Living on a Thin Line – The depth of #TheKinks on full display. #MusicisLife #TedTocksCovers #DaveDavies #TheSopranos #GhostLight

The riff machine. Svengali hooks. There is but one Dave Davies.”

Dave Davies – Website

Dave Davies celebrates his 74th birthday today. When you consider the fact that he has been around since the early days of the British Invasion, 74 seems young.

When it comes to guitarists who master the art of riff rock, few will ever rival the innovation of Dave Davies. The list of hits by The Kinks were based on Dave Davies guitar work and his older brother Ray Davies’s vision and socially astute lyrical observations.

Before we make this very general observation and move on, I need to be very clear. The Kinks have always been way more than a ‘rock and roll riff band’, and Dave Davies is more than the guitar lick accompaniment to his older brother’s lyrics. Today’s feature song is a primary example of Dave Davies at his finest as a guitarist and as a lyricist.

I have loved ‘Living on a Thin Line’ since the days I first heard it back in high school in late 1984. I had seen The Kinks live for the first time in 1983 during their ‘State of Confusion’ tour. I will forever say that it was the most fun I have ever had at a concert. The Kinks are superlative performers. Ray Davies could lead an audience like the conductor of a symphony and Dave; well I think he could play guitar ‘all day and all of the night’. When The Kinks returned to Maple Leaf Gardens in March of 1985, I was right there. In the front row. What a treat. I was standing right in front of Dave Davies and a little over to my right was Ray. A very fond concert memory.

For Dave Davies ‘Living on a Thin Line’ represented a widely held sentiment in England at the time. He felt that the country was walking the razors edge between its glorious past and outright social, cultural and political collapse. He was not a fan of the direction, and the concern poured out in the words to this song. It is melancholic in a sense but through the longing the song delivers its purpose. The pure magic of the song was apparent in the studio version shared at the outset of this post, but seeing it performed live gives the listener the opportunity to watch what amounted to a conversation between Dave and Ray Davies…Again…magical.

Does it matter much, does it matter much to you?
Does it ever really matter?
Yes, it really, really matters.”

Dave Davies

Few bands will ever match the pure honesty and raw power of The Kinks. Just a legendary act.

Here are the complete lyrics to ‘Living on a Thin Line’.

All the stories have been told
Of kings and days of old
But there’s no England now

All the wars that were won and lost
Somehow don’t seem to matter very much anymore
All the lies we were told
All the lies of the people running round
Their castles have burned
Now I see change
But inside we’re the same as we ever were

Living on a thin line
Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?
Living on a thin line
Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?
Living on a thin line
Living this way, each day is a dream
What am I, what are we supposed to do?
Living on a thin line
Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?

Now another century nearly gone
What are we gonna leave for the young?
What we couldn’t do, what we wouldn’t do
It’s a crime, but does it matter?
Does it matter much, does it matter much to you?
Does it ever really matter?
Yes, it really, really matters

Living on a thin line
Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?
Living on a thin line
Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?

Now another leader says
Break their hearts and break some heads
Is there nothing we can say or do?
Blame the future on the past
Always lost in blood and guts
And when they’re gone, it’s me and you

Living on a thin line
Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?
Living on a thin line
Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?
Living on a thin line

Dave Davies

Fans of The Kinks will certainly know what I am talking about while referencing my contentions above. Through the years ‘Living on a Thin Line’ has become a bit of an underdog fan favourite. Part of the songs success is owed to a rather unlikely association to the famous HBO series ‘The Sopranos’ and an episode titled ‘University’. The closing credits of the show played ‘Living on a Thin Line’ while a ‘hit’ was being perpetrated on screen. According to the show’s producer Terence Winter, ‘Living on a Thin Line’ is the most asked about song when he discusses the acclaimed series and its overall production. Here is a composite video. It is graphic.

While researching some basic elements of this post I discovered an interesting cover version that became even more intriguing as I dug deeper. This is a great version by a band called Ghost Light. Take a listen. They take the basic song and manage to extend it into a unique ten minute jam.

I was captivated by the presentation, so I had to learn more. This is where it gets really cool. Ghost Light is a five piece jam band out of Philadelphia. Two of Ghost Light’s founding members are Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling. Hamilton is best known as a guitarist and vocalist for the acclaimed Joe Russo’s Almost Dead; a phenomenal Grateful Dead tribute act. He has also played with Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and his project known as Billy and the Kids. Holly is an infinitely talented pianist who has transcribed the music of the Grateful Dead and Phish in order to perform countless covers of these iconic acts. I could go on forever, but it you want to spend the day with an endless array of talented musicians and songs, please check out Ghost Light and the work of the five gifted musicians that make up this band. There is a lot to discover here.

Bringing it all full circle, it strikes me that way back in 1964 when Ray and Dave Davies formed the longest serving core of The Kinks with drummer Mick Avory they had no idea how influential they would become and how vast their musical presentation would range. Here is a list of Ted Tocks Covers posts where The Kinks have been featured:

You Really Got Me

Lola

Sunny Afternoon

Stop Your Sobbing

Celluloid Heroes

Hello, I Love You

Father Christmas

From where I sit, I believe today’s song and the list above speaks to the fact that The Kinks music has never had any pretense. This makes it purely accessible to everyone. Once the songs register, they can then be interpreted in so many ways. That is what has become The Kinks legend; and it is still celebrated to this day.

Rock bands will come, and rock bands will go, but The Kinks will go on forever…

2 thoughts on “Living on a Thin Line – The depth of #TheKinks on full display. #MusicisLife #TedTocksCovers #DaveDavies #TheSopranos #GhostLight

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