“Sorry, I’m chewing gum,” says Ray Davies five minutes into our interview, before extracting the offending substance from his mouth.
It’s a fitting interruption. We’re here to talk about his latest album, Americana, which charts his love-hate relationship with the US – and there’s nothing more American than chomping on a stick of Wrigley’s.
Of course, our most recently-ennobled rock star is best known for his writing about England on songs like Waterloo Sunset, Muswell Hillbilly, Sunny Afternoon, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, but his obsession with the States started early.
As a schoolboy, he was captivated by black and white cowboy movies and the be-bop records his older sisters would bring home.
After receiving a guitar for his 13th birthday, he devoured records by Muddy Waters and Slim Harpo. His love affair with the blues was so strong that when he wrote The Kinks’ first hit single, You Really Got Me he intended it to be “a blues song”.
“Then it turned out to be a pop hit.”
Somewhat disingenuously, he tells the BBC You Really Got Me was supposed to be The Kinks’ only song (even though it was their third single).
“I wanted that to be a hit and then I was going to get out of town,” he says.
“Unfortunately they asked me to write another one, and another one.”
The Kinks’ success meant Ray and his younger brother Dave could finally visit the Land of the Free – but things didn’t go entirely to plan, as he describes on the new album.
“They called us The Invaders, as though we came from another world,” he sings. “And the man from immigration shouted out, ‘Hey punk, are you a boy or a girl?'”
The band could have overcome the prejudice if they weren’t already in disarray – prone to fighting on stage, and let down by a promoter who refused to pay them in cash.
Things came to a head while taping Dick Clark’s TV show Where The Action Is in 1965.
“Some guy who said he worked for the TV company walked up and accused us of being late,” Davies wrote in his autobiography X-Ray.
“Then he started making anti-British comments. Things like ‘Just because the Beatles did it, every mop-topped, spotty-faced limey juvenile thinks he can come over here and make a career for himself.'”
A punch was thrown, and the American Federation of Musicians refused to issue the Kinks permits to perform in the US for the next four years.
“It was a terrible blow to our career,” says Davies. “We couldn’t tour. We couldn’t play Woodstock.
“Being a bolshie 21-year-old, I said, ‘Let’s make records and tour the rest of the world’.
“But deep down I was really hurt, because America was the inspiration for much of our music.”
When the band were finally allowed back, in 1970, they had to start from scratch, plying their trade in tiny clubs and high school gymnasiums.
“It was quite a humbling experience after being really successful before,” Davies recalls.
Yet the US became the band’s lifeline in the 1970s, providing adulation, success and financial reward as interest dwindled at home.
“We ended up playing Madison Square Garden in 1980, which is a sign you’ve made it back. So it was a 10-year programme. It was hard work but, in a strange way, we built a loyal fanbase in that time.”
So perhaps it’s no surprise that Davies sings “I want to make my home/Where the buffalo roam” on the title track of his new album.
Indeed, he moved to the US for several years, finding his spiritual home – and sanctuary – in New Orleans.
“I’m just another person there, which is really nice,” he says. “And I fitted in with the music scene.”
Living across the road from a church, he would frequently witness the city’s brass band funerals, which stretch through the streets in celebration of local musicians and dignitaries at the end of their life.
But his sojourn in the city ended badly one Sunday evening in January 2004.
Davies was strolling along an unusually deserted Burgundy Street with his girlfriend Suzanne Despies.
A car pulled up alongside them, a young man got out, and demanded Despies’ purse. She handed it over without any resistance, but Davies suddenly decided to give chase.
His assailant was armed, and shot Davies in the leg, breaking his femur.
“Why did I do it? That’s the unanswerable question,” he says.
“I’ve never really been the sort of person who would chase a man with a loaded gun. But I did. Foolishly, perhaps, and irresponsibly. But I did it.
“It was one of those heat of the moment situations, and I have no explanation other than that.”
He ended up in hospital, heavily drugged and, for the first 24 hours, an anonymous “John Doe”.
The experience informed a song – Mystery Room – in which the star faces his mortality for the first time: “My brain’s hit a brick wall / My body’s in free-fall.”
It’s partnered with another track, Rock ‘N’ Roll Cowboys, which equates ageing rock stars with gunslingers about to hang up their holsters.
“Rock and roll cowboys, where do you go now?” asks Davies. “Do you give up the chase like an old retiree? Or do you stare in the face of new adversaries?“
It’s a question that’s flummoxed many of his 60s contemporaries. Has he ever contemplated giving up?
