"The Kinks thrive in an atmosphere of chaos and spontaneity and secrecy"

A kinks.de interview with Kinks author Doug Hinman

Kinks fans know Doug Hinman since he wrote and published the huge Kinks discography "You Really Got Me: An illustrated world discography of The Kinks 1964-1993" (plus a supplement). He announced a second book including a chronology of The Kinks' activities years ago and now it will be finally out at the end of January. In an exclusive interview (via e-mail) Doug Hinman informs us about the content of the book, the problems making it, his form of research and future projects of his publishing company "Rock'n'Roll Research Press".

kinks.de: When will your new book about the Kinks finally be out?

Doug Hinman: The official publication date is January 30th. However, I should have a quantity of copies to sell by mid-January in advance of normal availability, so people should check the website for details.

All Day And All Of The Night: CoverWhat will be the content of the book?

The book is a chronology of the key events of the Kinks' entire career, focusing mainly on concert dates, TV & radio broadcasts and recording sessions. While original release information is included there is not much emphasis on discography as that was covered in such detail in my prior book ("You Really Got Me"; plus its supplement 1994-1997).

The book was announced for the first time some years ago. Why did it took so long to finish it?

The original project was begun in 1984 actually, 20 years ago, when the 3 major biographies of the band first came out and I assisted the authors on all three. The original plan was for a strict world discography which in the end took 10 years to get published. Early on during the research for that book I realized I wanted to have a companion book which I began researching at the same time as all information on their career became relevant even for the first book (e.g. trying to narrow down recording sessions based on knowledge of when they were not off touring). At one point in the late 80s I wanted to combine the two projects into one massive book but it became overwhelming and I decided to return to issuing it in two parts. After the discography portion was published in 1994 I needed a break, and was also raising a young family and changing careers. My ability to focus on getting the book done on my own suffered and only just last year I was presented with an offer to do it outside of my own publishing venture and work with an editor whom I trusted to help me firm up the text and content. There were quite a number of compromises I had to make from my original vision of the work, but in the end, the compromises had to be made, in order to get a finished book out at all.

What kind of compromises do you mean? Did you have to "popularize" the content of the book?

No, the compromises were almost entirely those due to the limit of the size of the book. The length of the book was not open ended. Based on the budget allotted for the book, the publisher envsioned a shorter length to begin with. Their intial inclination even was to limit the coverage to peak time span of popularity but I was firm that it should cover the entire career which works out to 35 years which is a VERY long time period to cover in the level of detail I had. They agreed to that in the end [and which they since agreed was the only way to do it] but the sheer volume of detail we had to present cut into other planned aspects such as graphic materials content. We had to drop reproductions of concert adverts entirely and the number of photos had to be cut at the very end, after having to drop color ones and then the final number of black & white ones. So it became much more of a text based book than originally envisioned but in the end it is the story and text which prevails and features the fact that the book is a heavily researched-based work.

You are writing about 35 years of the Kinks' career. What were the biggest problems in research? Maybe you have an example for facts which were a hard to find out.

Almost everything about researching the Kinks' career is very difficult for many reasons, primarily because they thrive in an atmosphere of chaos and spontaneity and secrecy and have left a miserable paper trail of their activities. I consider myself a voracious researcher and I literally spent 20 years putting together the information I have in the book. Aspects of it, particularly hard recording data, was and is very frustrating. Either no records survive or the is no access to such those that do. People who know me, know that I scoured and pushed and pursued every possible avenue humanly possible to get what I was able to. People expecting a Beatles-like second by second account of the behind the scenes activities will be expecting too much. The Beatles' every move was captured on paper somewhere. The Kinks' left a legacy of utter chaos and elusiveness. While research into radio & TV ultimately proved surmountable, assembling the concert history from the 60s was a Herculean task. It is impossible to know how much might still be missing but I am satisfied that I got much of it. While I feel I tracked down almost everything I had a lead on, there are still some mystery gigs where I had clues when and where they might have happened but in 20 years was never able to nail them down. Even right up to the last possible second as the book was being readied for print I was able to sneak in some last minute 60s gigs that came to light at the eleventh hour :-)

Can you give an example of such a "mystery gig"?

