Pete Quaife, at 66; original bassist for the Kinks

The original Kinks were (from left) Mick Avory, Peter Quaife, Dave Davies, and Ray Davies. Mr. Quaife left the band in 1969. The original Kinks were (from left) Mick Avory, Peter Quaife, Dave Davies, and Ray Davies. Mr. Quaife left the band in 1969. (Columbia Tristar via Getty Images)
By Geoff Edgers
Globe Staff / June 26, 2010

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When asked about his days in the famously combative rock band the Kinks, Pete Quaife would chuckle. “Behind closed doors, it was like the World Wrestling Federation,’’ he told an interviewer in 1998.

He was not exaggerating.

During the 1960s, Mr. Quaife, the band’s bassist and a founding member, would often find himself in the middle of the latest blowup between Ray Davies and his younger brother, Dave. Sometimes, Mr. Quaife attempted to mediate. Other times, he let the fight run its course.

“Pete was the Rock of Gibraltar in the band,’’ remembered producer Shel Talmy, who worked with the Kinks during the 1960s. “When the Davies brothers were going at it, we’d sort of look at each other and shrug and go have a beer. Afterwards, when all the heat sort of dissipated a bit, I think he’s the one who actually got everyone back on an even keel.’’

Mr. Quaife, who died in Denmark on Wednesday at age 66, left the Kinks in 1969, but not before playing on some of the group’s best-known songs, including “You Really Got Me,’’ “All Day and All of the Night,’’ “Sunny Afternoon,’’ and “Waterloo Sunset.’’

He had been on dialysis for years as he battled diabetes. Mr. Quaife, who had been married twice, lived in Denmark with his partner, Elisabeth.

In a statement yesterday, Dave Davies, the band’s lead guitarist, praised Mr. Quaife for his role in the band. “Without Pete there would have been no Kinks,’’ he wrote. “He was a great musician. You could always trust his playing, creative input, and intuitive response to musical ideas. We taught each other riffs and ideas and shared a common bond of love, loyalty, and deep friendship.’’

Born Peter Alexander Greenlaw Quaife in Tavistock, Devon, in England, he was a classmate of the Davies brothers at the William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School when they first formed a band, in 1961, playing under a variety of names before settling on The Ravens. In 1963, the band met and signed with Pye Records. In 1964, the Davies brothers and Mr. Quaife added drummer Mick Avory and were renamed the Kinks. They recorded and released “You Really Got Me,’’ known for the distorted opening chords played by Dave Davies. The song topped the charts in England and made the top 10 in the United States.

“Pete had his own style — he was the sound that kind of glued them together,’’ said Doug Hinman, author of “The Kinks: All Day and All of the Night: Day-by-Day Concerts, Recordings, and Broadcasts, 1961-1966.’’ “He had a really nice fat sound and naturally strove to be innovative when allowed but often complained of being relegated to playing ‘two notes per bar,’ which he found boring.’’

In the band’s early days of success, it was Mr. Quaife, outgoing and gregarious, who was often called on to speak publicly to the press, remembered Peter Jones, a childhood friend of the Davies brothers who later served the band as a roadie.

“He was never shy, where Ray was very much a recluse and Dave was very young in those days and was having a hard time trying to find his place,’’ said Jones. “Pete was never afraid. I always used to call him ‘Sunshine Superman.’ ’’

There are those who believed that the tension between the Davies brothers led to the creative energy that made the Kinks so vital. Mr. Quaife was not one of them. He argued that the dysfunction within the band ultimately held it back.

“There was no way either us or the Stones were going to surpass the Beatles,’’ he said in the 1998 interview. “The Kinks knew that. But we did have a chance to surpass the Stones if we worked as a collaborative unit and cut out the [bull] and fighting.’’

Mr. Quaife played on six Kinks albums, but his final record with the band, 1968’s “The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society,’’ was his favorite. A commercial flop at the time, “Village Green’’ has since been reevaluated. In 2003, the quirky, thematic take on English life was included in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top 500 albums.

Frustrated with the band, Mr. Quaife left in 1969 and was replaced by John Dalton.

“He loved music but described his time in the band as intolerable, often violent, and it probably broke his heart to just walk away from it,’’ said Hinman.

After forming the short-lived Mapleoak in 1969, Mr. Quaife left the music business and lived for a time in Canada, where he worked as a graphic artist. The Kinks continued recording and touring until 1996. Mr. Quaife reunited with the band in 1981, jumping onstage to play bass for an encore during a Toronto concert. He also was with the group when it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Over the last decade, as he struggled with his health, Mr. Quaife published two books featuring cartoons about his experiences with dialysis. He also worked on a still-unpublished novel loosely based on his experiences in the Kinks.

Starting in the late 1990s, Ray Davies began to float the idea of reuniting the original four members of the band. Mr. Quaife entertained the notion, but it never materialized. Finally, in April 2009, Mr. Quaife released a statement through a popular fan site,

“I know this might sound self-centered, but I have had enough of the transparent, overblown nonsense of what they call ‘showbusiness,’ ’’ he wrote. “This is where I want to be. Surrounded by my own friends and family and able to put the past behind me. As it is, I am more content and happy painting the Danish countryside and seashore, talking with peers, and relaxing as a pensionist should!’’

No funeral arrangements have been announced.