It is part of natural human curiosity to want to know more about the things and people that have a profound impact on our lives, I think -- when something is meaningful to us, we like to set that into a context, perhaps reflecting on the unique qualities of a person or thing or movement or event that affected us so dramatically. We are curious, endlessly so, and this is seen no more obviously than in the modern world's obsession with celebrities and all that makes up pop culture. At its worst, this curiosity fuels the supermarket scandal rags and paparazzi ghouls, to where you'd not wish fame upon your most-loathed enemy. But at its best, the examination provides us with a glimpse into what makes up the extraordinary -- a hero, a gifted writer, a musical genius, a great leader, exceptional teamwork -- and we are able to understand and better appreciate them, and in turn, perhaps see a bit more of those qualities that exist within ourselves.

It is not at all an exaggeration to state that The Kinks had a profound impact on my life. For those of you who are not quite so musically passionate, it may seem a bit odd that a rock band could or should make any real difference to anyone, other than to provide simple entertainment. But there are some artists that have the ability to connect with their audiences in a deeper way through their music, and what they do not only moves your feet to dance, but provides your brain with fabulous fuel, too. Like their British musical peers of the 1960s The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who, The Kinks were able to transcend time and trends to make music that mattered, and that still remains as fresh and vital as the day it was made. Unlike the other three, The Kinks contained a pair of brothers, Ray and Dave Davies, whose vastly differing characters and talents combined to produce some of the most powerful, observant, and intelligent pop music ever, while at the very same time, seemed hell-bent on destroying every professional opportunity and personal relationship they ever came across.

The Kinks' story is a captivating one, and author Rob Jovanovic has carefully crafted a fascinating read in "God Save The Kinks: A Biography," which will be released in the UK by Aurum Press on June 3rd. Jovanovic proves a thorough researcher and storyteller by understanding the readers' need to understand how and why The Kinks came to be, exploring the circumstances that helped to form one of the most influential and beloved bands of our time. By going back into both the band members' family histories as well as providing an ongoing broader historical framework, we get a feel for the gritty, war-and-Depression-scarred working class London that was home to the Davies brothers and the other two original Kinks, bassist Pete Quaife and drummer Mick Avory. Their everyday realities were a far cry from the pastoral green and pleasant land that Ray Davies often wrote about in his songs, a world more wished for than perhaps ever really existed. In post-WWII England, austerity was still the norm, the discriminatory class system firmly in place, and Davies, Davies, Quaife, and Avory were unlikely to ever break away from minimal wage work, spent driving lorries, cleaning band instruments, or illustrating weekly grocer's ads.

Jovanovic leads us from this seemingly-hopeless background into the story of how music began to pull the two distant teenage Davies brothers together for the first time, and how rapidly the pop business was changing in the immediate wake of The Beatles' staggering worldwide success. Through a combination of unprecedented musical opportunity for all British pop bands, tenacity, talent, ambition, and a lot of luck, the rather ragged Kinks secured a recording contract with major label Pye Records, promptly recorded two flop singles, and had one final chance to deliver a hit before the label would drop them. The song was "You Really Got Me," which not only ended up topping the British charts, but arguably became the foundation sound for completely new kinds of rock genres: heavy metal and punk rock.

There is nothing truer than the old showbiz adage that "you're only as good as your last record," so as the band and their strange assortment of managers and agents and producers and mentors toasted their spectacular success, the pressure was immediately applied for the band to make more hits. This, along with constant touring, the omnipresent press, crazed fans, incredible musical competition, and dramatic romantic relationships, put strain on the Davies' brothers already-fragile bond, and fighting -- both physical and verbal -- was near-constant. As one reads through "God Save The Kinks," it seems miraculous that the band survived a single year, much less thirty of them. As Ray Davies stepped up to take a leadership role in The Kinks, becoming the lead singer, frontman, primary songwriter, and eventual producer, bitterness and division followed quickly, even as the quality of the band's musical output continued to rise, often outshining their chart rivals.

Jovanovic is to be commended in his reporter's balance here; where it would seem to be easy to take sides in the story, he does not, instead carefully allowing the band's own words to speak for themselves. In choosing his quoted material, he shapes the history fairly, not an easy task when the very same event is told differently by nearly everyone involved in it! It is an easy, flowing read, testament to his skills as a writer, because the trajectory of The Kinks' story is often frustrating, punctuated by moments of musical triumph and redemption, but never able to completely be free of the chaos and cruelty that eventually caused them to stop, with no announcement, no fanfare, and no goodbyes. How so much magic and so many amazing songs were created in such a caustic environment will likely remain a mystery. That the songs are still able to bring great joy and insight to new fans year after year is not a mystery at all. They are that good.

(Note: I am very pleased and proud to be a photographic contributor to "God Save The Kinks." My thanks to Rob Jovanovic as well as Lucy Warburton at Aurum Press for a delightful working experience and the chance to be in such a gorgeous book, and to The Kinks, because I loved them so much I wanted to learn how to take pictures of them with a real camera.)

God Save The Kinks: A Biography
Author: Rob Jovanoic
ISBN: 9781845136710 
ISBN-10: 1845136713 
Format: Hardback (234mm x 153mm x mm) 
Pages: 336 
Imprint: Aurum Press Ltd 
Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd 
Publish Date: 3-Jun-2013 
Country of Publication: United Kingdom