The Muswell Hillbillyrnby Jesse Walkerrn”There was a time when it was hip to write about Route 66; I was writingrnabout a suburban street in London. I didn ‘t envisage my music ever beingrnheard anywhere else.”rn—Ray DaviesrnIt begins, as most rock songs do, with a riff. There is an organrnin the background, and a rapidly strumming acoustic guitar.rnThe riff repeats. It has a countryish flavor, as does the voicernthat then chimes in, despite the singer’s obvious English accent:rnWell, I said good-bye to Rosie Rooke this morningrnI’m gonna miss her bloodshot, alcoholic evesrnShe wore her Sunday hat so she’d impress mernI’m gonna carry her memory til the dav 1 diernThe voice belongs to Raymond Douglas Davies of MuswellrnHill, England, the frontman and primary songwriter of thernKinks. It was 1964 when his band had its first hit, the seminalrnrocker “You Really Got Me.” Since then, they’ve been throughrnalmost all the changes—from rock opera to, er, MTV—but nornone has ever mistaken them for trendchasers. Indeed, fewrnbands have ever seemed so bent on staving out of step withrntheir peers, with occasional stops back in the Top 40 every fivernor ten years.rnTheir early hits were loud, raw singles powered by the guitarrnof Ray’s younger brother, Dave; without them, there may wellrnhave been no punk revolution a decade later. Then came a sc-rn]esse Walker is an associate editor of Libert}- magazine.rnries of quieter, satiric songs—”A Well-Respected Man,” “DedicatedrnEollowcr of Eashion”—obvious but fairly funny takes onrnthe foibles of the superficial. Had the band broken up then,rnthat’s how they would be remembered: four proto-Ramonesrnwho took a sudden turn toward Randy Newman territory at thernend. Instead, Davies’ songwriting deepened, and there came arnflurry of witty, well-observed snapshots of ordinary people’srnlives, each taken from an angle few had considered before.rnThough snapshots may not be the best word, as Davies distrustedrnphotography:rnPeople take pictures of the summerrnJust in case someone thought they had missed itrnAnd to prove that it really existed . . .rnPeople take pictures of each otherrnAnd the moment to last them foreverrnOf the time when they mattered to someonernA picture of me when I was just threernSucking my thumb by the old oak treernI low I love things as they used to bernDon’t show me no more, pleasernMotifs began to emerge. There were political songs, voicingrnthe complaints of every nonruling class under the English sun.rn18/CHRONICLESrnrnrn