Why Cover The Kinks?

by Jon Frazier

I got a little excited when I saw that Ray Davies released See My Friends, an album of collaboration covers of Kinks songs performed by himself and contributors such as Springsteen, Metallica, and Mumford & Sons. I’m a sucker for covers, collaborations, and acoustic versions. I like to hear another singer’s take (and sometimes, improvement) on the classics. I will spend hours hunting down that one semi-legal recording of that one performance where the lead singer jumps the octave instead of returning to the tonic at the end of the song.

But then I thought, “Wait. It’s The Kinks.” The Kinks are more than a little special. Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround, Part One is probably one of the most important albums produced by British rock in that time period. Without The Kinks, we might not have alternative rock as we know it today. It’s OK to be inspired by The Kinks, take cues from The Kinks, and maybe ever parody The Kinks, but please don’t cover The Kinks.

I liked The Kinks before I even knew who they were. I was a rabid Star Wars fan as a child, and listened to Weird Al Yankovic’s parody of “Lola,”“Yoda,” incessantly. I discovered The Kinks in full through the films of Wes Anderson. I can’t say exactly what it is that makes their music so special, but covering The Kinks seems like remaking Star Wars — it just doesn’t need to be done.

I listened to a few of these new covers and the album is not bad. The covers of The Kinks songs are not that different from the originals. So it’s not quite sacrilege, but… you know, why mess with perfection?

And to me, being someone who knows The Kinks story, the new album seems like one last “screw you” from Ray Davies to his brother, Dave. If you don’t know the story of Ray and Dave, Google it, or look up the indie documentary, Do It Again.

So cover The Beatles if you want. Cover Bowie and Elton, and maybe even The Stones, but please, don’t cover The Kinks.

Comment below and share your thoughts on bands that just shouldn’t be messed with, or, alternatively, your all-time favorite covers.