Mick Avory of The Kinks
The Kinks were an anachronism in
that they totally defied
convention with their own style and their own musical
directions. They were hugely popular in Britain and
internationally in the sixties. A key strength was Ray Davies’
song-writing with classics such as You Really Got Me,
Days, Waterloo Sunset, Sunny Afternoon, Dedicated
Follower Of Fashion and Lola amongst others.
As their sixties popularity waned
in the UK, they found
a new audience in the States where they had been
unfairly blacklisted for several years.
Pioneers of musical techniques
which had The Beatles
and The Who asking them "How did you do that?", they
evolved into an album band whose live performances
were recognised as totally fun, full of energy and
involving their loyal audiences.
I managed to catch up with Kinks
drummer Mick Avory and
this is the interview he kindly gave
The Kinks - Mick Avory, Ray
Davies, Peter Quaife and Dave Davies
Digger: How did your recent
trip to Holland go?
Mick: Yeah, it was good. Went
there on the Saturday this
year. We checked into the hotel and had
a look around Amsterdam.
Mick: A very fleeting, cold
look. Both the Johns had
their wives with them. They were interested
in different things to us.
Digger: Best behaviour at all
Mick: Then we had something to
eat and we got picked
up to go back to the hotel in Utrecht. It was near the
motorway so you couldn't walk.
Digger: Do you drive over
Mick: I didn't, no. If you're
there for two
days you don't need to.
Digger: You obviously had
roadies, but did you ever
have to do any driving on tour?
Mick: Not usually, but the odd
time if you were in a bit of
a spot. Other than that it was just for pleasure, like when
we were in L.A. I'd rent a car, 'cos you need a
car in a place like that.
Digger: It's a bit different
out there though, isn't it,
because they seem to go slower and it's better behaved?
Mick: Yes. The speed limits
are much lower and they just
cruise along in the bigger cars. Not like here with the
little sporty type cars that whizz around like Barcelona or
somewhere like that where it's much faster.
Digger: What sort of car have
you got at the moment?
Mick: A Range Rover but I'm
using my daughter's
car at the moment which is a Fiesta.
Digger: I can't see you in a
Fiesta - I see you
in something more sporty.
Mick: Yes, well I got fed up
with all that.
I go for convenience now.
Digger: Been there, done that?
Mick: Yes, done it all. Not
interested. It costs
too much money for what it's worth.
Digger: That's true. You don't
Mick: You can't use it to its
full capacity. They make cars
that go at 200 miles per hour and you're only allowed to
do 70 some of the time. I don't do any motorway driving
and I'm lucky to get into 3rd gear with all the
speed cameras around.
Digger: I guess you're in
London most of the
time when you're not on the road?
Mick: That's right. It's so
restricted these days I'm
not bothered about what car I've got.
Digger: I treated myself to a
sporty car 'cos I'd never had
one. And like you say, it's honestly a waste of money
because in this climate it spends most of its time in the
garage. And plus because it's sporty you try to keep to the
limits because you've got the police keeping a closer eye on
you. So you get salesmen overtaking you at 100..........
So Don Craine is a big friend of yours, is that true?
Mick: Yes. I did an album with
him about three years ago
now. With Art Wood. That's how I met up with him again,
'cos I knew him in the sixties. Very occasionally I
used to bump into him then.
Digger: I managed to get Eric
Stewart from The
Mindbenders and 10cc on this site last week. Did you
ever come into contact with him or other
Mick: Yes. I did an interview
the other day for this
programme that the telly are gonna do for the British
Invasion in America - the old thing with yet another film
full of interviews. ( Laughs )
Digger: Do you get fed up with
Mick: Well, I don't know what
different to say, really.
I've said all the same things.
Digger: You could do like The
Beatles - they were
deliberately a bit naughty with the reporters unless
somebody came up with a really good question.
"How did you find America?" .............
"We turned left at Iceland" and so on.
Mick: Yes. They were good at
injecting humour into it.
Digger: Question number one!
