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Working Out the Kinks 

Is it crazy to try reuniting the legendary British band?

Wednesday, Jun 30 2010

Geoff Edgers, who made a film about his quest to reunite the legendary British Invasion band the Kinks, is crazy — but in a totally understandable way. As Sting (who knows a thing or two about reunions) points out in an interview in Edgers' Do It Again, there is just something alluring about the Kinks' music — something in that explosive, two-chord intro to "You Really Got Me," something about the descending melody and bittersweet lyrics in "Waterloo Sunset," that might drive a person to do something as unambiguously insane as what Edgers attempts in the film. The reward of success — hearing the band play those incredible songs again, even if only once — seem to far outweigh the price of failure.

Yet reuniting the Kinks is, as Edgers admits from the beginning of the Robert Patton-Spruill–directed film, nearly impossible. In theory, it doesn't seem so hard: Unlike the other top-tier British Invasion bands, the original members of the Kinks are still walking and breathing. (Except for founding bassist Pete Quaife, who died last week.) And as Edgers discovers, some of them even play together once a year at a Kinks convention in London. But the core of this seminal band — brothers, singers, and songwriters Ray and Dave Davies — have not spoken to each other in decades. Reuniting the Kinks thus means healing the wounds of brothers whose mutual dislike has festered over a lifetime. Edgers is a Boston Globe reporter and a music fanatic, not a psychiatrist.

The underlying absurdity of the stated goal drives Do It Again, which ends up being as much about Edgers as it is about the Kinks. Viewed as a chronicle of obsession, Do It Again is a fascinating document: We see Edgers holding prickly discussions with his wife over how to finance the filming of his quest. We see him enduring dozens of rejections, rain checks, and reproaches. ("I'm afraid we're in ad-nauseam territory as far as I'm concerned," goes one e-mail from Kinks producer Shel Talmy to Edgers. "[I] still can't imagine any new slant that wouldn't bore the pants off the demographic group that actually knows who they are.")

We see Edgers — who wouldn't be a pro's first choice of jam buddies — scheming to get rock stars like Paul Weller (of Brit-punk pioneers the Jam) and Robyn Hitchcock (of the Soft Boys) to perform Kinks songs with him in interviews. We see close friends tell Edgers flat-out that he's making a mistake. Even his wife frets that the neighbors and nearly everyone else knows about his loony project — what if he fails? Yet through myriad setbacks, cutbacks at his bill-paying day job, and the fact that even his young daughter doesn't think he can succeed, Edgers persists.

"It's not a character," he says over the phone from Boston about the self-deprecating, cunning, obsessive person he is in the film. "To like the movie, you have to be able to like me."

I found Edgers and his film extremely likeable. But Do It Again also works as an homage to one of the greatest rock bands of all time. The film features some extremely rare footage of the Kinks, both vintage and contemporary. Edgers also landed revealing, funny interviews with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, Sting, Zooey Deschanel, Hitchcock, Weller, and others about the particular joys of Kinks songs and the difficulties of keeping a band together. Some of those interviews prove fascinatingly casual: Sting, for instance, arrives straight from playing a Police reunion show, sweaty and with a tired voice, but nonetheless jams with Edgers on "You Really Got Me," unself-consciously forgetting the lyrics. Sting carries an imposing reputation — even Madonna recently said she found his talents and achievements intimidating — but you wouldn't know it from Do It Again.

"He's like a teenager goofing around on the instrument," Edgers muses about Sting's cheerfulness in one of the film's most memorable scenes. "It's odd to me that a man in his position would be so open with his enthusiasm."

But that is one thing Edgers discovers and rediscovers in Do It Again: Public enthusiasm for the Kinks — at least among those who know about the band — is unabated by the years that have elapsed since it was whole. Only one person interviewed in the film claims not to want to see the Kinks get back together. (I'll save you that surprise.) All of which raises the question: Is Edgers really that crazy after all?

About The Author

Ian S. Port

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