Mick Avory of The Kinks - part two
Mick Avory of The Kinks
Digger: Plagiarism is one of
the big things in music.
Mick: Certainly the jazz stuff
I'd learned up until that
point I had to change ideas but I still played it a jazzy
way. I wasn't rigid - I was still loose and they used a
lot of double rolls which rock and roll drummers never did.
I used to use a lot of double stick stuff.
Digger: Would the others in
the band have a
go at you about this?
Mick: Initially, they didn't
think I was loud enough, which
I wasn't. When they got into the more raunchy stuff and
we were in bigger halls we didn't get miked-up so it all
had to come from the stage. Then the amplification got
bigger but you still had the same drum kit so you had
to hit it harder. That for me was difficult because I played
in a light jazz style and I didn't want to go ( imitates the
sound ) "Boom ka boom". I don't want to do just that two
and four in the bar. Too ordinary. But you quickly learn
that you've gotta do that because it's the nature
of the music and it fits in.
Digger: Ironic then, because
when you listen to the early
stuff, that's the first thing that you notice
- your driving beat.
Mick: Yeah, well the first one
I wasn't on anyway.
I'm thinking of Till The End Of The Day
and All Day And All Of The Night.
Mick: Bobby Graham was on the
first couple. 'Cos they
used to have a producer then who used session musicians
before I joined and carried on for a while after I joined.
Digger: Was that trick of
getting somebody else to do it
in the studio to get the certain sound they wanted?
Mick: Yeah. The producer was
the king then and you had
to do what you were told. Bobby was more of a jazz
drummer - he still plays now and it's jazz stuff but he
was more solid then and obviously more experienced.
Digger: One of the fans on the
forums has asked me to ask
you do you recall two early Kinks songs titled Don't Ever
Let Me Go and I Don't Need You Anymore?
Mick: Er ..................
Digger: 1964. It would have
been you, wouldn't it?
Mick: I remember one called I
not The Beatles' one?
Digger: Can you tell us about
session musicians who played
on Kinks tracks? There's the famous story that
Jimmy Page played on some.
Mick: Yeah, he played rhythm
guitar on some. It was a mixture
of me and Bobby Graham on the first album. Some I'm aware
of and some not but I remember he came along to a
couple of session I was on. I can't remember
what tracks exactly though.
Digger: What's your personal
period in Kinks history?
Mick: I like the seventies
because - no disrespect to
Pete Quaife, but John Dalton joined and he was more on
my level and I could relate to him a lot easier. And he was
in the band from about '68 onwards really. He joined
before that briefly - Pete left for six months in '66
because he had an accident and broke his foot, but I don't
know what that had to do with him leaving. And then he
wanted to come back six month's later so they ousted
John Dalton, which I didn't like and brought Pete back in.
And then by 1968 he was off again and so they asked
me to get John Dalton back and he came
back until - '76 I think he left.
Digger: Were you all aware of
the group's image problems at
the start of your career and what did you all do to
try and get an image and a following?
Mick: I don't think
it was ever a PROBLEM with us, it just
sorted itself out. You know it was apparent that
everyone used to think of us as more the Dickensian
characters, you know. Like old English characters and
thus we got the Kinky suits made to begin with which
included little hats which could have looked like something
out of the Dickens era. And then, after that, we came up
with the hunting jacket idea.
Didn't steal that from Don?
Mick: No, he had the
He was a bloody gamekeeper!
Digger: I've seen some photos
of Don's band from around
that time and I'm wondering - the only thing that seems
to be different between you and The Downliners getting
a kick-start was that you guys were writing your own
material. Would you agree with that?
Mick: Yeah. Yeah I think we
started off as everyone did
doing covers and then gradually Ray was - I mean I didn't
know Ray wrote when I first joined. But I asked Dave
and he said "I do a bit of writing but Ray's a prolific
writer". And he said they'd already made Do You Still
Want Me? which was a Ray original. And when they
did the b-side of Long Tall Sally that was one of Ray's.
So he was writing quite well by then and then it really
developed and we did all the groundwork and that
then seemed to be the obvious way forward, especially
as by then Dave had his guitar sound that he applied to it.
It just all fitted like a glove - the sound and the song itself.
The Kinks - Peter,
Mick, Dave & Ray
Digger: It was SO creative
then because you had so many
different strands going on. You had the American stuff
coming through too, the Tamla, Bob Dylan, folk rock,
The Beach Boys and then all the different styles over here.
Mick: Yes, it was very fertile
then. It's funny, when things
kick off like that it all snowballs and things get better
and all the bands start writing and it's amazing
what they come up with.
