Ray Davies, lead singer of the Kinks is the ultimate London musician.
He’s run close by Elvis Costello, Roger Daltrey and John Lydon, but Ray takes it.
Hailing from Muswell Hill – Fortis Green to be precise – he not only wrote most of the songs for the greatest band of the 1960s, the Kinks, but he immortalised the London scene of the decade, from the simple romance of Waterloo Sunset to the pomposity of Carnaby Street in Dedicated Follower of Fashion. Like no other song, You Really Got Me captures the restless energy of London life and being young in the city, and has a timeless appeal.
The Kinks – and Ray’s – finest work is the 1968 album The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society. Davies’ lament for a disappearing England – or a scorn for its small-mindedness – was the last by the original line-up of the band and their most complete album. *
The sleeve for Village Green was shot on Hampstead Heath, not far from Muswell Hill. Its appeal is not a secret, but the shot below seems to have been taken on one of the less-visited meadows to the east of Kenwood House. Ray, his brother Dave, Mick Avory and Pete Quaife.
A stroll through this long grass, London’s own slice of countryside, with views of the city that inspired Davies before you, is one of the capital’s finest ways to spend a couple of hours. And you can round it off with a cream tea at Kenwood.
* There are detailed reviews of Village Green all over the web, but Adrian Denning’s album reviews site is the best place to start. As well as covering the Kinks complete output with accuracy and passion there are thousands of other very readable album reviews here. I found Adrian’s site a superb way to get started with previously impenetrable bands and am particularly grateful for his reviews of Felt albums.