I went from being a DJ at a classic rock station, to being a writer. One of the first editors I had had to keep reminded me that when I talk about bands, others won’t know the songs or musicians the way I do. So before I start this story on my quest to get all of The Kinks signatures, here’s a list of their songs that you might know: Lola, You Really Got Me, Tired of Waiting, All Day and All the Night, Destroyer, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Sunny Afternoon, Come Dancing, Till the End of the Day, Don’t Forget to Dance, Living on a Thin Line, and the funniest Christmas song ever – Father Christmas.
They’re one of those ‘60s bands I love (and they’re now also in their 60s!)
The first time I got an autograph from a member of the group was about 20 years ago. Guitarist Dave Davies was at a small club, and he signed an album as he was leaving the venue (it’s a very sloppy D.D. that he usually does).
Of course, the album wasn’t complete without his brother – singer and perhaps greatest songwriter ever -- Ray Davies.
I had no idea that when I was in New Orleans for an event (and hanging out with Jim Belushi, who was at the party), that right around the corner would be Ray Davies. Yet I didn’t have any of my Kinks stuff with me. I still ran around looking for him, because I wanted to say hello. I never found him, but somebody with a gun did. They tried to take the purse of the woman that he was with. He gave chase and was shot. Yikes! I immediately thought of The Kinks song (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman.
A few years later, he played a venue in San Diego that’s perfect for autographs. There’s a coffee shop next to the backstage area, so I bought a bunch of pastries, some hot cocoa, and waited (so tired, tired of waiting…tired of waiting for youuuuu).
Oh, there was something else I did in preparation. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. SHOW THE ARTIST YOU ARE A FAN! The number one thing that kills autograph signing for these people is if they peg you as an autograph dealer that’s going to run to eBay. I saw Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull turn people down mentioning eBay, and so many others.
The last time I got turned down when I shouldn’t have, was Don Felder of The Eagles. This is the guy that wrote Hotel California. I have a Hotel California tour shirt, but couldn’t find it. So what happens outside the House of Blues? He sees me standing there, with two other fans, and says “I’m not signing now. I’ll sign before the show.”
The weirdest thing was walking 8 blocks to my car, and seeing him inside the taxi at each stop light. I was tempted to walk up and say “Come on, the light is red. Just sign!”
Even more frustrating is the albums were signed by a few of the other band members. Nothing more painful and incomplete than looking at those and being so close (side note: my friend that went to the show that night said he did sign for the 10 fans before he went in. At least he didn’t lie).
But this is about Kinks, not Eagles! It’s amazing to me that The Eagles are so much more popular, and not nearly as good.
Ray Davies had a record come out weeks earlier. I went and plopped down $20 for the new CD. I wore my Kinks shirt, and made sure HIS BRAND NEW SOLO CD was the first one on my stack.
He got out of the town car, I called him over, and he was super sweet. He signed that CD, as well as two Kinks CDs, and two Kinks albums (I had more, but they stayed at home; really…don’t ever go for too many; that turns them off, too). I told him I loved the album cover of Give the People What They Want (he’s running on it, after spray painting a wall). He said “I was running then, and haven’t stopped yet.”
The best moment was me telling Ray I loved the song Waterloo Sunset and how it was among one of the best ballads ever written. He smiled and said I was too young to know the song. I told him to play it that night. He said it wasn’t on their set list but he’d try. And he did! The funniest thing was the next night at his show in L.A. I wasn’t there (I’m not that much of a fan), but a review of the concert stated “It’s a shame that Ray Davies didn’t play Waterloo Sunset, when he performed it the night before in San Diego.”
Yep. Because of me!! Hahahahah. But back to the autographs.
So, I had an album signed by Dave and Ray Davies. I then looked up the rest of the band members. Turns out bassist Peter Quaife was writing childrens books in Canada. I contacted him, and we had many great conversations over the internet. He told me he was going to travel for a few months and when he got back I could send him the items I wanted signed.
Here’s the problem with that. I once sent a photo to actress Kathy Moriarty. It was signed by Robert De Niro, and was from one of the best movies of the 80s – Raging Bull. It never got sent back to me, and I learned a very valuable lesson. Do not send anything in the mail that you might not get back. That means – forget about trying to complete your American Graffiti or Woodstock album, or sending that team photo to one of the Dodgers. And I’ve told this story before, but I’ll tell it again. When I was waiting for an autograph from Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), a collector from L.A. told me about how he sent an 8x10 photo to Yogi Berra. What he got in return was an all-star team photo, and it was not only signed by Yogi Berra, but 20 other Hall of Famers. He realized…somebody that sent that picture must’ve got his 8x10 of Berra, while he got this all-star photo – now worth thousands, as compared to his $50 Berra photo (not that values should matter – we’re fans, right? We aren’t selling this stuff).
