🎶 “I wish I could be like David Wa- -s” 🎶
Behind the commonly accepted biggest four bands ever – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Who – I think a fine argument could be made for The Kinks to be considered as #5. Responsible for countless classic tunes across an over three-decade span whose further longevity was likely only curtailed by its fabulously feuding brothers, Ray & Dave Davies, The Kinks emerged from British rhythm & blues in the early ‘60’s to become an archetype of rock & roll, and certainly one of the most beloved and influential bands in rock history.
They were also a favorite of my friend David Wachs.
David grew up with me in New York, though he’s now lived and worked in the U.K. since 1990, where he’s become a prolific filmmaker whose many directorial works include the award-winning “Holes In My Shoes”. He’s a sharp-witted chap whom The Kinks might have called a well respected man and dedicated follower of fashion. And most importantly, he’s one of 10 funniest people I’ve ever known (the remainder of that list is a tightly guarded secret).
On July 27th, 1979 – his birthday – David was attending a Kinks concert at the Nassau Coliseum. And, as was his potheaded practice back then, he’d prepared for the show by smoking a fair amount of wacky weed. He had even, one might say, been blazing in a Kinks title tribute, all day and all of the night. By his own description he was soooo high. The concert opener, Ian Hunter, had finished his set, and the house lights came up during the intermission before the headliners were to hit the stage. As was customary at rock concerts of the era frisbees were flying around, weaving arced paths through overhead clouds of sensemilia smoke (things were different in the late ‘70’s), when David also began to notice a series of paper plates fluttering down to the floor where he had remained stationed in his haze. This seemed odd, Wachs vaguely thought, but he ignored it and proceeded to light up another joint. There he sat, oblivious in his stupor, until one twirling plate swooped downward and literally landed in his lap. He glanced down, turned it over, focused his eyes, and observed what had been hand-written on it in ballpoint pen: “David Watts”.
Unsurprisingly, in his altered state he read it as “David Wachs”. How could my name have fallen from the sky?, he exclaimed in an internal scream. It’s likely, too, that the impact of his inhalation intake had left him with the familiar wave of sweeping paranoia. In any case he was now completely freaked out! (interspersed, of course, with hysterical laughter). Some random someone from somewhere had scribbled his actual name onto a plate, and in an arena of 15,000 people it had arrived – somehow – to exactly where he was sitting!? What in the actual f*ck??
Unfortunately for my friend David Wachs he was not familiar with, or perhaps being severely stoned enough was not able to recollect, the opening track on The Kinks standout 1967 release Something Else, a sardonic little ditty called, you guessed it, ‘David Watts.’ This critical factoid was eventually relayed to David by someone seated nearby who’d noticed the comical commotion and explained that a fellow concertgoer had written Kinks titles onto plates and was chucking them about the floor for no apparent reason. Maybe they were ill-considered song requests from someone in a similar condition as my friend David.
As it happens, The Kinks did not end up performing ‘David Watts’ that night, though they did play ‘You Really Got Me’ twice, so it seems they could have chosen to fit it in. 43 years later David, a fervent life-long concert attender, recalls the show as being one of the greatest he’s ever seen (though possibly not strictly most memorable, given his state). And no, if you’re wondering, his date for the occasion was not named Lola.
One of the greatest rock songs ever, and worth playing twice in one show.
The Davies brothers, reunited just last month. Perhaps a new tour and a chance for a live rendition of ‘David Watts’ could still be in the offing.
Dave Davies and brother Ray Davies of 'The Kinks', working on some music, 2022. pic.twitter.com/H6bZJUFwu3
— Legends Of Classic Rock (@lofcr1) February 16, 2022
Rob MacMahonMarch 6, 2022 1:56 pm
BG: Another great music-is-life anecdote. Love the story. Makes me want to meet your boy Wachs, and hang with him at a show. Wish I cd see this event on video. The paper plates floating down from above?! Pure gold.
Something Else is a classic must-have. I too hv long felt the Kinks are too-often overlooked when we discuss the (indisputable) big 4.
PS: The Jam do a kick-ass cover of David Watts.
PSS: Waterloo Sunset from that album is the clincher. Pure bliss.
David Watts WachsMarch 6, 2022 1:58 pm
Remember that night like it was yesterday. Thanks for keeping it alive, Billy. Peace.