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Pete Quaife 6/2010

pete-quaifeJune 23, 2010 – Pete Quaife (The Kinks) was born Peter Alexander Greenlaw on December 31, 1943 in Tavistock, Devon, the son of a US Army man and a British girl. Quaife met his fellow guitarists, Ray and Dave Davies, at William Grimshaw secondary modern school in Muswell Hill, north London, where his family had moved. With the Davies brothers he began to rehearse rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues numbers by Buddy Holly, the Ventures and Chuck Berry. According to Dave Davies: “We drew lots to see who would play bass guitar and Pete lost.”

After leaving school Quaife studied commercial art and, with the Davies brothers and drummer Mick Avory, began to perform in public at local youth clubs and other small venues. The band went through several names until, as the Ravens, they backed a well-connected singer called Robert Wace, who was a better businessman than vocalist. With a stockbroker partner, Grenville Collins, Wace booked the Ravens to play at various functions.

At a time when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were beginning to make waves, Wace and Collins decided that the Ravens had star potential and they enlisted the help of pop manager Larry Page to further their career. It was Page’s idea to design a striking image for the group, beginning with an arresting name, the Kinks (“kinky” was a vogue adjective in Swinging London), and including an outrageous stage uniform of hunting outfits and riding crops.

Page placed the group with record producer Shel Talmy and they struck gold with their third single, You Really Got Me. It was written and sung by Ray Davies, but its impact was mostly due to Dave’s fuzz guitar riff, underpinned by Quaife’s bass line, which influenced a generation of budding rock musicians. You Really Got Me reached No. 1 in Britain and No. 7 in the United States, catapulting the young band to the fore of the British scene, and the abrasive guitar distortion on “You Really Got Me” and its follow-up, “All Day and All of the Night” — which Dave Davies made by slicing his amplifier with a razor — helped start a thousand garage bands. and introduced a three-year period in which the Kinks had 11 British top 10 hits and several hits in America, including such classics as Sunny Afternoon, Dead End Street, Autumn Almanac and Waterloo Sunset.

The band continued to score British hits throughout the 1960s, and there were constant national and international tours lined up, yet they had only sporadic success in the United States, where a four-year dispute with the American Federation of Musicians prevented it from touring for most of the late 1960s.

For many years, Peter Quaife was the odd man out in the Kinks’ history — the first of the original bandmembers to leave the lineup in 1969, the band’s .

From the beginning, the Kinks were beset with internal feuds. The Davies brothers exhibited a strong brand of sibling rivalry, but Quaife managed to stand aloof from the band’s disputes and at times was a peacemaker, earning the nickname of “the ambassador” because “I often stepped in to calm things down.” He was however never permitted to engage in songwriting as such, however, and admitted in the same interview that he and Avory often felt like session players at the band’s own recording sessions — moments such as the Kelvin Hall live album were relatively rare, allowing him to step out in front.

Quaife left the band following what was his most substantial contribution to the group, Village Green Preservation Society, the album on which — perhaps because of its extended gestation — he was most able to express himself musically. He and Canadian guitarist Stan Endersby formed Maple Oak with drummer Mick Cook and keyboardman Marty Fisher. In more recent years, Quaife has moved to Canada and also embarked on a writing career, and has had intermittent contact with Ray Davies over the years — he emerged most prominently in interviews connected with the 2004 expanded reissue of Village Green Preservation Society.

In spite of his ability to break up the Davies brothers’ regular brawls, eventually the Kinks’ bickering and frustrations forced him out in 1969. Quaife had left the band for part of 1966 after he was injured in a car accident, but by 1969, after playing on the albums “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society” and “Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire),” he quit for good and was replaced by John Dalton.

Quaife sang backing vocals on many of the hits and his trenchant bass riffs held the Kinks’ sound together, especially in concert when they would sometimes drift into lengthy instrumental passages. In the late 1960s, he also made a greater contribution to the group’s recordings as they spent longer periods in the studio, working on the albums Something Else By the Kinks (1967) and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968), adding a bass line borrowed from JS Bach to a track on the latter.

He also took part in rehearsals for the 1969 album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) before leaving the group permanently in 1969. He was replaced, again, by Dalton. Explaining his decision, Quaife said: “We just never played anywhere, so most of the time we just sat around at home collecting our royalty cheques. It was an easy life but not a very fulfilling one.”

In interviews Quaife cited the group’s competitive volatility: one day in 1965, he said, a fistfight broke out among its members in a limousine after Quaife whistled a Beatles melody — for his departure, as well as the control that Ray Davies began to exert on the band.

“At the start I had some freedom with my bass lines,” he said in an interview with the British music magazine Mojo, “but as time went on, Ray treated us all more and more like session men.” He also sang backup on a lot of the records during his tenure, most notably — according to a 1998 interview with Martin Kalin — on “Waterloo Sunset.”

After leaving the Kinks, Quaife played briefly with another band, Mapleoak, (two Canadians and two Brits) but left within a year as the band turned into a drug fest. He moved to Denmark and worked as a graphic artist in Denmark and later Canada and basically turned his back on music. He once joined them drunk on stage for an encore in Toronto and he joined the other band members in 1990 for the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1998 while living in Ontario Canada, he was found to have renal failure and documented his dialysis experiences in cartoons collected in two volumes of books titled “The Lighter Side of Dialysis.”

In 2005, Pete was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame with Kinks, marking the final reunion of the four original band members.

Unlike drummer Mick Avory, who was supplanted by Bobby Graham on virtually all of the earliest recordings (through the first album), Quaife played on the group’s records from the beginning, and his rock-solid bass work contributed immeasurably to the power of their work on-stage, making possible such moments as the marvelous stretching out on the extended jam from The Live Kinks, in which his instrument holds the sound together as the band drifts between its own songs and a unique take on the “Batman” theme.  John Entwhistle, famous bass player for the Who named Pete Quaife his favorite bass player, because he moved the Kinks along.

Pete died of kidney failure on June 22, 2013 at the age of 66.

Despite the Kinks’ success, Quaife was never satisfied with his role in the creative process. “I would have been squished with a size 16 boot I had even suggested they listen to an idea from me,” he said in a 2005 interview. “I felt like a session man most of the time. Ray wanted complete control of everything. He was a control freak.” In June 1966 Quaife broke his leg in a car accident and briefly left the band. “It was a good break for me,” he said in 2005. “The band was fighting all the time and I couldn’t take it.” He rejoined after a few months, but quit for good three yeas later. In a 1998 interview, Quaife pointed to the band’s 1968 disc Village Green Preservation Society as his favorite. “For me, it represents the only real album made by the Kinks,” he said. “It’s the only one where we all contributed something.”