Jan 05

THE KINKS – “You Really Got Me”

Popular13 comments • 3,240 views

#177, 12th September 1964

The sound of the atom splitting. Break open the basic unit of pop music, the hook, and we discover a mess of gimmickry, noises and ideas so primeval you can often barely describe them, let alone hum one. Find one strong enough and you can top the chart. Find one really strong and you change pop history.

This particular record has two really strong ideas, which makes it a blueprint for everything from Iggy Pop to Eric Prydz. The essence of pop songwriting is finding a strong hook – a riff, a chorus – and repeating it. Between the hooks you have some other stuff, maybe different hooks, maybe some instrumental work, maybe just a bit of charisma. Fine. But what if you don’t bother with the other stuff? What if you just take your hook and hammer it? That’s the first idea.

If you do that, though, people will get bored. Particularly if your ‘hook’ is a four-note stub of aggression that barely even gets as far as a riff. So what do you do? Here’s the second idea – you get louder. The fun in “You Really Got Me” comes from the way Ray Davies switches up from disinterested English wimp to, well, snarling English wimp. Noisy Ray doesn’t quite convince, for all its formal brilliance the song seems to end before it really gets nasty – which is probably why he didn’t make a career out of doing “You Really Got Me” again. Or maybe he just thought enough people were making those careers already.



  1. 1
    Lena on 14 Oct 2006 #

    What did Dave Davies say – he didn’t know he was inventing heavy metal at the time, or some such thing? Godly, I’d happily give it a 10.

  2. 2
    SteveIson on 22 Jul 2008 #

    Its the brooding intensity of the move up that makes this for me…The aahs coming behind as the chords rise..Brilliant

  3. 3
    Laban on 6 Jan 2009 #

    This, ‘All Day and All of the Night’ and ‘Till the End of the Day’ really were the start of heavy metal. Around this time people like Clapton were playing electric blues in the style of his live ‘Stormy Monday’ with John Mayall – lots of notes but never hammering any one riff. A year or so later Cream were mining blues songs like ‘Spoonful’ and ‘Crossroads’ for the riff which would underlie the whole song. Bands like Ten Years After, Led Zeppelin and then Black Sabbath and Deep Purple carried this on into the 70s with varying degrees of originality.

    Meanwhile the Kinks, having invented the genre, moved on to their glorious lyrical English phase, capturing London in a few songs just as it was about to change beyond recognition.

    But it wan’t called ‘metal’ in 1970. TYA, Purple and Sabbath were ‘progressive bands’ – just like Yes and ELP, or King Crimson or Floyd or Kevin Ayers.

    It was somewhere between 1973 and 1975 that the metal audience – for Priest, Sabbath, Heep etc, and the biker-influenced metal style – the cut-offs, the belts, the leather, coalesced into HM. By then us hip students had left Sabbath long behind as a thing of the lower sixth form.

    I can remember my astonishment in maybe 75 seeing a huge crowd in metal attire outside St George’s Hall in Bradford.

    ‘Who’s playing ?’

    ‘Black Sabbath’

    ‘Are they still touring ?’

  4. 4
    Dan R on 8 Sep 2009 #

    I went to see the play Telstar a couple of years ago and much as I enjoy Joe Meek’s records, the syrupy waywardness and endless curlicues began to grate. At the moment in the play where we are supposed to feel for our hero as musical fashions changed, they play ‘You Really Got Me’, and, quite contrary to the intention of the play, one felt the entire audience thrill to a genuinely exciting sound. This is a 10 for me.

  5. 5
    Tooncgull on 25 Sep 2009 #

    …and a resounding 10 for me too. Davies wrote more carefully crafted songs later, but this raw splatter of a record was surely one of the earliest punk songs. Terrific. It really got me.

  6. 6
    larry.kooper on 14 Jun 2010 #

    “Top of the Pops” from the Lola album pays tribute to/quotes/mocks “You Really Got Me.”

  7. 7
    thefatgit on 15 Jun 2010 #

    I like the way you can segue YRGM into ADAAOTN and it still sounds like one song.

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 28 Jul 2010 #

    TOTPWatch: The Kinks performed You Really Got Me on Top of the Pops on five occasions;

    19 August 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Dave Berry, The Honeycombs, Dionne Warwick, Brenda Lee, The Bachelors and Manfred Mann. Pete Murray was the host.

