It recently occurred to me, I haven’t heard the term “hard rock” for what seems like decades. These days, it’s all heavy metal this or metal that, not to mention metal’s myriad sub groups. Once it was simple. There was hard rock and not-so-hard rock, otherwise known as pop. Soft rock was yet to become a genre.

The original Hard Rock cafe in London was great and unique when it opened in 1971. Now, of course, it’s a bit of a cliche, with branches all over the world









Guys, in general, liked it hard and riff-driven. Girls usually preferred the softer songs. We’re generalising here, of course. Some girls liked it hard. And we mustn’t forget, when a certain rock & roll themed restaurant first opened its doors in London in 1971, they called it “Hard Rock” because metal wasn’t even invented.

Now, in this attempt to track the development of the earliest hard rock riff, I’m taking myself back to when I was around 12 and used to sneak into what we used to call dances, rather than gigs and suchlike. We’re talking about 1962 here – before the Beatles turned the pop and rock world on its head.
In those formative years of blues-rock, inspired sets of guitar-based rhythm & blues seemed the norm in the UK, rather than the exception. Perhaps this was because I was new to live music and unable to gauge its quality like I feel I can now with all these years under my belt. Anyway, my memory says it was all fantastic.
Two of rock & roll’s greatest song writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
with rock & roll’s greatest solo performer. Leiber and Stoller wrote
“Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” for Elvis as well as a string of
classics for the Coasters and many, many others
Covers of old blues and classic American R&B from
the 1950s, in those first years of the 60s, were always guaranteed to get the
room rocking, before the usual dance hall fights erupted. Three songs from
those days stick in the mind and, remarkably, all were written by those
illustrious Jewish-American song writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, for
that seminal African-American rock & roll group, the Coasters.
Indeed, as an example of Coasters’ tremendous influence
on rock and pop music, they were the first group to be inducted into America’s
Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Yet, when I was lucky enough to see them ‘live’,
in an outer-suburban beer barn in Melbourne, Australia, in 1974, called South
Side Six from memory, the Coasters had been relegated to playing second-rate
out-of-town venues. Such is the fickleness of the music industry, as every
musician can testify. They were excellent, by the way.
Rock & Roll pioneers: the fabulous Coasters
The three Leiber/Stoller/Coasters songs all the pre-Beatles
guitar bands seemed to cover were: “Poison Ivy”, “Love Potion No. 9” (given to
The Clovers first) and “I’m A Hog For You (Baby)”.
These great R&B numbers
were standard fare for every band that rocked in Britain before the Beatles
exploded, including the Beatles, themselves. I’m sure that rings true for
America, too.
A fourth U.S. R&B song also covered by the
early guitar British bands was ”Louie Louie” – a Hot Chocolate offshoot of which was recently used as the theme
song to Louis C.K.’s award-winning TV show. Written in 1955 by Richard Berry,
“Louie Louie” was the catalyst for the first hard rock riff that led to metal.
And here’s why. It’s generally accepted that The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” was
the first hard rock riff in rock history, due to their lead guitarist Dave
Davies slashing his amp’s speaker cone with a razor to get those fabulous
distorted power chords. If you’d like to remind yourself of the early Kinks
with “You Really Got Me”, they’re here below.
Early Kinks before they were banned in America
Link to The Kinks’ “You Really Got
Me” here:
Dave’s brother, The Kinks lead singer and main song
writer, Ray Davies, has said that he wrote “You Really Got Me” whilst trying to
work out the chords to “Louie Louie”. Whether this was Richard Berry’s 1957 original
track, Rockin’ Robin Roberts’ adaptation in 1961 or the 1963 worldwide hit
version by Portland’s The Kingsmen, you’ll have to ask Ray Davies. The Kingsmen’s
track, however, remains the best known of some 150 covers including by the
Beatles, Beach Boys, Black Flag, Clash, Doors, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Iggy
and the Stooges (see last post), Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding, Motorhead, Mothers
of Invention (said to have fired their guitarist because she couldn’t play it),
Trogs (whose “Wild Thing” uses a similar chord progression) and so on.
The original Kingsmen in 1963. It was probably their version of
“Louie Louie” that inspired Ray Davies to write “You Really Got Me”.
to The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” here:
The Kinks version of “Louis Louie”:
And now try
The Kinks’ “Milk Cow Blues”: 
I say The Kinks’ “Milk Cow Blues” but readers of
the post- before-last will know it as Sleepy John Estes’ “Milk Cow Blues”. I’ve
included it to give an example of just how good a blues rock band The Kinks
were before Ray’s song writing lost its youthful bite (in my opinion) and
started bordering on the twee and comical. Funnily enough, I was working
alongside their PR, Marion Rainford, in London that very year and remember my despair
when The Kinks’ came out with “Ape Man”. Marion was truly delightful, kind and
helpful to a young boy (me) so I thought I’d check her out to see if she was
still around. I found her in a local London newspaper. Apparently she gave up
rock to teach ballroom dancing. Have a read, if only to find out how rock PRs
can have a very un-rock life after rock & roll:
Even though I’d seen The Kinks in the office, I
didn’t mention where I worked when inadvertently bumping into Dave Davies at
the Chesford Grange Hotel near Warwick, England, at a gig there in 1970. Being
1970, pathetic English snobbery was still in full swing. In 1970, being dressed
like long-haired 20-year-olds meant not being let into the hotel’s comfortable lounge
bar for a drink, rather than putting up with the hot and stuffy beer tent laid
on for the music punters.
Dave Davies didn’t just play the first hard rock/
heavy metal power chords, he was a nice person, too
As we argued the point at the door, a voice
boomed out, “I’m in here. Why can’t they be?” From inside the lounge bar
strode Dave Davies who proceeded to give the door monkeys what for. “They’re
dressed the same as me. You can’t stop them coming in”.
“Oh, yes we can. You’re a guest. They’re not.”
“Well, they can come in as my guests,” said Dave,
inviting an unruly group of five of us into the plush lounge and chatting amiably
with us until it was time to go on stage. Dave hadn’t a clue that I worked with
Marion. We were complete strangers, which made me realise what a nice man he
was and, presumably, still is.
Unfortunately, The Kinks stellar career in
America was cut short in 1965 by a four year ban by the American Federation of
Television and Recording Artists, said to have arisen due to The Kinks not
paying their union fees after playing a Dick Clark special on NBC. That Ray
Davies had reportedly punched a union official for calling England ‘communist’
wouldn’t have helped.
Years later, Ray Davies said, “In many respects, that ridiculous ban took away the best
years of the Kinks’ career when the original band was performing at its peak.”
I’d go even further and say that’s when Ray’s song writing
lost its edge, became middle-of- the-road

Ray Davies. To me, Ray stopped writing great rock & roll songs
and The Kinks stopped being a great rock & roll band after they
were barred from playing in America in 1965

and started concentrating on
predominantly English themes like “The Village Green Preservation Society” and “Arthur”.
That’s just my view, of course. The majority of British Kinks fans would violently
disagree and say this was when Ray Davies started writing his best songs like “Waterloo
Sunset”, “Lola” and so on.

Each to their own. I preferred The Kinks playing rock-blues
with heavy riffs and just wonder how the band would have developed had they
been allowed to regularly tour America. Let’s finish with a Kinks song from 1965,
the year they were banned in the USA; the year, for rock and The Kinks, as far
as I’m concerned, the music died.
Finally, The Kinks’ “All Day
And All of the Night”