Digger: Do you think we've had
the sixties like that?
Mick: Not that big for so
long. We've got guitar bands now
but they've not generally lasted any length of time, have
they? They're limited in what their output is. I mean
Oasis - they haven't really got any different stuff now
to that they did when they started.
No, and even that was inspired by The Beatles and
a copy of stuff we'd heard in the sixties..............
Would you agree that in some ways you were prototype
punks - not going with the flow and doing your own
thing musically and image-wise?
Mick: Yeah, from an aggression
point of view - mainly
that probably comes from Dave and his guitar sound.
That was very to the point and aggressive-sounding.
Digger: Speaking of aggression
- there was that famous
argy-bargy that used to go on between the brothers.
Mick: Yeah, and that as well
but that is fairly
normal with brothers .....
Digger: Sibling rivalry?.....
Mick: Yeah, particularly in
that sort of business. I mean,
not all brothers work together but even when they do
it's not in the public eye and going up on stage. It's
very competitive because you're trying to do something
together yet competing as well.
Digger: Stressful. You're
living together really aren't you?
24 hours a day on tour for months on end.
It must be really stressful.
Mick: Yeah. Oh yeah, you have
to try and respect each
other's peculiarities as well. People have got touchy points
and you can fire someone up really quickly.
sometimes you want to do that to get a release.
You're youngsters and you're going to wind each other up.
Mick: Yes. But it was
difficult with them because they
were the major part of the band and they could be very
touchy and temperamental at times and you didn't
like to upset them.
Digger: Did that ever upset
you that they were prominent
and you were less so? Or were you happy
for it to be that way?
Mick: Well, it's just the way
you are. I knew it couldn't
have worked with anyone who was too much like them,
it would have been fighting all the time. They needed
someone fairly mellow and laid back really -
a combination that worked rather well.
Digger: The sum of the parts.
Mick: Yeah, that's it. Once
you've made a name and the
group and the faces go together you're associated as the
way you look - it's all a package thing as well as the music.
Digger: How would you rate the
musicians and songwriters?
Mick: Just a minute! I haven't
got to that bit yet.
carry on with your notes. Don't mind me.
Mick: I just don't want to
miss the little things
I've jotted down that I might miss out.
Digger: The trouble is I've
got so many questions to ask,
I don't want to keep throwing them at you.
Mick: Ray and Dave they're
really individual people.
They obviously get ideas from life and from things they've
seen and heard. They're about as individual as you could
probably get. Like to set trends rather than follow them
and even though they've got really different styles they
complement each other as well, they're good as singers
and musicians. They may not have made it on their own,
but together they get a strength and it blends.
Digger: They had a completely
background, really. What made them like that?
It's odd isn't it?
Mick: Yeah, I think it's
because they were from a
working-class background and in those times you
didn't really have much to entertain you. There was a
resurgence in skiffle and what have you, the records
were coming over from the States and the beginnings
of the black music - the blues that people hadn't heard
before. So it was all that influence that got them going.
You know, you're very enthusiastic about things
when you're that age, as well.
Digger: Can you be subjective
about what it was that YOU
were involved in and the affect that you had on so many
millions and millions of people around the world?
Or is it still difficult because you WERE involved?
Mick: No, there's a natural
digression from it really.
Your thoughts fade with the popularity and when you've
got out of it you don't think of it as entertaining
the world and the masses. It's just like a bygone
era or a previous life now.
Laughs ) Do you think that's the case?
You don't think that like the classical
composers are revered?.......
Mick: Yes, we'll go down in
rock and roll history -
it won't go away, but I don't think of it in those terms.
Digger: I think you should.
There are a couple of bands,
The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, who are at the top -
sort of rock royalty or first division, and then
The Kinks, The Animals, The Who, The Yardbirds
and so on in the court of rock royalty.
Mick: Oh yeah, when you think
about it and analyse it
then that's certainly true but I always put it down to
Ray and Dave and I didn't really include myself on that
level. But I put some contribution to it in my own way.
But they probably could have done it just as well with
someone else. But as I say, it's not just the drumming -
you also had to be a particular type of person to
be able to work with them.
Digger: Ginger Baker wouldn't
too well in there, would he?!
Mick: No, he wouldn't at all.
He would have hit Dave on
the first day of meeting and probably have killed him!
Digger: You did hit Dave once,
but we won't talk about
that?!!! Or did he 'jump onto' your drum kit?
Mick: An ongoing argument from
the night before.
Dave used to flare up, both the brothers were
apt to and you had to be on your guard.