    26 August 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Honeycombs and The Zombies. Alan Freeman was the host.

    2 September 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Dave Berry, Herman’s Hermits, Marianne Faithful and The Honeycombs. Alan Freeman was the host.

    24 December 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, Herman’s Hermits, Manfred Mann, Sandie Shaw, The Animals, the Beatles, The Four Pennies, The Honeycombs and The Searchers. Jimmy saville, Alan Freeman, Pete Murray & David Jacobs were the hosts.

    29 September 1994. Also in the studio that week were; 2 Unlimited, The Cranberries, Reel 2 Real & The Mad Stuntman, East 17, Shane MacGowan & The Popes and Whigfield. Claire Sturgess was the host.

    Only the 1994 edition survives.

  9. 9
    Sam on 12 Sep 2010 #

    The first one in the list I’d give a 10. Utterly compelling and primal.

  10. 10
    swanstep on 5 Jun 2012 #

    Have been moved to listen to this (and other early Kinks records) a lot since it ended a great Mad Men ep. recently. Just a fantastically exciting record, esp. that second change with the ‘yeah’ layering over the backing vox and the guitars. Listen to Van Halen’s version of the song to hear this moment fluffed. Roth’s ‘yeah’ has no attack and floats reverbily far above the ‘ah’ backing vox rather than resonantly coupling/grooving in with them as in the Kinks. All the guitar explosions thereafter can’t begin to make up for this loss. Listening to VH’s version also clarifies what’s great about some of the vocal choices in the original. David Lee Roth sings:
    You really got meee
    which sounds dopey (possibly intentionally) whereas Davies sings
    You really got meh (or even ‘may’)
    which sounds cool/badass. Still. 9 or 10 from me. Can’t imagine what this one must have sounded like in 1964; life-changing I’d guess.

  11. 11
    hectorthebat on 29 Mar 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 13
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 597
    Gary Pig Gold (Canada) – The 40 Most Influental Records of the 20th Century (1999)
    Life (USA) – 40 Years of Rock & Roll, 5 Songs for Each Year 1952-91 (Updated 1995)
    Paul Williams (USA) – Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1993)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Pitchfork (USA) – Top 200 Songs of the 60s (2006) 88
    RIAA and NEA (USA) – 365 Songs of the Century (2001) 306
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 15
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 82
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 80
    The Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame Albums and Songs (USA)
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 28
    2FM (Ireland) – Top 100 Singles of All Time (2003) 47
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 30
    Mojo (UK) – The Ultimate Jukebox: 100 Singles You Must Own (2003) 16
    New Musical Express (UK) – 40 Records That Captured the Moment 1952-91 (1992)
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 32
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 61
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 75
    Paul Morley (UK) – Words and Music, 210 Greatest Pop Singles of All Time (2003)
    Paul Roland (UK) – CD Guide to Pop & Rock, 100 Essential Singles (2001)
    Q (UK) – 100 Songs That Changed the World (2003) 15
    Q (UK) – 50 Greatest British Tracks (2005) 19
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 520
    Q (UK) – The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever (2002) 41
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Q (UK) – Top 20 Singles from 1954-1969 (2004) 12
    Sounds (UK) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1986) 96
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Vox (UK) – 100 Records That Shook the World (1991)
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Helsingin Sanomat (Finland) – 50th Anniversary of Rock (2004)
    Berlin Media (Germany) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1998) 30
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Rolling Stone (France) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 61
    Rock de Lux (Spain) – The Top 150 Songs from the 20th Century (1998) 90
    Rocks Musiczine (Spain) – The 100 Best Rock Songs in History (1995) 7
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Blow Up (Italy) – 100 Songs to Remember (2006) 10
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  12. 12
    lonepilgrim on 20 Mar 2015 #

    more primal rhythms and barely suppressed sexuality – one of Ray Davies skills as lyricist and performer is to ventriloquise the desires of a character who wants something that RD knows won’t satisfy him but knows the appeal only too well. The Beatles would sing a lyric like this with sincerity (and probably less baldly) while Jagger would probably turn it into an accusation. RD sings with a bewildered, vulnerable horniness while Dave expresses the desire less complicatedly with a gleeful guitar solo.

  13. 13
    Gareth Parker on 7 Jun 2021 #

    One of my favourite bands and a terrific single to boot. 8/10 from me.

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