Sarah-Lou reviews Americana by her neighbour, Ray Davies
AMERICANA: THE KINKS, THE ROAD AND THE PERFECT RIFF by RAY DAVIES Ten years ago I walked past a row of houses in my London village. I’d walked past them many times since childhood. I noticed a little girl I’d never seen before in one of the front gardens. She was remarkably self-contained - just sitting observing the world, waiting patiently. As I walked past, the front door of the house opened and a man emerged holding a walking stick.
It was Ray Davies. That same morning I’d received a letter from The Bloomsbury Theatre, saying that Ray Davies had to cancel his concert following a sad incident in New Orleans. This had been widely reported on the news a couple of months earlier. I was in France when I saw the news on tv, which said ‘Ray Davies shot’. Luckily it wasn’t fatal. Ray had been mugged after chasing an armed robber. At that point we hadn't met. I knew he lived in North London, but had no idea he lived almost opposite me. He hobbled out of the house and I crossed the road to talk to introduce myself. We discovered we'd both lived in the same place for over 20 years and had never seen each other before. We shook hands and I noticed those watchful eyes and his big grin, accompanied by these warm words – “Very nice to meet a neighbour". It meant a lot to me. I've never forgotten that first meeting. I then understood how his little girl was like her dad – she was engrossed in her environment, interested and happy to observe her world.
Over the next ten years, Ray became a good neighbor to me. Kind and understanding, always full of amusing anecdotes when we meet on the street, always ready with words of wisdom in response to my woes. A wise, strong man. A man who cares about this world, who has faced most of his life alone while so many love him on both sides of the Atlantic. Ray is a quiet man who keeps himself to himself. He measures his words which are not always straight forward. So it gave me great pleasure to read his latest book, Americana. Remarkably he completely opens up about his life and times on the road in the USA as well as in the UK. He talks candidly about the people, the bad times, being mugged, tough times and sweet, his love affairs, touring, and marriage and break ups. I'm fascinated and grateful that he decided to let us into his private life in this way. It’s typical of Ray's stormy life that he was on tour in NYC during the terrible terrorist attacks of 9/11. His account from the perspective of a British rock star puts an interesting new slant on news we've heard from many angles.
It’s certainly a good read getting inside the mind of Ray Davies. I'm finally understanding things in his life that often remained a mystery to me. It’s a very personal road trip. I’m surprised that he talks so intimately about his confusion and his loves. Americana is a book that Ray has written with honesty and freedom. As he says: "I'm a drifter who has lost his way." I hope he always finds his way back to our street in North London. I’ll always be grateful to fate that he opened his door as I walked past. Sarah-Lou, CEO of Alfresco