The Kinks’ All Day And All Of The Night: the story behind the song
Ray Davies recalls how, in three takes one morning in 1964, a neurotic 19-year-old and a guitarist with a razor created All Day And All Of The Night and the blueprint for metal and punk
Madison Square Garden, October 30, 2009. Metal giants Metallica are among the heavyweights celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Ozzy Osbourne joins in for a banging version of Iron Man and Paranoid, while Lou Reed is on hand for Sweet Jane.
Then James Hetfield steps up to the mic: “We got completely schooled on early riff-rock by this man and his band – The Kinks.”
Enter Ray Davies for a bracing assault with his two 1960s trailblazers: You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night. With its thumping power chords and shredding solo, All Day And All Of The Night – recorded in September 1964 – is often cited as the jump-off point for punk and hard rock.
Black Sabbath, The Clash, Thunder and The Who are among those who have acknowledged their debt to it. Davies is routinely painted as the consummate English songwriter, the wistful composer of Waterloo Sunset, and avid preservationist of the local village green.
But early Kinks were a band forged by American rock’n’blues. Their third single, You Really Got Me, which borrowed heavily from The Kingsmen’s Louie Louie, made No.1 in the UK in 1964. The distorted guitar riff by Ray’s brother Dave was a revelation. But it was the follow-up that really created the metal/punk blueprint.
“The one that started it was All Day And All Of The Night,” Ray Davies explains to Classic Rock. “The sounds on that one, if they were made today, would sound like Green Day or a metal band.”
The secret to The Kinks’ early guitar sound was Dave Davies’s brainwave of slashing his speaker cones of his amp with a razor. “As it vibrated it produced a distorted and jagged roar,” he commented later.
It was a sound they patented in the theatre halls of Britain throughout the early part of 1964. It also brought them into conflict with their first producer, 23-year-old American Shel Talmy.
“Initially we did everything he asked us to do, as regards the first couple of singles – Long Tall Sally and You Still Want Me,” says Ray Davies. “But we found that we were developing a certain live sound and wanted to replicate that in the studio. He had recorded You Really Got Me once, maybe twice, but it wasn’t the way we sounded. Basically, he was smart in that he accepted our point of view. Smart producers get what the band want.”
Davies began writing All Day And All Of The Night “in my music publisher’s office. Then we went on a little tour, so I wrote part of it in the car. It was written over a period of about three or four days.”
It was certainly a step up from their previous hit. Dave’s sliding power chords and Ray’s throaty vocals are somehow more urgent than before, while the lyrics tap into a more aggressive strain of teen angst: ‘I’m not content to be with you in the daytime/Girl I want to be with you all of the time.’
Ray Davies agrees: “It’s more demanding. Maybe that was because we’d just come off a success with a number one single. So it was a bit cocky.”
Brother Dave adds: “I cranked up my guitar more than on You Really Got Me. When we went into the studio, everybody knew what they were doing. There was a new-found confidence. I think we did it in three takes.”
The song was actually recorded, Ray Davies reveals, at 10am. “We came down to London especially to record it, as we’d played Birmingham the night before. The first time the band heard it was when I ran through it with them at the soundcheck. Afterwards we drove back down to London, got up in the morning and finished the song by midday.”
There was still time for some dispute though, involving session drummer Bobby Graham, a relative veteran brought in by Talmy before Mick Avory became an integral part of the band.
“Before verse two and into verse three,” explains Davies, “I wanted a ‘bop-bop-bop’ fill, but Bobby was a bit reluctant to do it. He said I was getting a bit cocky, telling him what to do. But it ended up on the record. I wanted it there because I’d heard it on Buddy Holly’s It’s So Easy and I’d always wanted it to be on one of my records. We had a big argument over it, but in the end he took it on board.”
Record label Pye, however, weren’t too enamoured with The Kinks’ latest sound, and initially rejected the song for being “too working class”.
“I think they had a problem with The Kinks because the first two songs that Shel produced were kind of Merseybeat-sounding and American-polished,” he reasons. “But The Kinks were a rough-and-ready unit. Certainly the whole feeling of All Day And All Of The Night is working class, without parochially trying to sound working class.”
Whatever its social standing, All Day And All Of The Night was a ferocious blast of rock’n’roll. It gave The Kinks their second major hit and cemented them in the US as one of the key bands of the British Invasion.
Shel Talmy, who today remembers Davies as “complex, conflicted, unsure, angry, resentful, mistrusting, untrustworthy” as well as “a very talented songwriter”, still believes guitarist Dave is owed his dues.
“Dave is one of the more underrated guitarists in rock,” he asserts. “He’s always been overlooked for no reason I can determine, except that he never got the PR he should have.”
Ray Davies, meanwhile, has been quoted as calling All Day And All Of The Night “neurotic, youthful, obsessive and sexually possessive”.
He’s keen to set this straight: “Burt Bacharach actually called it ‘neurotic’. He reviewed it for some music magazine. But that’s what it was; I was a neurotic 19-year-old at the time. I’d say I was a sweetheart, but I’m sure others say I was appalling to work with.”