For this month’s edition of ‘The Original vs The Cover’, we are going to cover the song “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks vs the cover by Van Halen. When Van Halen originally released this song back in 1978, I thought it was an original…what did I know, I was only 9. The Kinks didn’t exist in my world yet. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one as Ray Davies has mentioned that fans have come up to them after shows and thought it was cool that they played a Van Halen song.
“You Really Got Me” was released on Sept 2, 1964 in the US and the song was off the band’s album ‘Kinks’. The song went to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it went all the way to #1 in their home country of the UK. It was their third single at the time, but it was the first to really do anything for the band. It was so successful, it became their signature song.
The song has been described by Ray Davies as a “love song for street kids”. It is a rebellious track of sex and lust and all around gritty, dirty love. It is that energy both versions capture so well.
The Kinks’ version had a very Beatlesque quality to it which makes sense since the Beatles were huge at the time. The band wanted to capture that sound and they truly did. The song to me also had a real punk feel to it. It was aggressive and in your face, but it was the guitar sound that really made the song.
Dave Davies guitar was very distorted and he got the sound by slicing in to his speaker cone and poking holes in it with a pen (Denise Sullivan of allmusic.com). The song was built around the guitar sound and that incredible riff Dave plays believed to be from the song “Louie, Louie” (Hasted, Nick (2011). You Really Got Me: The Story of the Kinks. Omnibus Press). For the longest time, it was rumored that some session guitarist did the solo, but that person has since denied he did the solo. Oh yeah, that person was Jimmy Page who later went on to join some little band you might have heard of called Led Zeppelin some years later.
Van Halen’s version took the song to another level. And again, it is the guitar sound that dominates and is the focus of the song. Eddie Van Halen completely destroys the song (in a good way) and his solo takes the song into a different stratosphere. Eddie throws in all his little tricks and really showcased what Van Halen was about. It was the band’s first single ever. The song would forever become associated with Van Halen.
Van Halen’s version was about 15-20 seconds longer than the Kink’s mostly due to Eddie’s guitar solo, but also due to David Lee Roth. David had to add his flair to the song with all his little sex noises and just Dave being Dave. The song lost its punk feel with this version and became a full on rock song.
An interesting tidbit I got from reading Noel Monk’s book ‘Runnin’ with the Devil’ was that Eddie had showed the drummer from the band Angel, Barry Brandt, a demo of the song and the band soon found out that Angel was trying to do the same song so it was a race to see who could get it out first. Van Halen won!
Most of the time, not all the time, I pick the original version as my favorite and I probably should as it is a little edgier and more punk, but I can’t. I am a bigger Van Halen fan than I am a Kinks fan. Plus, with the Kinks trying to make it sound like the Beatles, it really wasn’t a song that was truly theirs now was it.
I also came across the Van Halen version way before the Kinks and it is in my brain as that version. Whenever the song pops in my head, it is the one with Dave making all those weird noises and it is Eddie’s solo. Also, if you throw the song Eruption in front of it, it was one of the best 1, 2 punches in music. With all that being said, I choose Van Halen’s version as my favorite. I am sure there will be a lot who disagree with me, but I am okay with it as we all have our reasons for liking whichever version.
Let me know in the comments which one you like more or if you don’t like either. Thanks and enjoy!!