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Musical Space: You Really Got Me

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The Kinks reached Number One on the British charts 50 years ago with their new single “You Really Got Me.” The band solidified their sound with this song, and also pushed rock music a quantum leap forward, and for that we owe the Kinks a great debt.

Musicologists have called this the first song built on the power chord, the simplest of all guitar patterns, and so is a progenitor to heavy metal. But because of its simplicity and bratty, irreverent posture, I think “You Really Got Me” is also the world’s first punk song. There’s the incessant repetition - they play the main riff 68 times in a little over two minutes - and their adherence to punk’s rule of using a minimum number of chords. There’s Ray Davies’ screaming vocals, and his brother Dave’s distorted guitar sound, which was produced by mutilating the speaker cone of his amplifier with pins and a razor blade.

People took notice of The Kinks’ message. “You Really Got Me” became the template for the impudent juvenile delinquents of 1964, outrocking and predating The Who’s “My Generation” by over a year and becoming one of the most covered rock songs of all time. Fresh on the market is the Kink’s 50th anniversary box set - a fitting tribute to the inventors of both heavy metal and punk rock.

Mark Foley is principal double bass of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and professor of double bass and head of Jazz Studies at Wichita State University.