in, we sit around, have a laugh and a talk.

CM : There’s the sense of accomplishment, all the camaraderie. Sometimes when you play with people, it’s almost like you have ESP. You know what they’re gonna do, and then after, you say, “When you did that, did you notice that I did this ?” That’s really fun. So you review the gig ?

JD : Yeah, that is the best part of it all.

M : How would you like to be remembered ?

JD : A friendly person, I think. Oh, this is a morbid subject now, but my song I want played at my funeral is “If I Can Dream” by Elvis Presley. It’s about everybody in the world, everywhere, getting on together, almost like the Kast Off Kinks. We don’t like nasty people. Everything’s done for a laugh, and that’s how it should be.

CM : But it’s done right.

JD : Yeah, if it’s done right.

CM : Thank-you, it’s been wonderful talking with you.


comments or questions ? email me

- I didn’t realize we spoke for so long. I think we covered everything. Hope I see you again some day. I think the interview is very good and well put together. Thank you for what you have done. Best wishes, John (Dalton)

I have posted interviews with members of the psychedelic bands, British invasion bands, 1950s hit makers, folk, blues, country and jazz musicians. To go to the index page, click here.

you may be interested to read Psychedelic Music in San Francisco : Style, Context, and Evolution by Craig Morrison, available as a download from lulu.com for less than $5

CRAIG MORRISON
is an ethnomusicologist, teacher, author, and musician
based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
7 Nights Music Communications, © 2006