That's what you often get with a
creative person, isn't it?
Mick: Yes, you had to watch
what you said and eat
humble pie. And sometimes when it goes too far you
just snap. That's basically what happened.
You should sometimes nip it in the bud.
Digger: What's your
relationship like today?
Mick: Actually, it's quite
good. I never see
him now ( laughs ).
Digger: If you did happen
Mick: We don't look at each
other's bad points so
we're quite friendly really. I don't have to deal with them
or work with them these days so it's easier to
get along. We're pretty friendly.
Digger: Can you describe each
of the band members,
including yourself, in a sentence each?
Mick: I would just say 'a
bunch of misfits'.
Laughs ) A pretty powerful force in rock
and roll for being a bunch of misfits.
Mick: That goes for all of us.
to each other somehow.
somehow it gelled.
were exiled from America until the late
sixties due to a dispute but in the seventies America
took you under its wing. What are the differences in
musical appreciation between the British and
Mick: I didn't really see any
BIG difference, 'cos when
we first went over there we had all the mass hysteria
and girls screaming. It was the same here as it was there.
But over there they were a bit slow coming in to the Beatle
era and their fashions. I think that took them by surprise
- the way we looked rather than the way we sounded. 'Cos
they still had the chewing gum and the crew cuts. When we
first went over there, a gang with long hair and looking -
in their eyes a bit shabby and very English,
it must have seemed strange.
were probably saying what you'd been saying
from your 'building site' background a few months earlier.
Mick: Yes. They couldn't come
to terms with it - if you
had long hair you must be some sort of woman
dressed-up as a bloke
Read more at www.retrosellers.com
why did the Americans take to such
a very English musical phenomenon?
Mick: I think they always
have. Anything English they really
like, 'cos they haven't got much of their own cultural
history they revert back to their ancestors, be
it English, Scottish or Irish.
though we were taking coals to Newcastle
and playing rock and roll and rhythm and blues to them?
Mick: We did it in our own
way, you see. Anglicised it.
So they liked that - the English expressions in the
songs and not American ones.
you meeting up with American acts like
Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Lovin' Spoonful?
Mick: No, when we first went
there Bob Dylan was very
popular but I never met him. But on our first tour we
were with Sonny and Cher, Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs
and The Hollywood Argyles and The Righteous Brothers.
always seemed to throw strange mixtures
together in those days. I think The Beatles were touring
with Helen Shapiro and I believe that The Creation
appeared with David Garrick who was like a balladeer.
Mick: Our manager used to
manage David Garrick.
would you sum-up your sixties? And I'm
talking about the 1960s now, I'm not
being insulting! ( Laughs )
Mick: My sixties? I'm nearly
there!!!! I'd sum them
up as 'The agony and the ecstasy'.
good. Very literary as well!
would you describe as your heroes?
In any sphere - music, film, whatever.
Mick: Oliver Reed was one of
my film heroes of the
sixties. He's very English and very sixties.
also a rebel as well, so you've obviously got
this thing about rebels even though you
claim to be a quiet one.
Mick: Yes. I quite liked the
way he used to present
himself apart from when he got too drunk.
you on the Internet?
Mick: I haven't even got a
surprised, as a lot of the guys from the
sixties music scene seem to like communicating that way.
Mick: Yeah, it's just that I
haven't got round to it
yet - there's too many other things.
somebody to do it for you. Just come back
from a tour and have it already installed.
Mick: It's not one of the
priorities when you're trying to
run a house. And I'm not THAT mad on technology.
else apart from Oliver Reed then?
Mick: Terence Stamp I always
thought was very sixties
even though he wasn't my favourite actor. It's just that he
paints a picture of the sixties. And also I used to see him
down the steam bath. And Michael Caine was one of my
favourites. And still is.
Mick: Julie Christie, Rita
done. This is why you need to get a computer
'cos then you can see my site which has
got all of these people on it.
Mick: Yeah, it reminds you
doesn't it? And from the bands,
The Hollies and Joe Cocker, Van Morrison, Stevie Ray
Vaughan, Tony Joe White, John Mayall, Santana.
Santana have you got?
Mick: I've only got them on
vinyl, but unfortunately
I can't play them at the moment.
idea of a stella rock musician
who can't play music!
Mick: Can't play vinyl! I
don't play that many tracks now.
If I get fed up with the TV then I put a CD on.
Get a new one occasionally.
you still drumming every day?
Mick: I play most days or do
something just to work on
little things. More usually a few loosening-up exercises.
Mick: No, I'm not a
writer. If I played the piano or the
guitar I might have a bash at it. But I'm not
really that musical, to be honest.