Jim McCarty of The
Yardbirds started drumming in the Boy's Brigade and
you apparently started in the Sea Scouts. Do you find it
strange or amusing that the sixties musical revolution was
triggered, at least in part, by these pillars of
Mick: Um. I've got some notes
here somewhere ( Both
laugh ). Or I'll lose track. Yes, I started in the Sea Scouts
but it was an accident really as I started in the Scouts -
I used to go to their meeting on a Sunday night and I
was only 13 but the guy up the road went along with me.
And they formed a skiffle group and they allowed me in
there - it was great for me 'cos I could play snooker and
darts and all the sorts of games that weren't usually
available to a 13 year old. The guy that was on the drums -
it was just a drum on a chair in those days with a
scrubbing brush on a stick - he got disenchanted with that
and wanted to play mandolin of all things! ( Digger laughs )
A bit of a jump! So he got off the chair and they said to me
"Do you want to play drums, you look interested?" And I
said "Well, I've never played drums" and they said
"Well, we know that but see if you can keep time...." And
was it. And once I'd got on the thing I thought "Yes, I like
this" and eventually I got better equipment and
it went on from there.
Digger: Great. History being
made just on somebody's whim.
Mick: I was actually in a band
before I could play which
was unusual. And a good way of keeping it going. Because
there were a lot of guys who would have kept it going
if they weren't made to keep going to lessons and
learning the theory and having to practise two hours
a day. And they'd think "How am I going to use
all this knowledge and technique?
- I've got no-one to play with"
Digger: But you must have
practised a lot to get to that
standard even on the very early stuff?
Mick: Because I was flung into
the deep end to begin with
I had a vehicle to do it on. That was the good thing about
skiffle because it wasn't terribly difficult to play so you
could get along on a minimum of technique and skill.
Digger: Hopefully get a few
gigs and get the experience?
Mick: Yes, while you're doing
it get a few gigs and get
some work and a bit of incentive.
Digger: It must have been in
you though, because the
drum kit is almost like an extension of your body, isn't it?
The Kinks - Ray, Dave, Peter
Mick: Yes, but I was crap when
Digger: What year was that?
Digger: The year I was born!
Sorry, don't want to make
you feel.... ( laughs ) Still, you were ONLY thirteen!
Mick: They start now before
they're born. As a foetus.
( Digger laughs ) The woman says "You wait until my boy
is born, he ain't half gonna be good".
Digger: You talked about your
daughter - is she musical?
Mick: No, she went to the
Barbara Speak Stage School but
I wouldn't say she was terribly musical. She had an idea,
you know. She had piano lessons for a while - they changed
the teacher and she didn't like the new one so that got
discarded. But she had a go on the drums - she could play
a couple of rhythms and beat time. But she wasn't really
into it, she was into horses.
Digger: Did you ever do
weightlifting or something like
that because I have looked at some of the Kinks photos
and all the other guys in the band - they all look a bit,
how can I put this politely? On the skinny side but you
look a bit more muscular. Was that as a result of
the drumming or? ......
Mick: I never did any
bodybuilding or anything like that
but I always used to work hard. In my teens and probably
had a reasonable physique. Then as you get older you get
a bit more flabby - it looks like muscle but
it isn't really ( Laughs )
Digger: I went to see the
Silver Sixties show at the
London Palladium last night - Wayne Fontana, Dave Dee,
Dave Berry and Herman. Wayne Fontana is a really funny
guy - did you ever meet him?
Digger: Was he a sort of
cheeky chappie then?
Mick: Yes, he's a bit of a
Digger: He opened the show and
he was so funny. He got the
whole audience on his side within about thirty seconds,
putting himself down as an old rocker falling
apart at the seams.
Mick: I was talking to Mike
Pender the other day, of
the Searchers. Was he on the show?
Mick: There are two Searchers
groups, but apparently Mike
Pender's Searchers are better than the other one.
The Kinks - Mick, Peter, Ray &
Digger: Who were your
favourites in the sixties
of your contemporaries?
Mick: I liked The Hollies
then, they were the first band
that I enjoyed. 'Cos they were on the Dave Clark tour. It was
the first tour I did when I joined the band and they impressed
me very much. The vocals were very good -
Graham Nash and the boys.
