Nobody ever feels like they get the credit they deserve. That's not a simple or attractive aspect of humanity, the ego, and it gets even more complicated when the egos involved are brothers. I've been pondering this since seeing Friday night's screening of "Do It Again," a documentary made by my friend and former co-worker Geoff Edgers (who appears in a Raleigh T-shirt throughout the film). "Do It Again" is playing the festival circuit, and with any luck you'll be able to see it in theaters at some point because it's excellent.
Ostensibly about Edgers' quixotic attempts to reunite legendary '60s rock band The Kinks, "Do It Again" has been widely described as a chronicle of Edgers' own midlife crisis (which is partly true, but that's more subplot than major theme). It's exceptionally well-made and entertaining, with great famous-people cameos -- especially Sting in an interlude that pretty much makes the film.
But what struck me most about "Do It Again" was its depiction of egos and the way people (especially siblings) do and do not reconcile relationships. Edgers' quest to get the Kinks back together hangs on the dynamic between the famously combative brothers at the center of the band, Ray and Dave Davies.
Older brother Ray is the Kinks' principle songwriter and guiding light, and he remains as mysteriously inscrutable as ever by the end of the film. Younger brother Dave is the lead-guitarist sidekick who feels slighted and underappreciated, relegated to a sideman role with limited songwriting contributions. And his on-camera interview in "Do It Again" is one of the saddest things I've ever seen.
Dave quips that Ray has only had three happy years in his life, "age 0 to 3," the punchline being that Dave was born when Ray was 4. The look on face when he describes Ray's reaction to a proposed reunion is about what you'd expect to see from someone who just witnessed a murder.
Dave's main point is to speculate that if his brother had been more generous about sharing credit and accepting input, the Kinks might have been even better. As long as we're speculating, though, I'm going to disagree. I mean, it's entirely possible that Dave is right. He was in the Kinks and I wasn't, and Dave's "Death of a Clown" is one of the great Kinks songs. So maybe the Kinks really would have been better as an egalitarian partnership.
But on the other hand, it's hard to imagine improving on "The Village Green Preservation Society," among other Kinks masterworks. Ray Davies may have been the impossible tyrant his brother makes him out to be, but the fact remains that the Kinks catalog is still one of the rock era's great bodies of work. So as painful as the Kinks saga was for the Davies brothers to live through, the larger cause of civilization was probably better-served by their misery that it would've been by their happiness.
Which sounds like the basis of a Kinks song, come to think.