The Story Behind The Kinks “You Really Got Me”

The Story Behind The Kinks “You Really Got Me”

the kinks
The Kinks at London Airport. Photo by Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images.

When early English rockers, The Kinks released “You Really Got Me” in August of 1964, they didn’t just have a hit song on their hands, they had unknowingly created a blue print for the future of heavy rock (even if it was still a decade or two in the making). One month later, on this day in September of 1964, the single topped the UK charts; 55 years on, the potent kinetic energy of one of the most instantly recognisable riffs of all time has lost none of its spark. But, like every great rock and roll story, the tale of how it came to be varies, depending on who’s telling it. But, like every great rock and roll story, there’s surely just a little bit of truth in every version. 

The Kinks | “You Really Got Me”

"You Really Got Me" was originally written by Ray Davies in a more blues-oriented style, but after recording two different versions of the song, the band went with the rock and roll inspired version that was built around power chords (perfect fifths and octaves) and is credited with heavily influencing rock musicians of the future, particularly in heavy metal and punk rock. 

Although it was rumoured that pre-Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page had performed the song's guitar solo, the myth has since been proven false. Jimmy Page has been quoted as saying: “I played on on many Kinks songs in the studio, but “You Really Got Me” was definitely not one of them.”

The obnoxiously distorted guitar riff and solo was indeed played by Dave Davies, but it’s been argued that perhaps the persistent Jimmy Page rumour was fostered by the established British rhythm and blues community that simply couldn’t fathom that an upstart band of teenagers could produce such a powerful and influential guitar track, seemingly out of nowhere.

The raw and commanding sound was achieved by a slice Dave Davies made in the speaker cone of his Elpico amplifier (referred to by the band as the "little green amp"), effectively inventing distortion. It’s this sound that is cited as "a blueprint song in the hard rock and heavy metal arsenal”. 

“I think it was like a six-inch speaker,” Dave Davies said. “It was quite small, in a very small amp, and it had a couple of inputs, and it had treble, bass and volume controls. I didn’t like the way it sounded, so I thought I’d jazz it up by cutting the speaker with a razor blade.”

However, as brothers do, Ray and Dave Davies have continually disagreed over who actually performed the surgery on the amplifier, with Ray claiming it was he who took to the speaker with a razor blade. And let’s face it, the idea was so good, who wouldn’t want to lay claim to it!

Regardless of who masterminded the sound or performance, The Kinks remain one of the most influential rock acts of all time, leaders of the British Invasion and visionaries of future rock. Artists from the Ramones, The Clash, The Jam to Van Halen, Oasis, Blur and Pulp (LITERALLY just to name a few) have professed the motivational force of this band. 

When “You Got Me” topped the charts, it was more than a moment, it started a movement, one that's been motion ever since. Listen to The Kinks on Spotify:

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