Muswell Hillbillies’ David Sokol Talks Kinks

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Muswell Hillbillies, a Kinks tribute band, playing Friday night at the Iron Horse, Northampton, MA.
The eleven piece Muswell Hillbillies, a Kinks music band, playing Friday night at the Iron Horse.
My old friend David Sokol is playing in his band that plays Kinks songs on Friday night at the Iron Horse. I asked him about the gig and about his favorite band. It’s called “Back Where we Started,” and is billed as their last gig.

Why the Kinks? what is so special about this band to you?

The Kinks made a remarkable string of albums from 1966 to 1971, spanning Face to Face to Muswell Hillbillies. I don’t think any other band or artist in the modern era ever made six so-consistently-stellar albums in a row. But for the most part, they went virtually unnoticed in the mainstream, with the exception of a single or two. So this is a rich, untapped wealth of material that a lot of people have never heard. 

Why is this your last show? Can’t you find new musicians to replace departing ones?  You seem to have gained a following you love the music…why quit?
Good question. But it’s a logistical challenge with 11 members, six of whom are in college (one in California) or soon will be. And this group, with its span of some 40 years and all of us from Hadley, just feels right. But who knows… maybe there’ll be a reunion or an unexpected gig one day.
Tell me about the first time you heard a Kinks song. Knowing you as I do I bet you remember the EXACT song and where you were when you heard it. True?
Ha ha. Yes. I was in a record store in the fall of 1964, I’d just gotten into pop music and heard “You Really Got Me.” It sure sounded different. But it wasn’t until I heard the more melodic “Set Me Free,” several months later, that I really got interested in the band.

What is it like playing  a gig at BB Kings NYC compared with playing at the Iron Horse. How the heck did you get a gig at BB KINGS?

B.B. King’s was a blast. We rented a bus and all went down to Manhattan together. It dropped us off right in front of the club, in Times Square. But we were the headliners that night and had a cool dressing room and a never-ending buffet. Clarence Clemons and the Persuasions played the club that same week. One of the nice things about playing at B.B. King was that, for the most part we didn’t have to bring a lot equipment, and there were large screens on either side of the stage showing close-ups of us playing. A lot of people drove down from the Valley, and there were a lot of die-hard Kinks fans in the audience. And they liked us!!
Tell us some things about the Kinks that makes them so dear to you…and a few other facts about these lads that we don’t already know.
Ray Davies, and his brother Dave to an extent, wrote all these evocative, timeless songs. Some very British in feel, but all universal. Ray is a remarkable storyteller, and you can’t listen to songs like “Have a Cuppa Tea” from the Muswell Hillbillies album or “Dead End Street” without seeing images in your head. “Waterloo Sunset,” “Sunny Afternoon,” “Victoria,” “Strangers,” and dozens of others… just beautiful, cinematic songs.
In your long career interviewing musicians for the Valley Advocate, did you ever meet Davies or any of the Kinks?
No, but Ray did splash some beer on me at a show at the UMass Fine Arts Center. I had seats in the pit, thanks to the UMass Union Program Council and my buddy Bob Humphreys (who, after all these years, does sound for us at every show). It was in the early 1980s, and they were doing “Alcohol.” I reviewed the concert for the Advocate.

How many times have you seen the Kinks live?

Just three, the first being in October 1969 when I saw them at the Boston Tea Party, across from Fenway Park. I loved the band and its recent albums, but it wasn’t a great show. Maybe I was too young.
Any other observations?
Our band, with members spanning three generations, is living proof of the enduring music of the Kinks. Only three of the 11 of us had even been born when the Kinks were recording their greatest albums, from which we draw most of our set list. But all of us love the music. And it’s incredibly cool to see our five-piece horn section, all of whom are high school seniors or college kids, appreciating this music so much. We have some remarkable musicians in this band, and it’s an honor to be playing with them.

Tickets are still available at www.iheg.com