The 1960s was a musical era defined by a breakthrough in British bands and performers on the world stage, none more famous than the seminal Beatles. Yet, whilst the Fab Four pioneered the British musical revolution, they were one of many now-infamous bands to break through and define a generation. It would also be one of those bands with which The Beatles would get into an altercation that would go down in the annals of classic rock lore – the Ray and Dave Davies-led Kinks.
The renditions of the famous Bournemouth Gaumont Cinema encounter are plentiful, with the story having been retold and revised innumerable times throughout the years, not least by the Davies brothers themselves. Yet one thing is certain: on August 2nd 1964, The Beatles re-opened their residency at the venue after a year’s absence, topping a bill featuring Mike Berry, Adrienne Poster, and The Kinks.
The former had been merely a few months into their infancy the last time The Beatles had toured England’s south coast. Yet, a year later, they would find themselves as the final opener for the biggest band in the world, despite only releasing two singles up until that point.
While The Kinks are today recognised as figureheads of the 1960s British Invasion and progenitors of the 70s punk rock explosion, their position on the Bournemouth bill may have seemed misplaced to contemporary observers. Their first single, ‘Long Tall Sally’, had been widely ignored, whilst the follow-up, ‘You Still Want Me,’ had failed even to chart, leading to the threat of their recording contract being nullified should a third single flop commercially.
Under this precursor, The Kinks found themselves opening for The Beatles in early August of 1964. Dubbed “a new and unknown London group,” the group would perform just two days before releasing that all-too-important third single: ‘You Really Got Me.’
Constructed around Dave Davies’ looping power chords and Ray Davies’ infatuated lyrics, the track that closed The Kinks’ set in Bournemouth would become their defining song, going platinum and launching them into becoming a mainstay amongst Britain’s greatest Rock bands. Yet the group’s defining track would also become the basis for the animosity between them and The Beatles in 1964.
The story goes that The Kinks nailed such a good live rendition of ‘You Really Got Me,’ that fans screamed louder for the openers than they did for The Beatles, with Ray Davies even suggesting in his 1994 autobiography X-Ray that fans were still baying for the Kinks as The Beatles took to the stage.
Such a reaction to a seemingly unknown band supposedly angered John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who tried to “intimidate” the London band, according to Davies’ book. To avoid suffering a repeat humiliation, The Beatles’ frontmen ensured that The Kinks were moved to an earlier slot for subsequent nights. Davies would clarify this altercation several years later.
“John Lennon made a remark that we were only there to warm up for them,” he told Mojo in 2013, a remark which served as “validation that we (The Kinks) had something that stood up for us.” Davies likened the interaction to being bullied in school as being picked on for “Having something bigger than the bully.”
Indeed, ‘You Really Got Me’ was a huge hit for the previously undistinguished band, as it topped the British charts the following month, remaining there for two weeks, and reached the seventh spot in the US charts later that year.
However, despite the night in Bournemouth when The Kinks professedly outdid The Beatles, the track would not prove to be “bigger” than the latter as Davies predicted. In fact, things would come full circle barely half a year later, as the two performed on the same ticket once again, this time at the NME Poll Winners Concert in April 1965.
The Beatles, at the very height of Beatlemania, were originally billed to close a concert that featured everyone from The Rolling Stones to the Animals to Dusty Springfield. The Kinks, however, in the middle of the most crowded touring schedule of their now 60-year career, arrived late following a delayed flight back from Denmark, resulting in a lineup switch that subsequently booked them as the new closing act.
Following an exceptional Beatles performance, Kinks drummer Mick Avery recalled how “half the sound system wasn’t working,” due to the unfortunate fact that “all the sound guys thought (The Beatles) was the end of the concert.” Coupled with the band’s fatigue following their rushed arrival to London’s Wembley Empire Pool, Avery described the ensuing performance as “awful.”
Indeed, it seems as if John Lennon was not one to forget the previous year’s quarrel, as it has been reported that following The Kinks’ departure from the stage, he quipped, “That was for Bournemouth.”