Dave Davies


9th October 2006


The stroke that put a Kink in my life
Last updated at 21:22pm on 9th October 2006

Two years ago, Dave Davies, 59, the former lead guitarist with the Kinks, suffered a serious stroke. 

Every year, 150,000 people suffer a stroke — a third die, a third are left with some disability and only a third recover completely. 

Here, Dave Davies, who has eight children and lives in the West Country with his partner Kate, talks for the first time about his illness and the long haul to recovery. 

'The morning had been hectic, crammed with interviews. I was already feeling stressed because I’d recently finished live dates in Europe and was now on a publicity tour. 

I’d just done a couple of BBC radio interviews and had stepped into a lift to leave. Suddenly the right-hand side of my body seized up and I couldn’t move my arm or leg. Although I didn’t lose consciousness, I couldn’t speak. 

Luckily my son Christian and my publicist were with me so they carried me outside and called an ambulance. Christian and I have always been close and he seemed to be able to read my thoughts just by looking into my eyes. 

Curiously, I felt completely calm but I had an odd sensation of being detached, as if I was watching myself in a film. 

As soon as the ambulance arrived, I was taken to the University College Hospital in Euston. I lay stranded on a trolley for an hour before doctors eventually decided to transfer me to the National Neurological Hospital in Queen’s Square, London. 

I was told I’d had a stroke — or, in medical terms, a cerebral infarction. An ‘infarct’ is an area of dead tissue and there was a patch of it on the left side of my brain — the bit that controls movement on the right side of my body. 

The doctors told me I had high blood pressure and that this was what had caused the stroke. They thought I’d probably had high blood pressure for at least ten years. 

I remember thinking this was strange as I’d eaten healthily for nearly 40 years — ever since my early 20s in fact, when, because of the rock and roll life and a diet of pizza, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, I’d become very run down. 

Then I’d discovered meditation and yoga and changed to a healthy diet with lots of fruit and veg. 

Today, my intuition tells me that all the amphetamines I used as a young man played a role in my stroke. You can’t abuse your body for so many years and not expect it to have an effect — although the doctors have never confirmed this. 

Admittedly there had been some warning signs the week before. I’d been staying with my sons Christian and Martin at their house in North London when I suffered two mini-strokes which, I later learned, are called Transient Ischaemic Attacks (TIAs). 

I woke up one morning and I couldn’t move my right hand properly, and when I opened my mouth the words would not come. 

Christian called an ambulance, but as soon as the doctor in casualty started to examine me, my symptoms lifted — almost as if nothing had ever happened. She told me I’d suffered from a TIA and gave me some medication. 

Apparently, a TIA happens when a clot temporarily disrupts the supply of blood to the brain. It can last from ten minutes to 24 hours. 

Five hours later, the same thing happened again —but once again the symptoms passed fairly quickly. The doctor hadn’t seemed very concerned so I really wasn’t too worried. Also, I was busy launching my solo album, Bug, so I pressed on with my schedule. 

But when I collapsed with my stroke, Kate, who is my partner and manager, jumped on the next flight from LA, where she had been organising my tour. For the next two months, she spent every day at the hospital. 

During the first few days, a stream of specialists visited me to work out the best rehabilitation programme. 

They couldn’t promise me I would make a full recovery, because every case is different, but they were kind and encouraging. And I refused to accept that I wouldn’t get better. 

The first seven days in hospital were the most difficult, even though I progressed quite quickly. After a few days, I managed to eat some mushy peas, although I had to use my left hand. I also started to take a few tentative steps with someone supporting me. 

But my speech was still screwed up. If I tried to speak in my normal voice, it wouldn’t come, but if I enunciated every word I could just about make myself understood. 

A week after my stroke, I was allowed outside for the first time, albeit in my wheelchair. I was so happy to feel the air on my face. 

Christian brought in my guitar for me but I didn’t try to play it. I knew I might never be able to play again. Instead, with my left hand, I started to write down ideas for a song, called God In My Brain. 

Two weeks after my ordeal, I finally plucked the courage to pick up my guitar. I held it across my lap, pressing on the strings. I could feel everything but the hand itself was virtually immobile. 

I knew I was going to have to work very hard if I was going to get better, and I started using meditation and visualisation. I thought if I could visualise myself running, walking and playing the guitar, it might prompt my brain to remember how I used to be. 

After three weeks I was moved to the rehabilitation unit. One of the young occupational therapists encouraged me to start painting using my left hand, and every day I would have a couple of hour-long exercise sessions. 

I had to pick up small objects, such as paper clips, from the floor and put them in a box. I couldn’t even hold a guitar pick between my fingers, so I found this excruciatingly frustrating. But the girls in the rehabilitation unit were tirelessly encouraging. 

The right-hand side of my face had also dropped and felt numb. With facial exercises, such as pulling funny faces, I began to build up the muscle movement. 

It was two months before I was discharged. At that stage, I had some movement in my right side and could do some basic guitar strumming. By last November — nearly 18 months after my stroke — I was about 85 per cent back to normal with my guitar playing. 

Regaining my speech was the most difficult part, but I was helped by a delightful speech therapist based in Richmond. 

Maureen is a singing teacher with medical experience. Research shows singing is better than talking for rehabilitation because it stimulates both sides of the brain, so we did silly things such as sing fun, children’s songs. 

A new voice began to emerge — an upper-class accent that Kate calls my ‘country gentleman voice’. I used to sound more like a Londoner. 

I’ve put a lot of work into my new voice but it’s still posh. I’m about 92 per cent back to normal now — the doctors have been amazed. But I firmly believe that my yoga, meditation and spiritualism helped me to recover. 

I believe my stroke was meant to happen to slow me down. I’d like to write and make films and start a foundation where I can help people be more spiritual. 

I haven’t toured since my illness, but one day soon I hope to go back on the road. For now, I appreciate my slower pace of life. 

I feel I have discovered an inner strength which I know will see me through any adversity.' 

Dave Davies’s website is at The Stroke Association: tel. 0845 303 3100.