I met Pete through my brother Ray. Pete was three years older than me, the same age as my brother, and they were in the same class at the William Grimshaw School, the secondary modern in Muswell Hill we all went to. When I found out that Pete had a guitar that bonded us and from then on we used to hang out all the time. We'd talk about music constantly--The Ventures, The Shadows, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran--and we'd talk about girls and football, the normal things boys talk about.
When it came to forming the band, we drew lots to see who should play bass, because Ray, Pete and I all played guitar. It wasn't really fair that Pete got the short straw; while I could rock out and improvise and Ray could mimic any style, Pete could do both. Our first experiences of playing as a band came at school dances. All three of us were plugged into the same amp but we thought we were great. None of us were singers at this point, so we'd mainly play instrumentals like Apache.
Pete was outgoing like me and he was always up for trying different things--he was never scared to give it a go. Him being an accomplished musician was also a great help when we started recording in the studio because if we needed something he would suggest parts for guitars and bass, and he'd help with arrangements and he was a great backing singer too. We were all into the Mamas And The Papas, The Lovin' Spoonful and Phil Spector and it was Pete who came up with the sha la la's on "Waterloo Sunset."
He called himself the ambassador of the group and that makes sense. He liked meeting people and he was a bit cheeky. He always seemed to know what to say, whereas Ray could be shy and reticent and I could be a bit rough round the edges and piss people off. Pete was a diplomat, he was more charming and he was the glue between me and Ray, he was a bridge.
Growing up together from such a young age, there was a special bond that developed from learning things together. We didn't go to university to learn our art, we learned as we went along. We thought we were inventing a new genre of music, we were enthused and that's what gave our music its purity, spontaneity and aggressiveness and that in turn brought us closer. We grew as the music grew and discovered and explored ourselves and gained our identities together.
It sounds simple but just the fact Pete was there made a difference to The Kinks. Everyone fulfils a role in the group dynamic and if he wasn't there we felt that something was missing.
Pete was very important in cultivating The Kinks' visual identity. Early on he worked as an artist and graphic designer at a magazine called The Outfitter on Charing Cross Road and I had a job in Leicester Square fixing musical instruments and we'd spend our lunches in coffee bars on Kingly Street sketching hairstyles and band jackets and shoes we wanted on napkins. We'd look in the little clothes shops on Carnaby Street and Kingly Street. Pete discovered Italian Cuban heels in Anello & Davide the bootmakers and I got them to make me some thigh-high leather boots. After work we'd check out Dobell's jazz shop and we'd go to the Piccadilly Club [in Ham Yard]. I was too young so he'd have to let me in round the back--that's where I first saw the Stones--and we'd go to the 51 Club [in Great Newport Street, Soho] as well.
Pete got really into the mod thing. We'd be driven in cars to our gigs and he'd ride to them on his Vespa in his anorak. He'd be stopping off at all the cafes on the way, and he'd turn up at the stage door while we were getting ready in his dirty anorak, and he'd take off his goggles to reveal his sooty face and he'd have his stage gear underneath and he'd be filthy.
Pete said his favourite Kinks album was ...The Village Green Preservation Society, which is funny because it was also the last one he played on and by then I could see his heart wasn't in The Kinks and he was getting frustrated. I think he felt squashed between me and Ray creatively.
Pete and I never sat down and discussed why he left. We had this mutual thing of, like, if the other one says this or does that, then that's OK. I didn't even question him on it. If he wanted to leave then that's what he wanted to do. I look back and I realize how lucky we were to have that closeness and understanding.
The last time The Kinks were together was at our induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990 but Pete came along to some shows I played as Dave Davies And His Band at the Bottom Line in New York in 1997, we did "You Really Got Me" and it brought the house down. My bass player said, 'He's playing the same notes, but why is it sounding so different?' That explained Pete's role--it's not what you do but how you do it. After the show we hugged and just before we parted ways, he turned round and said, 'Oh, Dave...' and he was going to say something and he didn't and it still bothers me, because I got the feeling he was going to ask if he could join the band and I think why was I so stupid not to pick up on that? My bass player could just have moved on to another instrument in the band and Pete and I could have been playing together ever since.
I loved him like a brother, he was a part of my family. Back when we were kids, we used to leave the key on the ledge outside the door so he used to just come and go...
As told to: Lois Wilson
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