When The Kinks were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ray Davies was introduced as rock’s most “literate, witty and insightful songwriter.” Signs of this intelligence could be detected from their earliest hits. Today’s feature is ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ which exists as an example of Davies’ primary song writing expolits. In this case, circumstances resulted in the unveiling taking a little bit of time, but to the world of music, it was worth the wait.
You can call it teen angst if you wish. The essence of ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ was written by Ray Davies while he was a 15 year old student at Hornsey School of Art in London. He combined the classic rock and roll theme of boy meets girl and the frustration of unrequited love. As we all know, the direction of The Kinks self-titled debut album moved toward a raw, riff oriented style (see ‘You Really Got Me’ and ‘All Day and All of the Night’) so ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ was left on the shelf.
During the British Invasion, a band was only as good as their latest hit and the cycle of songs left both the buying public and the musicians churning out the creativity dizzy in an effort to keep up. Only the finest bands were able to succeed over time and clearly The Kinks reside among the finest this era had to offer. Right up there with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who if you want to list a Big Four. An argument could be made that The Kinks were the most authentic of this quartet of acts, but the price of being genuine for this band was literally, being banned in the United States for a period of time (see ‘Where Have All the Good Times Gone’).
After the success of ‘The Kinks’ the band’s producer Shel Talmy, was looking to Davies for a follow up. The prolific songwriter was stuck for ideas. He wanted to avoid being predictable. It was at this point that he recalled the premise of ‘Tired of Waiting for You’. Day one of the recording involved Ray Davies improvising the words while the rest of the band recorded the backing vocals. As legend has it, he recalled the words and jotted them down while commuting to the London studio by train. The initial recording of ‘Tired of Waiting’ was seen as a gentle, melodic piece and as a result not quite appropriate as a follow up release to the hits from the band’s debut. To coin a phrase, ‘you’ve got to give the people what they want’. It was here, at Talmy’s urging that the band opted to add the distinct guitar style of the riff master Dave Davies. Here is the guitarist’s recollection of the decision to blend his guitar work with the simple contemplation of the lyrics.
The recording went well but there was something missing and it was my raunchy guitar sound. Ray and I were worried that putting that heavy-sounding guitar on top of a ponderous song might ruin it. Luckily it enhanced the recording, giving it a more cutting, emotional edge. In my opinion ‘Tired of Waiting’ was the perfect pop record.”Dave Davies
The track Shel Talmy was able to produce was a perfect example of what would become The Kinks trademark sound for decades to come. An intellectually and emotionally mature lyric with a melodic song structure, enhanced by the power of Dave Davies adaptable guitar work.
For The Kinks ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ allowed the band to expand. Here is Ray Davies’ assessment.
It was a change of style for us, we got a bit posher! Our material started to get a bit more melodic after that.”Ray Davies
But, as always with The Kinks there is way more to the picture than initially meets the eye. There is a fascinating subtext to what appears to be simple ‘boy meets girl but can’t take the relationship to a deeper place’ theme. I give credit for the following revelation to Drew Wardle of medium.com/the riff who unveiled this interesting observation.
Wardle suggests that ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ was The Kinks foray into Ray Davies astute political and social observation. Wardle derives his accurate opinion from a fantastic documentary by filmmaker Julien Temple called ‘Imaginary Man’ which chronicles the song writing brilliance of Ray Davies.
In an interview with writer John Robb, Julien Temple made this observation.
That’s one end of the spectrum, and then on the other, there are these incredible social observation songs that just saw English society, you know, class and eccentricity. There are a lot of things about being English that no one has distilled in such clever and devastatingly honest ways as the Kinks. There were coded messages in all of them.Julien Temple
Here is ‘Imaginary Man’ for your viewing pleasure. This is a phenomenal documentary and a wonderful glimpse into the man who is Ray Davies.
Temple, who had a professional relationship with Ray Davies suggest that at the very same time that Davies was modifying the lyrics he had written as a lovelorn teen, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was dealing with failing health. ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ was released three days after Churchill suffered a massive stroke, and the iconic political figure passed away less than two weeks later.
The timing of this series of circumstances has allowed people to surmise that ‘Tired of Waiting of Waiting for You’ was about Winston Churchill on some level.
The song was released in North America on this day in 1965. It soon hit #1in the U.K and South Africa, #3 in Canada and #6 in the United States. The success in the U.S. set their standard in that crucial market. It was matched 18 years later with the nostalgic hit ‘Come Dancing’.
Now it’s time to enjoy a series of cover versions. As is often the case with the vast list of hits by The Kinks one could trace renditions of Kinks classic ‘til the end of the day’, but I have narrowed this list down to seven. The first of which is actually a collaboration between Ray Davies and Gary Lightbody on Davies’ 2010 album appropriately called ‘See My Friends’. Davies’ offers several of his hits through the years in tandem with a solid lineup of major artists. This version of ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ allows for a perfect place to start.
For the true cover versions let’s head back to 1977 and an act that resided on the cutting edge of the new wave movement. Here is XTC. I share this because of their importance as a band from that era, but also because it shows a clear example of how important The Kinks are in terms of influence across genres.
Quite frequently, in Ted Tocks Covers Suzi Quatro’s name comes up. You can always count on her for a quality cover version. Just good old fashioned, straight forward rock and roll. Kind of like The Kinks. This is from 1978.
Another group on the cutting edge of greatness who recorded ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ was Green Day in 1994. The importance of The Kinks was visible and audible all over the world.
When you see the name Dwight Yoakam, you think country, but check out this version of The Kinks classic offered in a Vegas lounge act style. This is just one song from Yoakam’s 1996 album ‘Under the Covers’ where he displayed a love for British rock and roll. I like the fact he reinterpreted the song.
From one drastically modified version to another. Here is Nancy Sinatra with Lee Hazlewood presented in a conversational way.
Here is a guy named Dave doing a live version in 1997. What a gem.
We conclude with female vocal legend Ronnie Spector and her 2016 cover of ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ that appeared on her final solo release ‘English Heart’. It consists of 11 tracks that pay homage to a nice compliment of English artists through the decades.
From Ted Tocks Covers perspective, the are a collective of acts and songwriters who can make you listen and reflect on life. The works of The Kinks and the song writing of Ray Davies has a special place on this writer’s list.
The Kinks are like the National Health Service, they remind us of who we are.”Julien Temple
This is a profound quote from Julien Temple. To this, I would add the fact that for Ray Davies it seems that his writing reminds him of who he is. Music acts as a perpetual soundtrack in his head. He welcomes the songs as his friends and then his friends become his songs. It is a symbiotic relationship.
I have my own soundtrack to my life and it’s going on as we speak.”Ray Davies
More often than not the songs that unfold tells him more about himself. He is opening the door to his sub-conscience.
It wasn’t until we had out fifth or sixth hit that I thought other people understood what I was singing about ‘cause I thought all of my songs were really private…Some songs just come out of dreams. It’s almost like physics. Two things connect and an idea comes from the past and suddenly I know what I want to write. I’ve been carrying this song around since I was a teenager. But I had a picture in my head…”Ray Davies
All the way back to his teen years he would just go out and walk. He existed as an observer and the people he saw come through in his songs. Every song represents a character and all tolled they add up to Ray Davies
What’s fantastic about his songs is that millions of other people feel the same way.”Julien Temple
The finest tribute for Ray Davies is having those words sung back to him by an appreciative audience.
To Ray Davies, #MusicisLife.