“Every writer who’s written and toured for more than five years reaches a point where they think, ‘Do I keep going?’ or, ‘Where do I go next?'” he says.
“Every day I wake up and say, ‘I love writing songs but do I want to do this?’ and the answer is I do.
“I love making records. I love playing in front of people.”
America is ‘off-kilter’
For the new record, he sought the help of alt-country stalwarts The Jayhawks, whose deft arrangements provide a rich backdrop to Davies’ wry and incisive lyrics.
Was it challenging, I wonder, for him to walk in and take charge of an already-established band?
“It was a diplomatic situation,” he says… well, diplomatically.
“At first, they were trying to sound English in their backing vocals, but I deterred them from that.
“The reason I picked them is because they just play the songs. They don’t embellish too much unless I ask them to, which is great.”
The Americana sessions went so well that there are “another 20” songs waiting to be finished and released, all derived from Davies’s 2013 book of the same name.
“It’s a big work, but I hope it’ll be put together for a deluxe record later on.”
Is he tempted to write something more topical for that record, given the ongoing political turmoil in the US?
“Everyone who knows my work comes up to me and says: ‘It’s time to revive Preservation,'” he says, referring to The Kinks’ 1973 concept album and tour, in which a comedian becomes a dictator, funded by big business and using the media as a tool of control.
“It was a fun show but it had quite serious undertones,” says Davies, “and I think that sums up America at the moment: it’s a fun show with very serious undertones.
“I do hope America balances itself out. It’s slightly off-kilter at the moment.
“He [Trump] has still got to face Congress, and it’s still a democratic country. I think the will of the people will be heard, and America’s constitution is strong.
“It’s a difficult time of re-adjustment for them – but I think in time it’ll balance itself out.
“It’s a beautiful place but a dangerous place, as I found out.”
It’s been another busy week in the world of entertainment.
Harry Styles achieved a double success with his first solo single; action-packed movie Fate of the Furious smashed global box office records; a mascara advert featuring Cara Delevingne was banned; fans of crime drama Broadchurch were impressed but bereft as the third and final series concluded – and much more…
Here’s a round-up of some things you might have missed:
ITV’s The Nightly Show didn’t get off to the strongest start – but its fortunes improved over its eight-week run.
The new entertainment series, which ended on Friday after being broadcast every week night since February in the 10pm slot normally occupied by the news, saw a different celebrity take over presenting duties each week.
But things improved as the series progressed, with the show gradually building an online audience and some presenters proving particularly popular with viewers.
An ITV spokesman said: “ITV is doing better than any other terrestrial channel this year in terms of year on year performance, we’ve had a really strong start to the year.
“We’re in a strong position to try some new things and experiment, it is imperative we try new things, which have the potential to enhance our entertainment offering.”
David Walliams was on hosting duties for The Nightly Show’s first week – and helped the series start strongly with an average of 2.9 million live viewers tuning in for its opening episode.
But his performance received negative reviews from critics and the audience dropped to 1.2 million by Friday’s programme.
“I think David Walliams just isn’t a natural presenter, and it really came across,” says Frances Taylor, TV critic for the Radio Times.
“He’s a great actor and comedian but we’d never seen him at the helm of a programme, and if you’re going to have revolving hosts you’ve got to have someone strong to kick it off.
“If you don’t, viewers will lose interest, and once they’ve gone, it’s difficult to get them back.”
Walliams put the viewing figures and poor reviews down to people being annoyed about the News at Ten being moved back by half an hour in the schedules.
After his stint, John Bishop, Davina McCall, Dermot O’Leary, Gordon Ramsay, Bradley Walsh and Jason Manford all had a turn.
Some presenters were more popular with viewers and critics – particularly O’Leary, who was booked for a second week later in the run.
Ramsay proved a successful booking too, and he helped the show build a stronger online following, largely due to the star guests he drew to the show.
UK chat show hosts such as Graham Norton, Alan Carr and Jonathan Ross regularly attract high-profile guests but their shows only air once a week.
When you’ve got five nights of shows to fill, talent booking is a greater challenge, especially outside the US, says author, lecturer and television executive Lyndsay Duthie.
“In the US, you’ve got A-list guests night after night because there’s a bigger talent pool to draw from,” she says.
“James Corden has Madonna and Michelle Obama taking part in Carpool Karaoke, which makes it not only entertaining, you can’t believe the talent they’ve got on there.”
The Nightly Show struggled a little on this front – but it did manage to attract some big names as it went on, particularly the week Ramsay was in charge.
