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X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography Paperback – 1995

4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this unique "unauthorized autobiography," Kinks singer and songwriter Davies casts himself as an eccentric old man some 20 years hence who is asked to tell his life story to a young interviewer working for a world-ruling conglomerate called "The Corporation." Eventually, the Orwellian subplot is overshadowed by Davies's very personal account of his band's many rises and falls. Like his songs, Davies's book is alternately poignant, funny, and bawdy?and his penchant for shocking his "interviewer" with tales of rock star excess leaves the reader never quite sure what to take as fact. Though the band is still active, some will be disappointed that Davies only takes the Kinks's story through 1973. The novel aspect is too thin to interest speculative fiction readers, but X-Ray is indispensable for Kinks fans and recommended for anyone interested in 1960s pop music. Recommended for subject collections.?Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Known for the satire and social commentary in their songs, 1960s British rockers the Kinks remain favorites of fans of literate pop. Their lead songwriter-singer Ray Davies' idiosyncratic autobiography reflects the band's caustic style. He adopts the persona of an employee of some authoritarian institution, as if he were a faceless chronicler assigned to report on one Raymond Douglas Davies; he refers to himself as Raymond Douglas or R. D. throughout and seemingly unearths the history of R.D.'s band. Veteran Kinks fans will take to this mannerism readily, while the less familiar may find it pretentious. But Davies' detailed illumination of underreported facets of pop-music history more than makes up for the occasional stylistic heavy sledding. The book's version of the much-reported rivalry between R. D. and younger brother Dave, the Kinks' lead guitarist, sheds light on a legendary rock feud, and its reminiscences of the Kinks' rowdy early days and their battle with relentlessly commercial Pye Records add significantly to previous reports. A major addition to pop-culture literature. Mike Tribby --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press (1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585679399
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585679393
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Ray Davies is exactly what you would expect from the leader of the 60s band The Kinks. One only has to listen to a few of the songs he has authored - "Dandy," "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," "Muswell Hillbillies" to name three - to know that Ray Davies wears his heart on his sleeve. Whether expressing jealousy at those more attractive than he (the first two listed songs - probably about brother David) or fear and scorn at those "nameless men in gray" (the third song about government-managed social experimentation), Davies has already been ready to address issues that are not often addressed in rock `n' roll, and to do so in the most convoluted manner possible.

In writing his autobiography through roughly the end of the 70s, Davies could have simply told the story. But, you have to know that this is way too easy and conventional. Instead, X-Ray is a story within a story. An unnamed minor clerk in a more-or-less unnamed department of the British government that maintains records about entertainment and entertainers is charged with "updating the file" on a certain Raymond Douglas Davies. In his effort to fulfill this objective, he meets with a reclusive, eccentric, almost Faginesque character who weaves a rambling story about himself, the band and the English music scene in general. Amidst the mass of narrative, the story of The Kinks unfolds with some remarkable clarity and candor about the band and its interaction with its management and record companies.

It is in these stretches of story-telling that the book nears conventionality.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography" is the 1996 memoir from Ray Davies, legendary frontman of The Kinks. The book is based around a fictional storyline where a 19-year-old, insomniac, orphan reporter working for a corporate-run government (known as "The Corporation") is trying to track down and interview the reclusive singer/songwriter. This is woven around the bulk of the book, which is a standard first-person recounting by Davies spanning from his childhood, through his part in the Swinging 60's music scene, and up to around the time The Kinks pioneered the rock opera movement in the early 1970's. It takes a mostly chronological approach, all the while doing a great job of showing Davies' transition from a pop songbird to the quintessential English singer/songwriter. Included are mind-blowing stories about his interactions with fellow British Invaders The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Dave Clark Five. If you're a fan of The Kinks or are looking to get into them, then this book is a great companion.


I only started listening to The Kinks within the past two years. With that being said, if you are or were a Kinks fan, then this book is definitely worth reading. The best part about it is the way it enhances the music. If you listen to the songs while you're reading and after you've finished the book, then you'll be in for a really enjoyable experience.

While we're used to having movies with accompanying soundtracks, this is almost like having a book with a soundtrack. In that respect, the book is similar to the rock opera format that Ray Davies explored throughout the 1970's. All of the themes that are commonly found in Davies' songwriting are present in the text.
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Format: Paperback
Here is a book that turned out to be every bit as good as I hoped it would be. This is the story of one fascinating and complex man, Raymond Douglas Davies: rebel, oddball, head case, and perhaps a pop music genius as well. He begins by introducing a technique that is simultaneously distancing and revealing - the story is not being told by Davies, but by a young writer hired by "The Corporation" to do a biography of him. Davies gets to play with the idea of himself viewing himself, of Ray Davies the pop star, who is, in fact, a memory, a creation. He then tells his story thru a series of mock interviews, in which he by turns intimidates, toys with, and bares his heart to the imaginary biographer.

The focus here is on the 1960s and The Kinks's rise to stardom. The story flows pretty much chronologically. Davies grew up in a large, working class family in Muswell Hill, North London. One of the many interesting ironies about R.D. is the fact that he, one of the more cosmopolitan and cynical songwriters of his time, was very closely tied to his old neighborhood and his clan for much of his life. As a kid, he was both a competitive athlete and a creative type. At first The Kinks were mostly unknown, but things began to change for them when Davies began to discover his songwriting talent.

The book is full of marvelous anecdotes of life on the road and encounters with other pop musicians, but it did take a toll on the author. He frankly describes having some sort of depressive breakdown in the middle of their most popular and musically successful period. R.D. is a remarkably complex guy. He married young and fathered a child, but the marriage did not last. He probably was/is bisexual, yet he dances around the issue.
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