Friday, June 25, 2010

The Late, Great Peter Quaife of The Kinks

Peter Quaife, co-founder and original bassist of The Kinks, passed yesterday at 66. The cause has yet to be determined. Mr. Quaife had suffered kidney failure in the late Nineties.

Peter Quaife was born in Tavistock, Devon on 31 December 1943. He was raised at Muswell Hill in London. He attended William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School with Ray Davies. It was in 1961 that Peter Quaife, Ray Davies, and Dave Davies founded their own band, The Ray Davies Quartet or Peter Quaife Qurartet, later called The Ravens and finally The Kinks.

Initially the Ray Davies Quartet or Peter Quaife Quartet largely performed instrumental numbers, including material from The Shadows, Duane Eddy, and The Ventures. The group gradually began to include more rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues numbers. Eventually deciding they needed a lead vocalist, the group would go through a number of them in their early days, including a young Rod Stewart (they would only play one date with him at which it became evident they were incompatible). Just as the style of the band changed, so too would its name. The Ray Davies Quartet would become The Ramrods, then The Boll-Weevils (taken from Eddie Cochran's "The Boll-Weevil Song"), and finally The Ravens (inspired by the American International horror movie The Raven). The Ravens would unsuccessfully audition for various record labels before coming to the attention of American record producer Shel Tamy. It was perhaps largely due to Shel Tamy's influence that The Ravens were signed to Pye Records in early 1964.

According to Peter Quaife, the decision to change the name from The Ravens to The Kinks came about in December 1963, although they played under the name "The Ravens" until 1 February 1964. As to how the name "The Kinks" was developed there are several different stories. It is generally manager Larry Page who is credited with coming up with the name. In one story it is said that he saw old drunk in a pub look up at Ray Davies and Peter Quaife performing on stage, outfitted in black leather, and said, "Hey, look, there's a couple of kinks." According to original Kinks drummer Mike Avory, Ray Davies and Pete Quaife would go around dressed in cloaks, so that people referred to them as "kinky." It seems likely that the name was influenced by the character of leather clad Mrs. Cathy Gale on The Avengers. Indeed, in 1963 Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman recorded a novelty song parodying the character of Mrs. Gale called "Kinky Boots." In August 1963 the John Barry Seven also released a single titled "Kinky."

A recording contract and a new name would not guarantee The Kinks instant success. Their first single, a cover of Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally," released 7 February 1964, went nowhere on the charts. Their next single, an original entitled "You Still Want Me," released that April, also performed poorly. It was their third single that prove to be their first hit, not only in the United Kingdom but internationally. "You Really Got Me" would go to #1 on the UK singles chart, #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, #4 in Canada, and #2 in Australia. The song was also pivotal in the history of rock music. As one of the first songs built entirely upon power chords, it was one of the fundamental songs in the creation of the rock subgenre called "power pop (along with The Beatles' "She Loves You" and The Who's "I Can't Explain")."

The Kinks would go onto have more hits, including "All Day and All of the Night (#2 in the UK, #7 in the U.S.), "Tired of Waiting for You (#1 in the UK, #6 in the U.S.), "Set Me Free," "A Well Respected Man," "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," and "Sunny Afternoon." The band's first album Kinks (retitled You Really Got Me in the U.S.) was released in October 1964. Their second album, Kinda Kinks, was released in March 1965. Over the next few years, with Peter Quaife on bass, The Kinks would release The Kink Kontroversy (1965), Face to Face (1966, their first album of all original material), Something Else by The Kinks (1967), and The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968).

Sadly, things would not go smoothly for The Kinks or Peter Quaife as their bassist. There was a good deal of infighting in the band, to the point that at The Capitol Theatre in Cardiff in May 1964 drummer Mike Avory assaulted Dave Davies on stage after Mr. Davies had insulted him. The Kinks would also find themselves banned from live performances or television performances in the United States by the American Federation of Musicians for "unprofessional conduct" in February 1965. The ban would remain in effect until 1969, effectively preventing The Kinks from adequately promoting their albums and singles in the United States. Indeed, after "Sunny Afternoon," released in March 1966, The Kinks would not have another hit single in the United States until "Lola" in 1970.

Peter Quaife was seriously injured in an automobile accident in 1966. During his recovery John Dalton filled for him as The Kinks' bassist. He would not be absent from any Kinks albums, however, contributing to all of them up to and including The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation  Society. He would sing backing vocals on the song "Waterloo Sunset," and even contributed some material to the album  Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).

By 1969 Peter Quaife had tired of the constant bickering in the band, as well as having little input into it, and announced that he was leaving. He was permanently replaced by John Dalton. Peter Quaife went on to found the band Mapleoak. Mapleoak would tour both the United Kingdom and Denmark in 1969 and 1970. The band's only single, "Son of a Gun," was released in April 1970 but failed to chart. Their only album, released in 1971, also failed to chart. Mr. Quaife then gave up his music career and moved to Denmark. By 1980 he had moved to Belleville, Ontario where he made a living as a political cartoonist for the local paper and an airbrush artist. He would play with The Kinks only one more time, in Toronto in 1971. He would play at times with The Kast Off Kinks, a band composed of former Kinks members. In 1998 Mr. Quaife experienced kidney failure. He would write a book on his experience, entitled The Lighter Side of Dialysis.

While Peter Quaife's music career was not overly long, he had an impact far greater than some musicians with much longer careers. Indeed, as he co-founded The Kinks, it quite possible the band may not have ever come into being without him, at least as we know them. He was indubitably one of the greatest bassists in the history of rock music. It was his bass line that drove many of The Kinks' earliest hits, from "You Really Got Me" to "Sunny Afternoon." Indeed, when John Entwistle (arguably the greatest bassist of all time) was asked in an interview with Goldmine Magazine in 1996 to name his favourite bassist, he replied, "'d say one of my favourite bass players was Pete Quaife because he literally drove the Kinks along." Peter Quaife was not merely the band's bassist, however, as he sang backing vocals on many Kinks songs. Short of John Entwistle himself, Peter Quaife was the greatest bassist in rock history. Indeed, while The Kinks would continue to do great work for the rest of their career, the band was never quite the same after Mr. Quaife left.


Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

This is an excellent post and write up.

Sorry for the double post.