Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.
MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Jimmy Page plays the famous guitar riff on the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.”
The opening guitar riff in the Kinks’ 1964 hit song, “You Really Got Me,” is one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock and roll history. And really, the lead guitar work in the song is excellent period.
Because of the fame of the song, though, there has been an incredibly persistent legend about the song that Jimmy Page, the famous lead guitarist for Led Zeppelin, actually did the riff and the lead guitar work in the song and not the listed lead guitarist, Dave Davies (brother of the Kinks’ lead singer, Ray Davies, who wrote “You Really Got Me”). Page was a well-respected session musician in the early 1960s. He also played on some Kinks tracks. Did he play the lead on “You Really Got Me”?
Read on to find out!
The origin of the legend is really quite easy to understand. Dave Davies is a very good guitar player, but Jimmy Page is one of the most famous guitar players in rock and roll history. So when people learned that Page HAD played on Kinks’ records around this time, it is not all that shocking to see how a rumor might begin that the extraordinary guitar riff came from Page and not Davies. Is that fair to Davies? Of course not. But at the same time, it’s still easy to see how it could have started.
The producer on the record, Shal Talmy, certainly didn’t help matters when he said in a Spectropop interview:
Spectropop: Seriously, can you finally put an end to the Jimmy Page controversy?
Talmy: [laughs] You mean did he play the solo on “You Really Got Me”? I’ve only been asked that about 5,000 times!
Spectropop: How does someone in your position convince an artist to let a session player come in a play a solo instead of them?
Talmy: Because he didn’t! Jimmy played rhythm guitar, because Ray Davies didn’t want to sing and play guitar at the same time. It’s as simple as that. Dave played all the solos, and is an extremely good guitarist. He’s way underrated – no one ever talks about him as a guitarist.
We used Jimmy Page on some Kinks stuff so Ray didn’t have to play rhythm guitar as well as sing – but, contrary to myth, Jimmy didn’t play on You Really Got Me.
Contrary to the myth that HE propagated!
But yeah, even there, he says Page DIDN’T play lead guitar in the version where he says Page DID play on the song. It just makes you wonder a BIT when the stories don’t match up.
However, the Davies both have said Page didn’t play lead and Page has said he didn’t play lead, so I think it’s pretty much a sure thing that Page didn’t play lead. Page said in 1977 to Sound and Sound:
“I didn’t play on ‘You Really Got Me’ and that’s what pisses him [Ray Davies] off.”
And in 2014, on Sirius XM’s Town Hall, Page also said:
“Oh, Crikey! I wasn’t on ‘You Really Got Me,’ but I did play on the Kinks’ records. That’s all I’m going to say about it. But every time I do an interview, people ask me about ‘You Really Got Me.’ So maybe somebody can correct Wikipedia so people won’t keep asking me.”
That sure seems pretty definitive, right? The producer on the song says Jimmy Page didn’t play lead. Ray Davies says Jimmy Page didn’t play lead. Dave Davies says Jimmy Page didn’t play lead. Jimmy Page says Jimmy Page didn’t play lead. It’s a good bet that Jimmy Page didn’t play lead.
Also, here are the Kinks playing it live in 1964. The guitar is identical to the recorded version.
By the way, as an aside, Ray Davies and Dave Davies often got quite heated with each other, and “You Really Got Me” was no exception, as Ray was screaming at his younger brother to get him to play the riff harder. Ray claims that you can hear him curse at Dave on the recorded version of “You Really Got Me,” which he says he covered with the famous “Oh no!” line in the song. If you listen to the song at around the 1:14 mark, you can hear something out of the ordinary, but it seems hard to believe that it was actually profanity .
Anyways, as to the legend, I’m going with the legend as…
Thanks to Spectropop.com, The Guardian, Sirius XM and Sound on Sound for the quotes!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org