“The stuff Gordon Ramsay did with John Legend has got such global appeal because they’re such big stars in America,” says Frances Taylor.
In one segment, which was a hit, Legend was seen at a piano, singing some of the foul-mouthed chef’s most famous TV insults.
“If you’ve got names like that then people all round the world will recognise them, and that means that it probably will go viral, and that’s the whole point of shows like this,” Taylor adds.
“Bradley Walsh interviewing Louise Redknapp didn’t have quite the same worldwide appeal.”
One of the benefits of producing a show which is recorded on the same day it’s broadcast is the writers’ ability to put in jokes about the day’s news events.
Taylor says: “A show like this lives and dies by the writing, and The Nightly Show was billed as a topical programme, but there was hardly any topicality in it.”
“The Oscars gaffe, which happened the day before their first show, was such a gift as a topic, but David Walliams could only come up with a couple of poor envelope swapping gags.”
She compares it to the pastiche The Late Late Show did in the US, where Corden dressed up as Emma Stone and sang a parody song about the Oscars mix-up, which Taylor says was a stronger treatment.
“If The Nightly Show comes back it needs to play on the topicality. The fact this is filmed a couple of hours before transmission, they’re not maximising that opportunity.”
But Duthie says: “In the US you have teams and teams of people writing the opening monologues, which is a luxury that most British shows don’t have.”
ITV pushed the News at Ten back by half an hour to make room for The Nightly Show as part of the broadcaster’s initiative to try out what it calls “Five Nights of New” schedule.
But, says Duthie, where The Nightly Show was concerned, it may have suffered due to its chosen timeslot. The most successful chat shows in the US start much later in the evening.
“In the UK we’re much more conservative,” she says. “By 10:30pm, peak time is over. But if a show is on later, you’re catching people coming home from the pub late at night, and a lot of younger viewers.”
She adds that part of the problem facing any new nightly entertainment show is the difference in audience expectation between the UK and the US.
‘Knives are out’
“We’ve gotten so used to watching light-hearted entertainment shows on Friday and Saturdays that a lot of British viewers aren’t used to upbeat, happy content on a Monday evening,” Duthie says.
“Also, perhaps the networks wouldn’t pay for original programming at 11:30pm in the UK – budgets are usually spent by about 10:30.”
But, she praised ITV for being willing to try something new in the first place: “As much as I love the News at Ten, it wasn’t performing very well for ITV, so commercially it was a good decision to look at that 10 o’clock slot.”
ITV’s director of TV Kevin Lygo told Broadcast magazine: “In terms of The Nightly Show, this eight-week run is about extending the 10pm hour, extending the primetime feel of ITV, and seeing how that looks and feels during this period and how viewers respond to something other than repeats, alongside the News.
“The intention was to make that hour feel a bit fresh and different with some stunt scheduling and I think we’ve done that.
“After the run has finished we’ll obviously look at the shows and all the data and discuss what next.
“The broader point is – TV is a risk business, you need to try new things, and launch them with confidence and visibility to give them the best chance of success.
“And you’ve got keep doing that, and we will.”
Social media presence
US chat show hosts – from Ellen DeGeneres to Jimmy Fallon – now depend heavily on building a strong online following to match their viewing figures.
The Nightly Show had mixed fortunes on this front, with some segments not attracting many views, but others going viral worldwide.
At the time of writing, a compilation of Ramsay’s best pranks during his week on the show has attracted 3.4 million views.
Fay Ripley giving parenting tips to John Bishop, in contrast, has had just a couple of hundred views.
But while social media success can give a show a huge boost, it can also cause the problem of shows being judged too quickly.
“Now you get such a snap decision with everything,” says Taylor. “If something isn’t immediately funny, you see people all over Twitter saying ‘this is rubbish’.
“Social media can be great because you can build an audience for a show and make it an underground hit, like Fleabag.
“But conversely, when you’ve got something high profile that people don’t enjoy, the knives are out.
“To some extent, all publicity is good publicity, but if a show can’t breathe, it will put people off. Once that dies down, more people are likely to come to it naturally.”
But the ITV spokesman said the show’s online clip performance had been “impressive, amassing more than 40 million views in total for its online content across various platforms, and more than 50,000 subscribers and followers”.
“The figures reflected the viral nature of the content. The John Legend/Gordon Ramsay sketch accrued more than 16.5 million views on Facebook. It was shared over 310,000 times.
“The Gordon Ramsay Blender clip accrued over 4.3 million views on Facebook. It also trended at number one worldwide on YouTube for three days as well as accruing over 3.5 million views on YouTube.
