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The Kinks Cover Band 'Do It Again,' One Last Time06:45
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Radio Boston contributor Geoff Edgers has a place in his heart for a certain kind of music. A very certain kind. Specifically, the music of The Kinks. And that place in his heart? It's big.

Big enough to propel him to try and reunite the band a few years ago. And big enough to be a fan of a motley crew of western Mass. musicians that covers their music.

That band is called the Muswell Hillbillies, and they are playing tonight at the Iron Horse in Northampton.

When Geoff Edgers found out that tonight might be his last chance to see The Kinks cover band perform, he headed west and filed this report.


In 2009 the cover band formed to perform, in its entirety, a semi-obscure 1971 Kinks record called Muswell Hillbillies. (cdrummbks/Flickr)
In 2009 the cover band formed to perform, in its entirety, a semi-obscure 1971 Kinks record called Muswell Hillbillies. (cdrummbks/Flickr)

It's around lunchtime on a Monday afternoon in North Hadley when the accordion kicks in. Dave Simons sings about the taxman taking away his yacht. And the other band members, ranging from baby-faced high schoolers to the gray-haired, sixty-something drummer, play along.

The Muswell Hillbillies are rehearsing for their last show. And it’s got to be good.

The band is certainly an oddity. The group formed in a relatively rural town in western Massachusetts solely to pay tribute to the most British of bands: The Kinks.

Dave Simons is the group’s leader. He’s 54 and fell in love with The Kinks while attending UMass Amherst in the 1970s. Their songs – about the changes in society, class envy and plain old nostalgic longing – spoke directly to his generation. Two years ago he formed a tribute band to perform in its entirety, a semi-obscure 1971 Kinks record called Muswell Hillbillies. The Muswell Hillbilies were born, and since then, the group’s repertoire has expanded, as has its ambition — to play Kinks songs the way they sounded on record.

For Dave Simons, who spent years moonlighting in bar bands, the idea of putting together such a large group – 11 members in all – has been a thrill.

"I've never had a band experience before like this before," Simons said. "I mean, having a horn section behind you is an incredible thing."

The horn section is an interesting story. They’re local kids from his son’s high school.

And this is not just a band from the Pioneer Valley covering some British pop songs from the 60's. You’d expect that from a bunch of grown men who grew up on this music. What's unusual about the Muswell Hillbillies is they span generations. Many of these kids had only heard a couple of Kinks songs, like “Lola” and “You Really Got Me.” Even now, it's hard for them to say just why they love this music.

But the band’s drummer, David Sokol, has a hunch. He says it's the power of the band's story-telling and sound that has made The Kinks so important for practically half a century.

"I think it’s really pretty amazing, you know Hadley being a town of 5000. The fact that there’s eight people in this group that are either in high school or graduated from this high school in the last few years. I think it’s pretty incredible," Sokol said. "It really does speak to the band and how timeless it, is and that it could really resonate with three generations of players."

The trouble with being a multi-generational band comes when your horn section graduates from high school.

There is something timeless about The Kink’s music. And here is where I should make a confession: I am a huge Kinks fan. I got into them as a teenager in the 80s. I loved the underdog attitude, the loud guitars and the way Ray Davies could open a window into an entirely alternative culture in just three minutes.

Back in 2010, Dave Simons blindly sent me an email when he heard I was making a film about The Kinks. That same year I invited them to play their first gig after the movie's premier in Boston.

They were good then, and they’ve only gotten better. They sold out the Iron Horse in Northampton twice, and even played a gig at B.B. Kings in New York City. For a band with plenty musicians under the legal drinking age, that's not bad.

"I don’t think some of these guys had even gone to New York," Simons said. "And here they are playing in Times Square."

The trouble with being a multi-generational band comes when your horn section graduates from high school.

"It’s logistically getting difficult with kids going off to college," Simons said.

So Dave Simons would rather end it and preserve the memory, than have the Muswell Hillbillies become a burden. That's why Dave Simons has decided that tonight’s show at the Iron Horse would be their last.

Of course, I feel differently. I want to hear them learn more Kinks songs. And I love watching the band crowding onto the stage to play. So I'll be at the Iron Horse tonight just in case it's my last chance. But I’m hoping that the other band members will indeed let Simon know that, as the 1984 Kinks song goes, it’s all right for them to come back and "Do It Again."

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This program aired on December 23, 2011.

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