So, the point being – had I worn my Hotel California, Felder would’ve signed. He wrote that friggin’ song, how could he not? Had I not sent that photo in the mail, I’d have a cool Robert De Niro photo. And because I wore the shirt, bought the new CD, I got Ray Davies signature.
I wasn’t about to risk sending these items to their original bass player, and possibly never get them back. Especially sending them to another country.
Then on June 26, 2010 – he died! Liver failure. So that opportunity was lost.
I did get another long-time bassist for The Kinks – Jim Rodford. He signed one of my CDs and albums, when he was touring with Argent (Rod Argent and their singer, Colin Burnstone, are great signers and have great stories to tell).
My friend tried talking me into going to a show an hour north (San Juan Capistrano, the Coachhouse). I didn’t go, since he’d be playing in San Diego at the County Fair a few days later. My buddy told me he had a female manager working the merch booth. She was being very friendly, and he asked if Dave would come out and sign after the show. She said “You never know, just stick around and see.”
He told her “I’m a teacher and work early in the morning, and have to drive an hour and a half to get home. I don’t want to stick around if he’s not a good signer.”
She merely smiled.
After the show, he waited for 45 minutes. He finally came out of his dressing room, and as he approached my friend and five others waiting, she stepped between them saying “He’s not going to sign, get out of here!” She kept doing this, even as Dave was trying to reach for pens. Nobody got a signature. I figured I’d be s*** out of luck in a few days.
The concert was great, even though you could tell the stroke affected his vocals a bit.
I only brought one album, and as I approached him when he got off the stage, that women left her area at the merch booth and grabbed his arm. She told us to “Get out of here!!!” He waved, and gave us the thumbs up. A guy next to me was bummed. He had a program from decades earlier when The Kinks played at SDSU that was also signed by Ray Davies.
The few other fans that wanted autographs walked away angry. I told this guy “Let’s go run over there.”
We ran around the other side of this building, and sure enough – he and the rest of the band came out. I asked for an autograph, and the woman yelled at him “Do not sign for that guy!” She was pointing directly at me. I had no clue what that was all about. During his concert, she was running through the crowd sticking her hand in front of any camera that was taking a photo. One time she said “This is copyright infringement. Stop shooting!”
What does she think a person can do with the photo of a 66-year-old guitarist from a band most people under 25 don’t even know?
I wasn’t taking any photos, but she probably just hated the fact that I was standing around with an album in my hand (also a big no-no…draws too much attention to yourself).
I finally ran down this long corridor. I felt silly, as they could see me running through the chain link fence. I got to the bottom, and was pointing at my Kinks shirt. I said “Come on, Dave. I’m a huge fan, even wore my shirt.”
He started to reach for the pen, and she’s grabbing his arm with all her might telling him not to sign. I pleaded “It’s just not complete without Ray and Jim.”
He said “I’ll sign for this guy.” She yelled (as two other people approached, including the guy with the program), “Only sign one for this guy, and that’s it.”
The guy with the program kept begging, and he eventually got it signed, but she started pushing the other few fans away, and they didn’t get an autograph. It was all so bizarre.
I went on to his website that night and midnight and looked – yep. Just as I suspected. They sell autographed DVDs and CDs there (some were $28, and one DVD and CD combo were $24, but said “while supplies last” regarding the signed copies). Perhaps she figured him signing in person would cut down on what fans buy online. Either way, it’s really bad form. It’s one thing if there are 200 fans and you’re going to stand there all night when you’d prefer going back to the hotel and chilling or grabbing dinner. But when there are a few people, you sign the autographs, listen to the same stories you’ve heard from fans a million times, and everybody thanks everybody else.
I sent a message to him on the website that it makes bad business sense, and I’d never buy any product Dave Davies sells ever again. That could be music, a concert ticket, T-shirts. I hope you all do the same, but if you’re a hardcore fan and there’s no other way for you to get a signed item – go check out his website.
Stay tuned next week, when I tell you about how I chased down all The Rolling Stones!
(that’s what we call in this business “a tease.” It’s also…uh…complete BS).