Sure. Back when I first started in earnest on the concert research in 1985-86 I had a chance to go over certain periods of their touring history with long-serving road manager Ken Jones. I was stumped by some large gaps in the 1969-70 US tours for which there were no surviving reliable itineraries. Ken came up with some very strong clues and recollections, many of which I was able to track down through researching locals newspapers for the cities he mentioned. A small number of memories he had proved very elusive though. Early shows in Davenport, Iowa; Stratford, Connecticut and Buffalo, New York proved expecially troublesome as many shows from this era were booked on short notice and only advertised on radio and in some cases the Kinks were likely opening act. It took me almost 15 years to find someone who had enough recall of the Stratford show to date it. I never found anyone who remembered the Buffalo show for which Ken had a vivid memory of the venue (Shea's Theater). The Davenport show I never was able to resolve at all. If no written records of an event survive, it is very difficult to pinpoint and verify the real facts. Details of one show from the infamous 1965 US tour (in Spokane Washington) eluded me for almost 20 years and literally I finally found a reliable source who confirmed the venue on the very day that additions to the text for the book were 'frozen' in place, after making one last ditch effort to find this answer which eluded me for so long.

Doug Hinman and Pete Quaife 1990Where there any help from the Kinks' members? Did Ray or Dave Davies supported your work?

I had help from many of the members at various points in time. Pete Quaife I got to know since 1986 when I first tracked him down in Canada; Mick I spoke to in London in 1986 and he also dug out 70s tour info for me. On that same trip to London I met with John Dalton & John Gosling both of whom dug out information from some diaries they kept as did 70s horn player John Beecham who kept very detailed records of his limited time in the band. I made nice friendships with Jim Rodford & Bob Henrit in the latter days and they all chipped in with bits when they could and have always been very supportive. I approached both Ray & Dave in 1987 and handed them an early working version of the chronology but at the time neither really made any comment. Dave later refered to my manuscript when writing his own book in 1995-96 and also excerpted parts of my discography in it as well. I later assisted on assembling his anthology and he kindly asked me to write the liner notes for the British edition, a task I felt honored to do. So in the end we have a very friendly relationship when I see him at shows but I never pushed him hard on little details as I know I overwhelm him with obscure bits he just can't remember. Ray, in the end, no matter how friendly he is to say hello to after a show, just never offers up any hard information about himself or his career and I think I learned early on just not to expect that he ever would and just went about my own way of trying to find answers through my own research as best I could. In the final analysis I am glad this book was delayed because it was both a relief and a help to have both of them publish their own books first. I look at this book and the discography really as companions to their own books and to the other authors who have taken a stab at their story.

Do you have future plans for more Kinks-books? What about a revised edition of the Kinks discography "You Really Got Me"?

No plans whatsoever for any more books on The Kinks other than possibly overhauling the discography entirely and bringing it up to date. If I get to that I would reformat the entire book as I was never happy with the overall structure of the book which was somewhat dictated to me early on by the original publisher who wanted me to follow a similar format to some other rock discorgaphies he had published. In the end he never published the book and the rights reverted back to me and I put it out myself. But at that late point in the game I just couldn't start from scratch and do it my way and so made the best out of the way it was done. A key point to remember about that book was that the CD was literally just being introduced as novel format at the time I started it and so wasn't compensated for with the fact that it later became the dominant format in the record industry.

Rock'n'Roll Research Press: Jeff's Book, Living On A Thin Line (Kinks Essays)You have your own publishing company "Rock'n'Roll Research Press". Is there a marked for the books you'd like to sell or do you have to pay more than you earn?

I started the company as a side venture spurred on by the possibilities of internet-based businesses. I had already self-published the first book ("You Really Got Me" and its supplement) and got drawn in on someone else's book project on Jeff Beck which I originally was helping out on research but then ended up as co-author and then publisher as well. This was in line with the type of indepth research I like to do and I formalized the operation in order to possibly do some further similar books. A failed plan to do a chronology of the Yardbirds led to including some of the research in another book published by Backbeat Books which in turn led to the offer to do my Kinks chronology, so things work out sometimes. To be frank though R'n'R Research Press is hardly a money-making venture and I am not much of a salesperson nor do I spend anytime promoting the titles. It is just an outlet for my projects with an occasional foray into other people's titles such as the essay book on The Kinks I put out last year ("Living On A Thin Line" by Mike Kraus & Tom Kitts). I work full-time as a librarian and am happy if I can add some additional income from booksales at the end of the year. But if I counted the dollars I might make against the time I put in and the expenses, it would be ridiculous. So yes, like the books I do, the company is also a labor of love.

Thank you for the long, detailed and very interesting answers, Doug!

interview: Helge Buttkereit
assistance: Thomas Bartoldus
update: 25-Dec-2003