I can't BELIEVE I haven't written before about this most iconic Kinks song. It's been colonizing my earwaves ever since Monday night, when I was thrilled to see Dave Davies play his first US solo show in ten years at the City Winery. Okay, so he's not quite the unbridled raver anymore that he was in his prime -- but which of us is?
And despite the public feuding between the Davies brothers, Dave didn't try to distance himself from his Kinksian past -- he charged lustily into the classics like "You Really Got Me," "Till the End of the Day," and "All Day and All of the Night," among others. "Death of a Clown," of course, the song Ray wrote for Dave (to be honest, Dave probably co-wrote it, not that Ray would ever give him credit). I still remember Dave snarling at Ray when he was introduced as "Dave 'Death of a Clown' Davies" -- who but a brother could turn your solo hit into an insult?
Ray also says he wrote "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" for Dave, often introducing it at shows by saying -- fondly, in fact -- "You know, Dave really is not like everybody else." Kinks fans have adopted this as their mantra, proudly asserting their misfit status, and we often use it to describe Ray as well. But watching Dave sing it the other night brought home to me that he is the original rebel that the song celebrates.
Written somewhere at the end of 1965, recorded in February 1966, and released as the B-side of "Sunny Afternoon" (June 1966 in the UK, July in the US), "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" started off as a young man's howl of dissent, with lines like "I won't take all that they hand me down," "I'm not gonna take it all lying down," and "I don't want to live my life like everybody else." (Live, as I recall, the Davies brothers both throw in lines like "I don't want to get a job like everybody else" as well.) Fist pumping in the air, Kinks fans love to sing along on the defiant call-and-response refrains, trading shouts of "Like everybody else" with Dave (or Ray, whichever you're watching).
The song's a little more complex than that, of course. It dials down to a surprisingly tender second verse: "But darling, you know that I love you true, / Do anything that you want me to, / Confess all my sins like you want me to," until he reluctantly pushes back: "But there's one thing that I will say to you." (Ominous retard, beat, beat, then kick it out!) "I'm not like everybody else, I'm not like everybody else..."
Those pesky women, always trying to tame a wild man! In the last verse, he's even more willful, rejecting her efforts to get him to settle down, stop all his running around, et cetera. It's a brilliant sleight of hand, a love song that's at the same time a cry for freedom. Compare this to the one-note snottiness of the Rolling Stones' "Get Off My Cloud" (not a bad song on its own terms, but still) -- the emotional depth of this one is light-years beyond.
Of course, we fans love to sing it out lustily, and we love the Davies brothers for continuing to keep it in their set lists. The young man's howl of defiance is now an older man's rage against the dying of the light -- and you know, it's even more moving in that context. Dave Davies was nearly sidelined forever by a stroke in 2004, but he taught himself to walk, talk, sing, and play the guitar all over again. He's back, and he's still busting out of the bonds of convention. God save Dave Davies.