SUNNY Afternoon is bringing the music of the Kinks to delighted audiences in Oxford — and there’s still time to nab tickets if you haven’t already as the show runs until Saturday. To whet your appetite, here’s a chat with The Kinks front man Ray Davies.
Why did you want to bring Sunny Afternoon to the stage?
I was writing another musical called Come Dancing, based on one of my songs which was eventually staged, and in 2005, I found myself thinking about significant times in my life around the time of Sunny Afternoon.
So many things were happening to me around that time: overworked, infighting among band members, lawsuits with managers and publishers that nearly gave me a breakdown and the rest.
I wrote a draft and then came back to it after Come Dancing had been produced. I wanted to write about that time in my life when so much was happening to me. British music was starting to conquer the world and England were on the verge of winning the World Cup.
What did you get out of re-living the stories and songs creatively?
Well, I think once I had got the initial treatment and outline done, I had to detach myself from it and treat it as a piece of theatre for the stage. Detachment is good. It allows you to look more at the character development and the issues involved and I could concentrate more on the story. It is easier to keep going that way.
Was that hard though as Sunny Afternoon is partly about you?
It seems more to me a like a portrayal of Britain at a certain time in history. We were leading the world with music, arts and fashion. The classes were merging and it seemed as if we were all as one. As one of the characters says, it was “a very special time”
Were there any particular challenges putting the story together?
I think the hardest thing is trying to remain objective. I think it is quite a compelling story about how I began this journey and the story is important. It needs to be a great story for The Kinks fans but also for those who maybe don’t know much about the band, their origins or music for that matter.
I think people will enjoy the show. It brings a new generation to the story who may connect with the songs but not necessarily the band per se. I think they will enjoy it on a number of levels.
The show itself is very much yours/The Kinks story, warts and all. Why was it important to you to make it authentic?
Well, The Kinks were arguably one of the most dysfunctional and hard edged bands around before punk. Someone said to me the Kinks were one of the bands the punk bands looked up to. It is a coming of age story, it is about sibling rivalry, a changing society, the pitfalls of the music industry, about loss of self, and it is about being on tour with my brother. It is compelling on several levels and, of course, it has got the songs as well.
How hard was it being in the spotlight again?
I remember keeping a low profile at the workshops for the show once the writing was done but at times I had to jump in if I felt things were not quite right, I had that detachment which again, really helped me get through it.
There is a lot about me in the show which, looking back, I was a bit shocked to see portrayed live but I had to be objective. It is also important that the creative process is collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. The pay-off is that you get something very special. Other than that I remain a very private person.
Finally, will The Kinks ever re-form even if just for one night?
I often hear rumours of Kinks reunions but we can’t do that of course because we lost Pete Quaife, one of the originals, a few years ago. I miss Pete and I miss that team effort a lot; I’m not sure it’s something we could do without him. But never say never and one never knows.