ALSO: Check out Una Persson's The Kinks Deep Cuts playlist!
Despite a career and back catalog that can be described at best as "quirky," the Kinks can nevertheless be mentioned in the same breath as other legendary '60s British Invasion bands as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who. In fact, their first breakthrough single, "You Really Got Me" – as well as the near carbon-copy follow-up "All Day and All of the Night" – virtually introduced distortion to rock 'n’ roll, which alone secured the Kinks’ place in rock history.
In fact, the '60s – if you ignore their very spotty, practically disastrous album output – saw the Kinks rack up quite an impressive run of singles. In addition to the two aforementioned rock 'n’ roll archetypes, see if any of these titles ring a bell: "Tired of Waiting," "Till the End of the Day," "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," "Where Have All the Good Times Gone," "A Well-Respected Man," "Sunny Afternoon," "Waterloo Sunset," "Autumn Almanac." Chances are, even if you don’t recognize the titles, you’d definitely know the tunes.
After their initial burst of success, however, the Kinks hit a brick wall. Banned from the lucrative and critical US market because of a run-in with the American musician’s union, principal songwriter and bandleader Ray Davies turned inward, toward himself and his native country. What followed was a string of inconsistent and sometimes incoherent concept albums – including three straight rock operas (take that, Pete Townshend!) – most of which were thematically too British to hold any appeal to American audiences, and too out-of-touch with the mainstream to capture the hearts and minds of UK record buyers, either.
In the mid-'70s, though, the band successfully refashioned themselves as a hard rock band, beginning a decade-long love affair with both the American record-buyer and stadium concert-goer. Lots of touring, and a decent number of hits in the US (though not in the UK) followed: "Lola," "Low Budget," "Celluloid Heroes," A Rock 'n’ Roll Fantasy," "Pressure," "Destroyer," "Better Things, "Come Dancing"…hell, even "Father Christmas" was a bigger hit for the Kinks than anything they had done on all of their concept albums combined.
This "second wave" of popularity was all but over by 1983, and the Kinks were pretty much spent as a commercial concern at this point. Waves of nostalgia soon followed, with compilation albums, concert movies, pseudo-revivals (in the '90s, for instance, the British band Blur were quite vocal about their Kinks fanaticism), books (including Ray’s excellent and true-to-form eccentric autobiography "X-Ray"), "storyteller" tours, television biopics, Kinks songs being featured in commercials and hit cable TV shows…a veritable cornucopia of love and admiration that so eluded the band during much of their career (in England, at least). They even got the Weird Al Yankovic treatment via "Yoda," his "Lola" parody, in the mid-'80s. And the songs "Village Green" and "Village Green Preservation Society" both appeared in the 2007 British film "Hot Fuzz," certainly appropriate given the comedy's setting of a quaint English country village.
The Kinks were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.