In the Summer of 1964, The Beatles were exploding on the British and American charts and the Kinks were getting ready to record their third single “You Really Got Me.” The Kinks were a foursome made up of Ray Davies (lead singer), Dave Davies (lead guitar), Mick Avory (drums) and Pete Quaif (bass). Earlier in 1964, lead singer/songwriter Ray Davies had been sitting at his piano at home experimenting with sounds. He came up with a jazzy riff, which eventually became “You Really Got Me.” Davies later said, “I hadn’t been writing songs very long at all. It was one of the first five I ever came up with.”
“You Really Got Me” is built on chords without thirds, later dubbed “power chords,” and was a lasting influence on subsequent genres including power pop, heavy metal and punk. The classic guitar riff was played by Ray’s brother, Dave Davies, who later described the classic track as “a love song for street kids.” Dave created the unique distorted guitar sound by slicing the speaker cone of his amp with a razor blade and then poking it with a pin.
“You Really Got Me” was released August 4, 1964, and was The Kinks’s third single. It reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart in September and stayed there for two weeks. Following its huge success in the U.K., “You Really Got Me” was rush-released in the U.S. on September 2, 1964. It took until September 26th to reach the Billboard Hot 100, and it eventually rose to #7. It has been covered by several artists, most notably by Van Halen, whose 1978 cover version went to #37 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ray Davies later remarked that he enjoyed the Van Halen version because it “made him laugh.”