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What a way to introduce yourself to the world! You take one of the best rock songs of the 60s (and of all time) with one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time
Kevin Dodds is a Van Halen fanatic. He’s been following the band since 1979 and is a contributor to the Van Halen News Desk. He is also the author of Edward Van Halen: A Definitive Biography. So…, he knows his stuff!
Back in November of 2013, he got Dave Davspoke to Kinks guitarist, Dave Davies on the phone for an interview. Naturally, Van Halen was brought up during the conversation since Van Halen covered “You Really Got Me” (Van Halen – 1978) and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” (Diver Down – 1982).
Excerpt from Van Halen News Desk
Kevin Dodds: Do you recall when you first heard Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me?”
Dave Davies: Oh, yeah. I heard it on the radio when we were on the road or something. When was it out?
It was 1978.
It was quite early, anyway. I quite liked a lot of the kind of crash and jam – Dead Kennedys. I liked that kind of tail-end of the punk thing, which I found reminded me of when we had first started. When I heard the guys’ [Van Halen’s] version of it, I felt, you know, “This sounds really flashy.” But it depicted the era, didn’t it? In that it was in the era when stadium rock was big, and guitars were flashier, and tight trousers, and swanky. The original record was – our record, the original, because Van Halen’s is a cover [laughs] – we literally had one, ball-busting chance to make that record, otherwise it would’ve never gotten made. The record company fucked up the first recording, and they had echo all over the place. It was awful. Our manager gave us two hundred pounds to go in the studio to get it how we wanted to do it. So, I just sliced my own damn speakers – really basic stuff. When I first heard the sound of it, it was either shit or bust. It was like, you know, I had to do it, otherwise we were never going to get another session. I had no idea what I was going to do on the solo. I was really just cocky, and I just fucking played something. And that’s what happened.
Our version is very much about survival and kids trying to express themselves. It’s like “You Really Got Me” has that feeling of kids just trying to express themselves. You know, back then, if we wanted to date a girl, we just went up to her and grabbed hold of her. And you didn’t wine and dine, or court. It was just really fundamental, basic kind of things that young kids did at that time. And the music reflected our own culture and behavior. So, really, even though it’s the same song, there’s a cultural emphasis and there’s patterns in it.
There’s a chasm between the two versions. One’s about a comfortable, American urban life. And one is about a raunchy, desperate kind of survival instinct. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good record. It always makes you feel good when people are inspired by your work.
I watched a bit of your link of the guys doing an acoustic version of “You Really Got Me” last night. [From Van Halen’s “Downtown Sessions” in 2012.]
What did you think about that?
I thought it was interesting. Because when you trim it all down back to basics, it becomes a lot more honest, doesn’t it? And there’s only certain things you can do when it’s a very simplified approach. I enjoyed that.