“It was the most talked about video on the Internet for the weekend of 1-2 April.”
As for The Nightly Show’s future, ITV says it will make a decision after the series has ended, adding: “We don’t normally make decisions on recommissions until after a series has ended.”
Whether you consume music digitally or collect vinyl records, Brexit has the potential to affect you.
The UK music industry, like its counterparts in other countries, has had a tough time adapting to the technological shake-ups of recent years.
But now it also has to plan for the changes that will be ushered in by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
Obviously there is still huge uncertainty about what the country’s future relationship with the EU will be like, since its expected departure in the spring of 2019 is still subject to lengthy negotiations.
However, it is already possible to identify areas of the music business that may feel the effects.
With the industry’s annual Record Store Day falling this year on Saturday, 22 April, record shops are enjoying a boom in sales of old-fashioned vinyl releases.
The format was widely expected to die a slow death with the advent of the CD, but in recent times, vinyl records have managed to outsell downloads.
However, when Record Store Day 2020 rolls around, there is a risk that those singles and albums could cost significantly more.
If the UK does not manage to conclude a favourable trade deal with the EU, then tariffs may be applied on goods coming into the UK.
There are now only a couple of vinyl pressing plants left on British soil, so the majority of records sold in the UK are manufactured in factories based in other EU countries. The same goes for CDs.
If tariffs on goods return, record labels will face increased costs, which they will have to pass on to consumers.
So why buy music on physical formats anyway? This is the 21st Century, so go for streaming or downloads.
Well, even there, Brexit is likely to have consequences.
The pound has fallen in value in the wake of last June’s referendum outcome. The leading music streaming services, from Sweden’s Spotify to US-based Apple Music, are all multinational firms whose pricing policies are decided elsewhere.
In other ways, however, Brexit will have no effect at all. Many politicians and business leaders have called for the UK to preserve its access to the European single market, but in digital terms, things are more complicated.
And when it comes to the distribution of digital products, including music and e-books, consumers will still find that borders get in the way.
If you have an account with Amazon UK, you can buy a CD from Amazon’s French website, but it won’t allow you to buy the same music on download.
That said, streaming services are more unified. Spotify, for instance, makes practically all its catalogue accessible everywhere in the world, with some minor variations in local-language music.
But although Brussels has failed to create a digital single market for music consumers, it has done a lot for music producers.
People who make music can make money from it in various ways. As well as selling digital or physical copies of it, they are also paid royalties every time it is played in public.
There are two kinds of these:
mechanical royalties, which you get whenever your music is reproduced on CD or vinyl, or as a download or stream
performance royalties, which you get when your song is performed live or played on radio or television
And although there is no EU single market for digital music purchases, there is now a thriving single market for licensing music and collecting royalties on it.
In the UK, the main royalty collection society is PRS for Music. Its chief executive, Robert Ashcroft, says that the European Commission made a big difference with its Collective Rights Management Directive, which came into force in the UK in April last year.
As a result, it is now much easier to license music in many territories at once, rather than having to authorise it country by country, as was formerly the case.
PRS, for example, works in a joint venture with its counterparts in Sweden and Germany, STIM and GEMA, to operate a pan-European online music rights licensing service.
This means that songwriters and music publishing companies can get paid more quickly and accurately.
“We have already been licensing our rights on a pan-European basis,” says Mr Ashcroft. “Brexit won’t stop that and it’s not in our business interest to stop it either.”
The UK’s law on music copyright has changed in recent years because of Brussels.
In November 2013, UK copyright protection on sound recordings increased from 50 years to 70 years, in line with an EU directive approved in 2011.
However, recordings that had already slipped into the public domain, such as the Beatles’ first single, stayed there.
And there is a “use it or lose it” provision for hitherto unreleased recordings from 50 years ago. If record companies have ageing tracks in the vaults that they have never issued, then they have no comeback if other people get hold of them and release them.
Will all this change when the UK “takes back control”? PRS’s Mr Ashcroft thinks not.
“I expect it to continue unless and until someone presents an argument that it’s damaging to the economy,” he says.
Touring and nationality
One area where Brexit could have a negative impact is on touring musicians. There are fears that music groups might have to scale back European tours after Brexit and fewer European acts could travel to the UK.
“We have a very healthy business in royalties that are earned when our members’ works are performed overseas,” says PRS’s Mr Ashcroft. “If there were obstacles to British bands touring, that would be a potential challenge.”