Digger: It was almost like The
Mick: Yeah, and their drummer
was good. Bobby Elliot
is probably one of my favourite drummers.
Digger: What do you look for
in a drummer?
Mick: The thing is -
everyone's got different strengths
and weaknesses - with Bobby it was his phrasing. He really
learned jazz and big band stuff first and he obviously
learned quickly as he was very talented at it. He applied
it to The Hollies stuff and made it sound different from
other rock drummers by the phrasing - it doesn't suit
every group's style. But for The Hollies he really
put some character into their songs.
Digger: I'll have to play my
Hollies album in the next day
or so. What do you think of Carl Wayne replacing
Allan Clarke in The Hollies?
Mick: Yeah, I hear he's very
good. I only know
him from The Move.
Digger: Now they were a band who had a little bit of a
reputation like you guys weren't they, The Move? ......
Mick: Yes........ ( Both laugh
Digger: No comment? "Did
WE have a reputation?"
Mick: Only a good one! I was
going to say, when
you were talking about Jim McCarty.....
Digger: Oh, he's a lovely
Mick: Yeah. I saw him the
other day - he
was at this TV interview.
Digger: ( Laughs ) I've got
this silly vision of some sort of
a waiting room with all you sixties stars sitting in there
waiting to be seen like being at the dentist ...........
Mick: Yeah, there was Mike
Pender and Freddie Garrity
being interviewed. Unfortunately he's got
some sort of a heart problem.
Digger: Oh dear.
Mick: Like I was saying, with
Jim McCarty the other day,
he started in the Boy's Brigade and he's got something
in common with Steve Gadd because he too started in
the Boy's Brigade. One of the world's leading drummers.
So I said "It can' be a bad way to start". And Jim
said "Yes. What happened to you?!"
Digger: ( Laughs ) Can you
tell us about your brief
membership of The Rolling Stones?
Mick: Yeah, well I was never
actually a MEMBER, but
I used to play with this guy whose father was a drummer
and his father was also a chimney sweep and he came round
to sweep our chimney. And he said to my mother "Oh, you've
got a drummer in the house" and she said "Yeah, my son
and I got to know him and he used to get me gigs with his
son. He was about 60 odd at the time. Mick Jagger got
in touch with him, 'cos he used to advertise in one of the
music papers and he was looking for a drummer. And he
said "Well Mick, they're more YOUR age group, they want
a drummer to do this gig with Alexis Korner at The Marquee
in Wardour Street" And I said "Alright, I'll go up and
look" 'cos I had a day job then. I went up and rehearsed with
them and they asked me to come back to do the gig and run
through the stuff. They were doing all Chuck Berry stuff
and I'd not heard of Chuck Berry at that stage.....
Mick: ... And I was talking to
the pianist, who was Ian
Stewart at the time, & he said "We really want someone
permanent in the band". And I said "Well, I just do
work & I've got a day job and don't really want to join a
and so it got left at that and I never actually did that gig
in the end. Then about two years later I picked up a Jazz
News and there was an article in it about Mick Jagger's
new band and I had my name listed with him and I thought
"That's weird" and I looked at the date on the Jazz News
and it was a year old. And by then they were making hits and
I thought "Well, that was rather silly" ( Digger laughs )
and then I thought "Well, it probably wouldn't have worked
out anyhow". 'Cos I was REALLY into jazz at the time
and used to work at the Osterley hotel over at the Great
West road and I had lessons from a jazz drummer and
everything was jazz- didn't know what rock and roll was
then. I used to listen to all the jazz drummers - Art Blaikey
and Max Roach and Joe Morello and Shelly Mann.....
Digger: Did you ever get to
meet any of them?
Mick: Yeah, I met Shelly Mann
and Joe Morello. I've seen
the others a few times, although Art Blaikey's dead now.
And when I was in America in 1965 I met Joe Morello.
I went with Larry Page to see Dave Brubeck. He said
"Come on, we'll go and meet them" and Joe said "What
you doing here?" and I said "Well, we're doing a show here
in The Bowl tomorrow night" and he said "That's too bad,
I'll be out of town and I'd have liked to have seen you".
