Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Russell Davies interviews Ray Davies

This is to alert readers to the fact that Russell Davies recently interviewed Ray Davies for his The Art of Artists series on Radio 2 and it can be heard on BBC iplayer, here, for 28 days.

I haven't listened to it yet, and will add a note to this post when I have done so, but it has been interesting to hear Russell Davies as interviewer, as opposed to presenter of his sadly departed Sunday afternoon/evening music programme with those superbly scripted links. The unhurried, hour-long format seems to suit him, and as with the departed music programme you can tell he's done his homework and is, in any case, bringing a considerable breadth of cultural reference to the table, what with being Russell Davies and everything. I recall, in the interview with Sandie Shaw, her surprise and palpable pleasure at being taken seriously, and I think she has put the interview on her website.

I can't remember whether particular artists had something to plug, but these are most definitely not plug-type interviews, more attempts to assess the work as a whole and to uncover - but gently, with love, like Maggie in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof - what motivates the artists. All of which promises well for this meeting of Davieses. Whatever else, it will be an intelligent and civilised line of questioning which may draw well particlarly interesting things out of a man who, as I have said in earlier post, seems less prone to resorting to stock answers than some others of his stature.


I have now listened to the interview a couple of times. It's pretty good, although I had  forgotten the rather obvious fact that Ray Davies has rehearsed this material so many times via his autobiographies and autobiographical shows that little can really come over as new: this was more a case of Russell Davies trying to cover selected patches of ground familiar to devotees. Not that this in itself was without interest, especially given Russell Davies' interest in musicals. I had wondered why Paul Sirett, who had worked with Davies for some time and written Come Dancing (the musical), had not been brought in for Sunny Afternoon. We were told that five playwrights had been interviewed, but Penhall's keenness and determination had meant he was chosen.

Ray did, however, say there was "a hint" that Come Dancing might have a second life, with his role as narrator diminished and other parts written up. I saw Come Dancing at its first preview, and wonderful as it was to see Ray onstage, and so close, for so much of the time, I did wonder how that might pan out for a long run. It also felt eminently suited to the intimacy of Stratford East, so if it does have an afterlife I suspect the choice of theatre will be crucial.

There was a brief reference to an earlier musical, and some othere interesting observations which indicated this was more than a trawl through the greatest hits which a different sort of interviewer might have favoured, so it is certainly worth listening to even if it may not contain much in the way of revelations for dedicated followers of Davies.

I did wonder, however, whether more time - I mean for the raw interview - might perhaps have yielded more of interest. I don't know how much was recorded although I got the impression from what Russell Davies said that this might have been done as live, or at least without much leeway, as at one point he seemed aware of a need to push towards the end. But I could be wrong. Perhaps it's more to do with what Ray said at one point: that saying what he means is easier in a song.

Anyway, you can make up your own mind by listening here. I presume that as this is radio US listeners will also be able to access this. 

A couple of small niggles: there was a lot of discussion specifically about the Crouch End Festival Chorus version of Days, yet it was the original Kinks version which was played in the middle of that discusssion. I also noted that it was the "Coca-Cola" version of that Kinks anthem Lola which was played. Someone in the production chain wasn't paying attention - though in the latter case could it be that product placement is now tacitly accepted as a means of making up the shortfall brought about by all those license payment defaulters?

My own shameless plug:

I have cowritten Funny Bones, the autobiography of comedian/actor Freddie Davies (no relation); information here.

 Related posts:

They Turned Me On: Russell Davies
They Turned Him Off: Russell Davies show axed
Ray Davies documentary Imaginary Man
David Bowie and the Kinks
Waterloo Sunset

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