At the same time, however, he is concerned about Brexit’s potential impact on his own organisation’s staffing levels. “Eleven per cent of our employees come from countries other than the UK. We operate daily in 13 languages. We need the prime minister to give assurances that the people resident and working here can stay.”
On that basis, he feels that the UK’s music business is well integrated with the rest of Europe and hopes it will stay that way, despite Brexit: “We are so international that we think our business transcends that.”
Rogue One actor Riz Ahmed has been made a cover star for Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential figures in the world.
Ahmed leads the way for the pioneers list, with other categories honouring icons, artists and leaders.
Oscar winners Viola Davis and John Legend are the respective cover stars for icons and artists.
Ed Sheeran and James Corden also made the list, with their tributes written by Taylor Swift and Sir Elton John.
‘Quietly pursuing every passion’
Ahmed’s tribute is written by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. The actor and musician contributed a rap to the Hamilton Mixtape and Miranda explains why he is a named as a pioneer.
“Riz Ahmed has been quietly pursuing every passion and opportunity for many years as an actor (The Road to Guantanamo, Four Lions, Nightcrawler), rapper (Post 9/11 Blues, Englistan) and activist (raising funds for Syrian refugee children, advocating representation at the House of Commons).
“To know him is to be inspired, engaged and ready to create alongside him. The year 2016 was when all the seeds he planted bore glorious fruit, and here’s the best part: he’s just getting started.”
Riz tweeted his thanks to Time and Lin-Manuel for his “love” and “support”, which he said he hopes to earn.
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins and Selma director Ava Duvernay have also made the list.
Meryl Streep has written about Viola Davis for the magazine, pointing out her “hard-won, midlife rise to the very top of her profession has not led her to forget the rough trip she took getting there”.
“And that is why she embodies for all women, but especially for women of colour, the high-wire rewards of hard work and a dream, risk and faith.”
Scorsese and Mirren pay tributes
Harry Belafonte has written the tribute to John Legend calling him a “wonderful artist” and “remarkable lyricist” and praised his activism.
“John uses his platform to push for meaningful social change, and the depth of his commitment is to be admired,” he writes.
Other stars to make the list are Demi Lovato, Chance the Rapper, Emma Stone and Margot Robbie, whose tribute is written by Martin Scorsese.
Helen Mirren has written about Ryan Reynolds, Russell Crowe has written a tribute to Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones and Cate Blanchett has written about The People V OJ Simpson actress Sarah Paulson.
Cuba Gooding Sr, the lead singer of 70s soul group Main Ingredient and father of actor Cuba Gooding Jr, has died at the age of 72.
The star was found dead in his car on Thursday in Woodland Hills, California, officials said.
His body was slumped over the wheel of his Jaguar, but there was no suspicion of foul play.
Anonymous sources told the LA Times that drug paraphernalia and alcohol containers were found in the car.
Born in Harlem, New York, the star received his unusual forename from his father, Dudley MacDonald Gooding.
“He told my mother that he would name his first born son Cuba because he once lived in Cuba and had positive feelings about the country,” the musician told the North Dallas Gazette in 2015.
He was encouraged to pursue a singing career by his family.
“My mom and dad were determined that their first-born son would do something in the arts, if I had the talent,” he recalled in a 2014 radio interview.
“Being born in Harlem had its advantages if you wanted to be an entertainer because it was literally… the entertainment capital of the world.
“I lived literally only eight blocks away from the Apollo Theater, and 19 blocks from Carnegie Hall. Although Carnegie Hall required a little bit more sneaking in the back.”
Growing up, he saw the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson play on his doorstep, and resolved to become a singer in his own right.
The other members of Main Ingredient – Tony Sylvester, Luther Simmons Jr and Donald McPherson – were childhood friends, but Gooding Sr initially declined to join the group, having set his sights on a solo career.
But, as the band started to achieve success, he helped out with backing vocals, and stepped up as the lead singer following the death of frontman Donald McPherson in 1971.
In 1972, they recorded an album, Afrodisiac, which featured several songs written or co-written by Stevie Wonder.
But by 1977, Sylvester and Gooding Sr had both left the band. Gooding Sr signed with Motown Records and released two well-received, but commercially disappointing albums.
He later re-joined Main Ingredient and worked with them through the 1980s.
His son Cuba Gooding Jr is an Oscar-winning actor who appeared in films including Boyz ‘N the Hood, A Few Good Men and Jerry Maguire.
The star had three other children with his wife Shirley Gooding: Omar and April, both of whom are also actors, and musician Tommy Gooding, who served as the musical director of his father’s touring band.