A Boston Globe Writer's Quest for the Kinks

For the past few years, one of our local arts reporters has been getting into the game himself in a very public, vulnerable way. Boston Globe staff writer Geoff Edgers has been working on his debut film, Do It Again, about his strenuous efforts to reunite the legendarily dysfunctional British rock band, the Kinks. In short, they haven’t performed together in any form for 15 years, largely thanks to the epic feud between Ray and Dave Davies, a fraternal split that makes Oasis’s Gallagher brothers sound as tight as Click and Clack. So in retrospect, it’s no surprise that this film became as much about Edgers’s flailing attempts as about the band itself. As a result, it’s funnier and has broader appeal, which is why it played more than 50 festivals last year in an 85-minute cut. And now, a nationally syndicated 60-minute television cut will air at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, on WGBH.

So why the hell is he doing this documentary again? From my standpoint, the Kinks were a great band, but a quintessentially British one, which is why mainly the most rockist American rock nerds have gotten truly obsessed about them. Otherwise, you just don’t know how well you know them until you really look into it, which is strange for a band justly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. But Edgers, then, he must be one of those rockist American rock nerds who lives, eats, breathes the Davies canon, and that’s why he made this film, yes?

Not so fast, says Edgers: “I love a lot of the music, of course, but I’m also a professional and an opportunist, and it seemed to me the great rock story that hasn’t been told was the Kinks. There’s no real documentary about them, no real authoritative film about them.” So many important bands, from the Beatles and the Stones to Fishbone and Morphine’s Mark Sandman, have had a documentary, Edgers reasoned, so why not document one of the most influential and long-lasting British bands?

In the end, two factors shaped the entire history of Edgers’s project. “I wanted to tell people why they should love them, because when you talk to people it’s surprising how many people don’t know who they are, that’s issue one. Issue two became, what do you do when your realize why that authoritative Kinks documentary hasn’t been made — that they’re totally dysfunctional and can’t organize and can’t deal with telling the story. That’s when you hit the brick wall.”

That’s how Edgers and director Robert Patton-Spruill, a filmmaker who teaches at Emerson College, came to make Do It Again into a film about Edgers himself and about this odd quest, both its failures and successes. Without giving too much away, Edgers does get all of the original members on film but one, bassist Pete Quaife, who spoke to Edgers on the phone from his home in Denmark. But along the way, Edgers’s travels and travails include trips to L.A. and London and interviews about Kinks obsession with rockist rock nerds of the highest order: actress and singer Zooey Deschanel, Paul Weller (whose original band, The Jam, was like the Kinks of British punk, known less here than the Clash and Sex Pistols), Robyn Hitchcock, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, and … Sting. Yes, the famously arrogant Police frontman has a nice, humble moment with Edgers where he plays some old Kinks songs he loved as a kid.

“In that moment, Sting is like a 15 year old,” says Edgers. “That scene completely strips away the rock star hero image, and you suddenly have this guy totally willing to play a song off the cuff, unvarnished for the camera.”

That scene was shot in Sting’s dressing room before a show at the Comcast Center, a prime example of how Edgers used his tenuous budget wisely by shooting as locally as he could. “If you’re making a music film and you live in Boston, you ask everyone who comes to town if you can interview them,” he says. So not only did he and Patton-Spruill shoot Sting locally, but they also filmed at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Boston Common, and at the house where was living in Arlington. Despite these thrifty efforts, Edgers admits that he’s still $30,000 in the hole and has launched his fourth Kickstarter campaign to raise some funds.

The cut that will air on WGBH and other PBS stations around the country will include the Sting scene and many others, even though this shortened version leaves out some good salty profanity and a few other sequences. His one-year licensing of Kinks material has run out, so he can’t show the full cut in festivals anymore, which means that this airing next week may be the last time in a while that you can see it.

Still, it’s way more interesting for all of us that Edgers had these travails than had he been able to pull the Kinks together for yet another rock doc, an irony that he happily acknowledges. “Yeah, in the end, you don’t have to be a Kinks obsessive to follow this movie in the end, because it became a movie you can connect with on my different levels, ” Edgers says. “When the door got slammed, we didn’t give up. We just kept filming and pushing, and we threw all the rules away.”

Do It Again will air on WGBH on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 9 p.m.

Untitled from Geoff Edgers on Vimeo.