Mark Hamill and Ray Davies entertained a sell-out crowd with a night of brilliant music and joyful conversation at Hornsey Town Hall in North London this weekend. And it all started with the Big Issue.
When we enlisted Mark Millar as Guest Editor for a special edition in April, a force awoke. That force was a friendly collaboration between Star Wars legend Mark Hamill and his favourite band, The Kinks. Not only did Hamill interview both Ray and Dave Davies for the Big Issue, but he subsequently joined our team as Special Correspondent.
Hamill and Ray Davies enjoyed their tete-a-tete so much, that they decided to do it again – with an audience this time – at Hornsey Town Hall. The North London venue couldn’t have been more apt: it was where Ray Davies last performed before his band adopted the name ‘The Kinks’ in 1963, he also attended a nearby college, and The Kinks founded the local Konk Recording Studios in 1972 – which Ray is still running today.
There is a serious backdrop for all this. And that is that homelessness is rising in the UK
The special event was billed as Ray Davies and Mark Hamill in Musical Conversation, and so it proved. Hamill’s enthusiasm, charm and deep knowledge of The Kinks’ back catalogue providing the backing track over which Davies added the storytelling and sharp wit known and loved by fans from more than 50 years of songwriting.
But the evening began with Mark Hamill – currently living in London – talking about the need for action against homelessness, praising The Big Issue and its important role, and explaining why the profits from the evening are to be donated to Crisis.
“What is the connection between Mark Hamill and Ray Davies?” he said. “Just like you I am a Kinks fan, first and foremost. But there is a serious backdrop for all this. And that is that homelessness is rising in the UK. Right here in London rough sleeping has more than doubled in the past six years. So Ray and I have chosen Crisis as the charity of choice for this event tonight. With your support, we are going to make sure that homelessness is left behind for these unfortunate souls once and for all.
“And without the Big Issue, none of this would have happened. It is on sale in the lobby, and the reason it is important is that it is a great concept, half the cover price goes to the people who sell it – and they are empowered by it. It is for the disenfranchised.”
After Hamill’s first reading from Davies’ 2013 memoir Americana, Ray Davies took the stage to applause and the rare site of a Hollywood star bowing down at his feet. The pair sat together in two armchairs, an intimate chat enjoyed by a crowded hall.
The conversation was loosely centred around the LPs Muswell Hillbillies (1971) and Everybody’s In Show-Biz (1972) – both recently re-released as Legacy Editions with extra tracks and rare concert recordings, with the stories behind various songs and Davies’ obsession with the US explored. The pair also traded anecdotes and stories, Hamill talking about his life as a Kinks fan, Ray recalling a near-miss with acting, writing the lyrics to Days in a phone box, and revealing plans to revive his musical Come Dancing and write an LP along the same themes as Americana.
A poignant and heartfelt rendition of This Is Where I Belong from 1966 LP Face To Face was the musical highlight
When Hamill claimed he was going to be unemployed from July, there was a small shudder in the crowd. Had he just revealed a major Star Wars spoiler? Not so, it turns out. And he has since taken to Twitter to clarify. He was simply explaining the work on Episode VIII is nearly complete.
And then there was the music. Alongside his regular guitar player Bill Shanley, Davies began with 20th Century Man and Oklahoma USA – a song, he said, which was written about his sister Rosie – from the Muswell Hillbillies LP, I’m Not Like Everybody Else and Muswell Hillbilly.
A poignant and heartfelt rendition of This Is Where I Belong from 1966 LP Face To Face was the musical highlight – Davies meaning every word as he looked out from a stage he first graced in 1963. A folk-tinged audience singalong of Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Where Have All The Good Times Gone, Hamill favourite Celluloid Heroes and Sunny Afternoon completed the songs.
But not all of the action took place on stage.
In the foyer during the interval, and outside the signing room (actually Hornsey Town Hall’s beautiful council chambers, with Messrs Hamill and Davies in the leaders’ seats) after the end of the show, our vendor John Gregg was doing a roaring trade selling copies of the magazine featuring Hamill’s original interview with Ray Davies.
Not only is John a guitar player himself, but he also sells the Big Issue in Muswell Hill, where Ray and Dave Davies lived for so many years.
A magical night of conversation and music raising money for a brilliant cause – with hundreds of fans leaving with Kinks songs in their heads and a signed copy of the Big Issue in their bags? Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy, as a great man once sang…