Drummer Jim McCarty does write
stuff and sings as well.
Mick: Yes, but he plays a
bit of keyboards, doesn't he?
instruments do you play,
apart from the drums?
Mick: I only ever played
the mouth organ. Bluebells of
Scotland - my grandfather bought me a mouth organ
when I was eight years old and I taught myself to
play it the wrong way round. I had the bass notes
down the right-hand side.
had a 50/50 chance but there
were no instructions with it!
Mick: I learnt later that
SonnyTerry played it that way.
you go, you were obviously
playing Sonny Terry style.
Mick: I'm cack-handed,
that's all. ( Digger laughs )
do you listen to these days?
Mick: I've still got Joe
Cocker stuff, but a lot of the time
I just play stuff that I've got to learn.
I'm going away to Germany soon ....
Digger: I was
going to ask about your current and
future projects. What have you got lined-up?
Mick: It's all fairly
low-profile stuff. I haven't got
any big events coming up. I've got this tour that we're
sharing with a bloke called Damien McCabe, who runs
between being a blues and a soul artist. And he's like
a mad Irishman that sings. And I got tangled-up with him
through Brian Knight, so I do a bit of each and we're going
away together so we'll do Brian's stuff and Damien's stuff.
I haven't got the dates through yet.
They're still very big on the sixties and
seventies stuff in Germany aren't they?
Mick: Yes. There's plenty
of work out there, but I don't
normally go. I've been to Holland a couple of times and a
few years ago I did some work with a bloke called Billy
O'Hare, in Holland. Only little cafes and clubs. Just to
keep my hand in, really, just in case I ever have to do
something important. But I still like doing it.
you still like to do something 'important'?
Mick: I wouldn't mind now
and again in short spurts.
I wouldn't like to do it where you've got to think about
it 24 hours a day. Like being in The Kinks, you're there
and available all of the time, thinking that I might get
called in to do something. 'Cos you never knew with Ray.
He'd get a whim in his head, pick up the phone and everyone
would have to be there. You'd feel like you were on
a hook sometimes. So I wouldn't like THAT - I don't mind
if it's organised and it's like "Don't arrange anything
for May, 'cos this is going to happen". Then I'm okay with it.
If it's sprung on you - The Kinks were always like
that and I hated that really.
you couldn't really have a family
and a home in those days?
Mick: No, you were always
on tender hooks if you
arranged things away from the group. That it might
clash with something.
The Kinks ever appear in a movie?
was that, because all the other
bands were doing it?
Mick: Oh, the thing is we
used to have these things
lined-up to do, like the concept albums and all that stuff.
But it would always fizzle out and never come to fruition.
A lot to do with it was that Ray didn't like to delegate
things to the managers or anybody else - he liked to
do it all himself. And because he's so cautious he has to
go into every loophole and it takes so long that in the end
it's an idea not worth bothering with. Or you lose the
chance and the right time has gone.
Kinks albums best represent
the sixties for you?
Mick: I'd say Village
Green and Arthur.
would you say the best songwriters
and musicians were of the sixties?
Mick: I'll have to look
at my notes now....
Obviously, Bob Dylan.....
odd that most of his best stuff was
recorded successfully by other artists.
Mick: Yeah, a lot of his
stuff I prefer by other people.
But he had a great and different way of writing ..........
John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Graham Gouldman's
writing was marvellous, Eric Clapton and Elton John.
Ray be in there?
Mick: And Ray. Yes, of
course, I'd HAVE TO put Ray.
I thought you meant apart from Ray.
about drummers? Who would you class
as the best drummers of the sixties, apart from yourself?
can be humble, but the fact is that you
had to adapt and you did it.
Mick: Yes, what I HAD to
do was adapt. The drummers then,
I'd say Bobby Elliot, John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell.
American drummers I used to like, but I didn't know
a lot of their names. I always thought they had
a better teaching method and their technique was
always superior to the British. They had a proper sort
of grooming. And I liked the jazz drummers that I've
already mentioned. But rock and roll, I never really got
into rock and roll drummers until I joined The Kinks.
Oh, and Bobby Graham was a good session player.
would you rate Charlie ? ( Watts )
Mick: Charlie - he came from a
jazz background really.
I mean, he was great for The Stones but he's not
someone who, if he was going to conduct a clinic then
I'd go and watch that. He's good in the sense that he's
good with them. And the same with Ringo, they were all
good at what they did because you get good
at what you do eventually.
Stewart was saying that he thought
Ringo was very underrated.
