Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 4, 2010)
If you look up “underrated rock band”, you’ll undoubtedly find a picture of the Kinks. While they endured pretty well over the decades – and enjoyed a nice resurgence in the late 70s/early 80s – they don’t remain as well-remembered as peers like the Beatles, the Stones and the Who. This is a shame, as the Kinks definitely deserve mention when the discussion turns to the greatest rock bands of all-time.
For a look at their career, we head to a documentary called You Really Got Me: The Story of the Kinks. This mixes archival footage with narration. I expected some interview tidbits but almost none appear; we hear a smattering of quick soundbites from Ray Davies, Dave Davies and Mick Avory and that’s it. The narrator gives us a general timeline/discography but the focus remains on the music.
Sort of. While not an authorized biography, Story boasts a ton of Kinks songs. We hear part or all of 29 songs across the show, and these offer a good representation of the band’s material.
I should stress the “part” element, though, as the majority of the tunes just offered snippets. We got complete – or almost complete – performances of these six songs: “’Til the End of the Day”, “I’m A Lover Not a Fighter”, “Milk Cow Blues”, “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman”, “Well Respected Man”, and “You Really Got Me”. If you already own One for the Road, you’ll have this disc’s versions of many songs; the takes on “You Really Got Me”, “Celluloid Heroes”, “Superman”, “Catch Me Now I’m Falling”, “Victoria”, “Hard Way”, “Low Budget”, “Attitude” and “Pressure” all emanate from that show. (There’s also a second performance of “You Really Got Me” that runs under the end credits; it comes from the 1960s TV show.)
The disc also throws in almost full music videos for “Predictable”, “Come Dancing”, “State of Confusion” and “Do It Again”. The One for the Road songs are nearly complete, but they often get interrupted by narration or other cuts.
As do all the other songs, though those don’t come close to being seen in their entirety, and that’s part of what makes Story a frustrating experience for fans. The disc boasts tons of footage that will appeal to Kinks buffs but barely lets us see this stuff. There are proto-music videos from the Sixties and live performances from the Sixties through Eighties that exist just to tease us.
To add insult to injury, most of the songs that appear in full or nearly complete versions can be found elsewhere. There’s the One for the Road DVD, and the videos can be located on the Come Dancing DVD. I’m not sure from where the Sixties TV performances of “Milk Cow”, “End of the Day”, “Lover Not a Fighter”, “You Really Got Me” and “Well Respected Man” emanate, but I suspect they come from another available source.
If not, they’re the only thing about Story that makes it appeal to fans. Anyone who knows anything about the Kinks won’t need the historical overview, and the documentary tells the tale in a horribly disjointed manner. It leaps from one era to another without the slightest hint of logic; one minute we’ll be in the Sixties, but then we’ll jump to the Eighties and then back to the Seventies. The program runs in a virtually incoherent manner.
It also makes a moderate number of mistakes and repeats itself in odd ways. For instance, we learn that “Sunny Afternoon” was the biggest hit of 1966 in the UK – and then hear it again literally a minute later! The same thing happens further down the road when we’re told about the band’s departure from Arista. The editor did an awful job; it’s bad enough that there’s no logic to the narrative, but the fact that the program repeats information in such an awkward way is absurd.
The show’s clumsiness even connected to its aspect ratio. Early on, it jumped around from 1.33:1 to 1.78:1 before it settled on the latter. This was “fake widescreen” that simply cropped 1.33:1 images, and it’s done so clumsily that we actually see the aspect ratio change in the middle of a few shots. The image expands and contracts before our eyes!
All of these factors leave The Story of the Kinks as a complete mess of a documentary. It gives us a historical narrative marred by mistakes and a lack of clarity along with incomplete performances and many strange choices. It’s a disaster and a disappointment.