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It’s 50 years since the abrasive power chords of You Really Got Me lit up the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, scrawling a blueprint for future generations of rock guitarists to follow.
Ahead of his first UK concert in 13 years, the legendary Kinks guitarist recalls the formative musical experiences he shared with his brother Ray in late 1950s London, the influence of early rock ’n’ roll, and electrocuting himself on the way to carving out a place in pop history...
“I always loved the guitar, from when I was quite little. My dad had a G banjo at the house, that he played. When he had parties, my sisters always played piano and my dad played banjo. But I think when I first saw Bert Weedon, Diz Disley, Lonnie Donegan and people like that, I started to listen to the guitar. I picked up the saxophone first, but then when I realised you can’t accompany yourself, I realised that it wasn’t the instrument for me.
“Ray was learning guitar, and my brother-in-law, Mike Piker, was a guitar player. Mike was a very technically-minded guy, who liked to make guitar pickups, and had a lot of records by Big Bill Broonzy and Django Reinhardt and all these great people. So I had guitars around me a lot. I was surrounded by Mike’s homemade guitars. They were like the old jazz-style guitars, with f-holes and that, because he was very much into that sort of 40s and 50s jazz at the time.
“That’s really how I got into the guitar. Then when I heard people like Eddie Cochran... he was really ahead of his time, I think, as a guitar player, in that he had all the licks and the blues – that white blues-rock style – before anybody else I heard, really. But it all kind of happened kind of quickly. I learned five chords; I thought I knew it all.”