It was with enormous sadness last night that I read Jim Rodford, latterday bass player of The Kinks, had died after falling down a flight of stairs.
Rodford (76) was also a member of the Kast Off Kinks and a regular performer at the Kinks Konvention, an annual November gathering of Kinks fans from around the world where former members of the group would assemble in various incarnations to play forty minute sets of Kinks songs. After founder members Dave and Ray Davies and original drummer Mick Avory, Rodford was also the longest serving Kink, his eighteen year stint lasting from April 1978 to the end of the band in 1996 – which said as much about his calm, amiable personality than it did about his undoubted prowess as a musician, standing between the Brothers Grimm to occupy the most unenviable stage place in rock.
Before joining The Kinks Rodford had already had a notable career, touring and playing sessions with the likes of Gene Pitney, PJ Proby and Dusty Springfield and by the mid-sixties was a member of The Mike Cotton Sound, who once found themselves on the same bill as The Kinks. At a Kinks Konvention I asked him about the experience and recall him saying: ‘I remember thinking how good they were, but also what an arrogant bunch of so and so’s.’ With a huge grin on his face he then added: ‘They still are.’
Between 1968 and 1976 he played in Argent, the group led by his cousin Rod Argent, (both he and Jim were born in St Albans) and drummer Bob Henrit, who in 1984 teamed up with Rodford once more when he replaced Mick Avory in The Kinks. Argent managed a modicum of success with a couple of hit singles and early on, reasonable album sales but when the group had run its course he and Henrit formed a short lived band named Phoenix before Rodford replaced the departing Andy Pyle in The Kinks.
His arrival coincided with an unprecedented level of success as The Kinks suddenly starting selling albums in huge quantities (particularly in America) becoming in the process a big concert draw. Although by the mid-eighties their record sales were in decline they remained a fine live band, Rodford making a significant contribution to a more refined Kinks-sound with exemplary bass playing and strong backing vocals.
Once when standing at the bar of The Boston Arms in Tufnell Park, North London, venue of the Kinks Konvention, I was lucky enough to be among a group asking him Kinks-related questions. When quizzed about what songs he would be playing when his time came to take the stage he answered along the lines of: ‘I’m not entirely sure – although I know ‘Shangri-La’ is one.’ He then added: ‘I always thought ‘Shangri-La’ was a magnificent song. We’d often do it in sound check and many times I’d say to Ray – that sounded great, why don’t we do it in the set, to which Ray would say ‘yeah we could’ – but he never did.’
Later when Jim had finished his set with the Kast-Offs he and I were standing near the same table. ‘Shangri-La sounded fantastic,’ I said, ‘you were right – Ray should have had it on the set-list.’
Jim smiled – but then again he usually did.