And I said "Well, don't bother, you won't learn anything!"
( Digger laughs ) So that was my meeting with him. And I
met Shelly Mann, I went down The Mannhole - a club in
Los Angeles, with a note from the record company 'cos he
had the same record company as us. The note told him not
to charge me and to give me a good seat. I went in there
and watched him and it was really great at the time.
Digger: You seem to have a
good memory for detail.
Do you remember a lot about what happened
or is some of it a blur?.....
Mick: Things that happened
longer ago you
seem to remember.
Digger: That's strange, isn't
Mick: Yeah. The short term one
Digger: It seems so difficult for one
that was so young
to take on such a HUGE amount of attention and fame.
How did you cope with that?
Mick: Yeah, it was a bit of a
change for me because I went
from delivering Pink Paraffin one day to the next day
I was on television. The Long Tall Sally record was out and
I went on and mimed to that. They dressed me up in a
'Kinky' suit and my hair cut was very unsuitable
as it was very short.
Digger: Oh, I remember that!
Reading about that in the
biography. What did you think of that by the way?
Mick: Yeah, John Savage did
quite a lot of research -
all the main ingredients were in there.
Digger: How did you first get
recruited into The Kinks and
what were your first impressions of the others?
Mick: Well, I was just 19
coming up to 20.
Digger: An old man!
Mick: Past it by then. The
thing is I took to it because all
the bands around my area they all folded up. Nobody
took it that seriously, went through the skiffle stage and
did a few things at the youth clubs and local halls etc.
Digger: It was just their way of
getting girls, wasn't it?
Mick: Yes. But no-one really
took it that seriously and I
was the same really. Until I got to about 19 & I saw the
groups on TV - The Beatles, The Searchers, The Fourmost
and I thought that I quite liked some of the songs even
though the jazz thing was still in the brain. And I thought
I wouldn't mind having a go as I'd done a little bit of
rock and roll and I quite liked the rhythm and blues, which
to my mind was a mixture of jazz and rock anyway - a
cross-over which I thought I was suited to. So I actually
joined the band as a rhythm and blues drummer - that's
what I advertised myself as. And Robert Wace, one of
The Kinks' managers - I say one because they had THREE,
phoned me up and said "Would you come to an audition?"
And to my absolute surprise they accepted me and my life
changed completely then. Then I did television and chucked
in my job and I went to the Camden Head in Islington for
the audition and we got together and just played a few
songs and that was it. I went back the following evening and
met some of the other people - the agent and Larry Page
and the other manager Grenville Collins.
Digger: What did you think of
Ray and Dave and
Peter when you met them?
Mick: I thought they were sort
of arty poofs!!!
The Kinks - Peter, Mick, Ray & Dave
Digger: ( Both laugh ) But obviously your impressionsRead more at www.retrosellers.com
changed over time.
Mick: Er...... yes.
Digger: But was that because
of the way they behaved or
because they dressed up in a funny way?
Mick: They dressed a bit
non-conformist. And of course
the hair was long and Dave had the flick ups and looked
a bit effeminate. Pete Quaife used to mince around and camp
it up. I wasn't used to that and I thought they were a
bit on the A/C-D/C side.
Digger: But nothing compared to what
they were doing in
the eighties with Duran Duran an so on
Mick: And the seventies
glamour stuff. No, it was just
the way they were really. Dressed like that - I mean, the
guys I was used to were on building sites and
weren't anything like that.
Digger: So what would you say
your musical influences
were? You've covered a few already.
Mick: I got influenced by
other bands that
were our contemporaries.
Digger: You mentioned The
What was special about them?
Mick: I didn't follow them as
such but they were a band
I admired from watching them on the television. I remember
liking Needles And Pins too. So when I was put in a similar
situation we had to be different but there were still
similarities between the bands and you'd get ideas off of
different drummers. Little licks etc. that you wouldn't think
of yourself, or your interpretation of it. You learn a lot
by looking at other people. No matter what you learn
from lessons you can't really beat going out and doing
it and applying what you do at home.
to Part two of the conversation