Mick: Yeah, live I saw
him on two or three occasions and
I thought he was good. And he fitted in perfectly
and he made the band swing along.
you brush shoulders with
The Beatles very much?
Mick: We did a show in
Blackpool with them and we
did the NME poll winners concert at Wembley.
you ever frequent The Ad-Lib
and meet up with people there?
Mick: No, occasionally
went to The Scotch of St. James
but The Bag O' Nails and The Speakeasy were my 'haunts'.
you did like clubbing? You weren't in
bed by 11 with you Horlicks?
Mick: ( Laughs ) No! But
I lived in Molsey for some of
that period so it was awkward getting up and down
But we could drink and drive then, so it didn't matter.
Digger: What achievements are you most proud of?
Mick: Well, all of my
achievements have been with
The Kinks, really. I'm quite proud that we eventually
conquered the States after a bad start. 'Cos we got banned
for three years and we didn't go back until 1969, in fact.
So I'm proud that we went back there and did a lot of
work there and got back in the big places.
it wasn't on the back of the British Invasion.
It was in your own right.
Mick: Yes, it took a long
would you still like to do?
Mick: I still like
playing and that's all I really know.
I can't suddenly change my job.
in terms of having a best-selling album or
getting involved in a HUGE new group
or starting a studio or....
Mick: Yeah, done all
those things! ( Digger laughs )
I'd like to get my handicap down at golf.
It's too high at forty.
that one of your big passions?
Mick: Yes, I don't play
that much because the weather's
not that accommodating, but I'm a member of Ealing golf
club and play there when I'm free.
you playing with other celebs?
Mick: No, it's not a
show-biz thing, I'm just a member of
an ordinary club. I could join one of these show-biz
societies where they have meetings and charity matches.
I've played at some of them, pro-ams .....
they're alright some of them.
a bit of a 'Brucie and Tarby'
type thing though, isn't it? ( Bruce Forsythe and Jimmy
Tarbuck, two British comics who are golf-mad )
Mick: Yes, and it's not
it doesn't sound like you, somehow.
Mick: I've got a bunch of
mates and I play in
you got many mates from
'before you were famous'?
Mick: I moved out of my
old area so i don't see them.
The one I used to see the most from that area died
about five or six years ago and I've lost touch with
the others. But I've made new friends through golf.
are your biggest friends from
within the music business?
Mick: Oh, just the people
I work with, really. I don't
see anyone often enough from the sixties crowd.
I used to be friendly with The Hollies.
from when you all meet-up
at these TV documentaries.....
Mick: Yeah, I haven't
seen Mike Pinder for 38 years.
Digger: Is it
a shock when you meet these people?
Mick: Sometimes. He looks
quite good. Pretty much how
you would expect - he's not overweight and he hasn't
lost all of his hair. His face looks pretty
good and he's recognisable!
Phillips from The Nashville Teens.
He's another that looks younger than he did then.
He's working for the McClaren racing team now.
Mick: You have to have money
to get into that.
You've had some money in your time.
Mick: I don't know where
it all went. ( Digger Laughs)
Digger: I was
talking to Hilton Valentine
about three weeks ago....
Mick: Jim Rodford works
with him now, you know? The
agent phoned me up and they were looking for a bass player
for The Animals. And I said "Well, why are you phoning
me?!! I'll take the drumming job if there's one going" And
he said "No, I'm phoning you to see if you could get us the
old Kinks Bass player". They were talking about Pete Quaife.
And I told them that he now lives in Ontario and he's got a
kidney condition. I said if they wanted an ex-Kinks bass
player then try Jim Rodford, 'cos he's only in 23 other
bands!!!! ( Digger laughs ) So we phoned him up and got
them together and he's doing it now.
be a very complicated contract he's got then?
Mick: Yeah, he just does
anything that's thrown at him.
But he never refuse a gig, Jim! Never know him say "No,
I can't fit that in". He'll say yes until he really
knows he can't do it.
that goes back to the
days when he was struggling?..........
Thanks Mick. You've been very easy to talk
to. Some great information and I hope it hasn't been
too boring for you. I get 15,000+ people coming in
to the site a month and most of them are sixties devotees.
You want to get yourself a computer so that you
can keep up with all this.
Mick: I'll have to get
one soon or I'll get left behind.
you need any help or advice, you know where
I am. And if you want your projects or gigs mentioned
on my site I'm only too happy to do so.
Mick: Okay thanks.
Thanks very much.
Mick: Cheers then. Bye.
Many thanks to Mick for the interview
and Many thanks to Don Craine
putting me in touch with Mick