My shoes stuck to the dancefloor of the large concert room as I worked my way around the tables, collecting empty beer glasses from noisy patrons. It was rock and roll night and I was halfway through my shift as a barmaid in a busy social club. The cover band were currently hammering out The Who as I strained to hear the clientele. I finally filled my basket and headed around the edge of the alcohol-soaked carpet, when the singer began talking into the mic.
“Ladies and gentlemen, can we give it up for the barmaids tonight, keeping the beers coming and the money going!”
I froze mid-step and turned to the stage. There was a thunderous round of applause and laughter as my 18-year-old self died of embarrassment. The singer pointed at me.
“This one is for the little darling right there.”
The song started, and that crisp, raspy crackle of the guitar kicked in with an iconic riff. Then the tambourine joined, and then finally the famous opening line:
‘Girl, you really got me goin’
Even though I am in my thirties now, I look back fondly on that memory and hearing The Kinks for the first time. They paved the way for a very indie phase of my life in ’05 for Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes, but I always think about how they were often overshadowed by The Beatles during the sixties.
I later found out that the song had been written about a girl dancing in a club, and the gritty noise came from slashing the speaker, a technique rock and roll bands used to create distortion at the time. Being their first major hit on their self-titled album, I’m not surprised they went on to become part of the ‘British Invasion’ during the ’60s (until they were banned from the USA in ’65.) They toyed with different styles at first, influenced by R&B and psychedelic pop. However, it was their distinctly English sound that encapsulated working-class life, and this alone was one of the great relatable things that I loved about The Kinks. They were just four guys, made famous not just by their songs, but also by the two feuding brothers Ray and Dave Davies (fallouts that would give the Gallagher brothers a run for their money.) Unlike modern artists, who allude to riches, fame and sex whilst unapologetically displaying their wealth, this relatable breakout hit is the opposite of that. It perfectly sums up what was, and still is, quintessentially British.
Fortunately, I no longer die of embarrassment when I hear ‘You Really Got Me.’ Instead, I’m transported back to the memory of a night filled with laughter, dancing and inclusion of the evening’s antics with everyday people just like myself.