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In The Front Room

I was nearing the end of a two month stay in The Capital and I still had a bunch of 'gotta see' places on my list of legendary music sights so, the day I visited #4 Denmark Terrace I had already crammed quite a few in. There's not much else to see in this Muswell Hill neighborhood but it was an absolute must on the list.

Without data signal outside the house (my unemployed status rendered me reliant on free wifi signals) and lockdown having most of the places I'd pirate a signal from closed, those last few days had me walking in circles over and over. I always turn the wrong way...1. because my screenshot google directions lie and 2. it's inevitable. I always take a wrong turn or chose the slowest line in the store. It used to make me crazy but then I realized that I find the coolest things and meet the nicest people by accident, and usually when I'm lost.

Finding this house on Fortis Green was no different. I went the wrong way out of the East Finchley station (you need to turn left, by the way) but eventually figured it out. When you're not lost it's about a 15 minute walk from the underground and where the Davies brothers, Ray and Dave who formed The Kinks, grew up.

This modest three bedroom house was bursting at the seams when the Davies family lived there. Ray and Dave were numbers six and seven in the succession of children having five older sisters. The sisters were quite a bit older being in their teens when Ray was around five or six years old. That age gap provided a certain type of education to young Ray who was very observant as a kid. The front room of the house was a very special room. Especially on Saturday nights when his dad would come home drunk from the pub and insist on having a party and usually bringing a load of folks home with him for a few more and for boisterous singalongs.

Ray and Dave were very different personalities. Ray was very quiet and introverted while Dave was the polar opposite and almost always in some sort of trouble. Ray would listen to the sounds of night train that ran near the house and dream of adventure that train could offer him. An escape from the place he felt so isolated and bored in his early boyhood. As young boys the two were often only really close when they were in trouble together and facing the wrath of their mother for whatever mischief they'd just perpetrated. Well, and got caught for.

One of the boys sisters, Rene, had married a serviceman and moved away to Canada when Ray was 8 and Dave 5. When she returned for a visit in 1957, she discovered just how much Ray needed to be pulled out of his childhood misery. She bought him his first guitar the day before his 13th birthday. He practiced that guitar, with her help, while she accompanied him on the family piano and they fumbled their way through show tunes before she headed out to enjoy an evening at a dance hall on the Strand in London's West End. Something she loved to do. While dancing there, Rene at age 30, succumbed to a heart defect and died on the dance floor of a heart attack. It was a horrible time for the Davies family and both boys were sheltered from the brunt of it and kept away from the funeral services.

The result of that family tragedy, somehow, propelled Ray into wanting to 'be good at something'. That thought process began with sports at which he excelled but eventually turned to music.

In 1996, VH1 launched a series called Storytellers giving viewers an hour with an unplugged artist explaining what inspired the songs they wrote. The ones we all love. Ray was the artist on the series premiere. In that episode he shared a peek into what living in this little house was like back then. So, I made my way there to stand out front and remember some of things he shared. The following is one of his memories and how I remember him telling it on VH1 all those years ago.

His sisters used to play their records on the record player just inside the bay window. One evening Ray was in that front room working out a tune he'd started writing while living at his sister Rose's house in Highgate. When he had worked through the riff to the point he liked it, he called Dave in from the dinner table. Dave picked up his guitar and Ray taught him the song. Their sisters came in and gathered around to listen while mom hovered in the doorway concerned the neighbors would complain about the noise again. When they finished the song, the family applauded. Ray had just written You Really Got Me and it happened in the front room because all the really important things happened there.

Thanks Ray, for sharing...oh, and thank you for the days!

If you're interested in the places I visited prior to #4 Denmark Terrace, check out the video tour The Stories of Places Along Bakerloo, Jubilee & Northern Lines.

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©RockTourLondon, 2022

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