Lola (1971)

The Kinks

Written by Ray Davies
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La la la la Lola

Lola group shot kinksThe Kinks’s “Lola” leaps off the album awkwardly titled Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part I. A listen to “Lola” and the rest of the album yields a wonderland of satire aimed at the absurdity of the music business.

That same listen will also yield a world of great songs that never garnered much radio airtime, among them, “Strangers”; “Get Back In Line” (a class conscious ballad); Top Of The Pops” (an amazing rocker that samples “Land Of 1000 Dance”); “Apeman” (a send up of modern living) and “This Time Tomorrow.”

“Get Back In Line”

“Top Of The Pops”

“Apeman”

“Lola” stands out first and foremost because of its playful look at the confused, drunken, gender-bending club hook-ups in the crazed London of the late-1960s. Why Britain seems to obsess on cross-dressing is a matter of great amusement there, certainly on the Continent and in North America. Maybe it has to do with kilts?

Intricately structured musically, “Lola” is laughing all the way, starting with its Folk-banjo intro verse. The scene is set:

I met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne
and it tastes just like Coca-Cola

C-O-L-A Cola
She walked up to me
and she asked me to dance

I asked her her name and
in a dark brown voice she said Lola

L-O-L-A Lola la-la-la-la Lola

Of course, the “dark brown voice” might have been the first dead giveaway. (The song is based upon the experience of the band’s manager with a transvestite.)

The song soon kicks into a heavier-sounding Rock number, with close, brotherly harmonies and a kick-ass lead guitar by Dave Davies. Dave disputes Ray’s sole songwriting credits, but that is to be taken with a shot of single-malt. The brothers have been fighting – literally and figuratively – since the band’s inception in 1964.

The singer is surprised in a tongue-in-cheek way by Lola’s strong grip when they dance. The song then takes a musical turn into pure, extravagant Rock-N-Roll, complete with rhythm change, Bo Diddley-style chords, and the special sauce of all English Rock, the big chorus of voices.

Lola Kinks posterWell we drank champagne
and danced all night
Under electric candlelight
She picked me up
and sat me on her knee
And said dear boy won’t you
come home with me
Well I’m not the world’s
most passionate guy
But when I looked in her eyes
well I almost fell for my Lola
La-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola

Maracas and asses are shaking, dancers are dancing, the club is dazzling. A short guitar fill follows and then a more vehement renunciation of the situation ensues.

I pushed her away
I walked to the door
I fell to the floor
I got down on my knees
Then I looked at her
and she at me

Then a mellow wistfulness settles in and the narrator sort of spins it in the direction of his having done Lola a favor, because, after all, it is he who was fleetingly confused while Lola definitely was not.

He apologizes for his swooning over Lola, singing:

Lola Ray DaviesWell I left home
just a week before
And I’d never ever
kissed a woman before
But Lola smiled
and took me by the hand
And said dear boy
I’m gonna make you a man

Well I’m not the world’s
most masculine man
But I know what I am
and I’m glad I’m a man
And so is Lola…

The track ends with a stupendous vocal and guitar jam that is now an intrinsic part of the musical furniture of western pop culture. In a way, that’s sad, because we all would like to hear the song with new ears, for the first time.

Lola album coverWe come to understand anew why The Kinks are one of the top Brit bands of their era, ranking only behind The Beatles, The Stones and The Who. They are wildly inventive, cranking out not just chart-toppers, but songs that insidiously enter popular consciousness. Their bizarre, high-wattage holiday classic, “Father Christmas,” the mesmerizing “Waterloo Sunset” and the moody, ethereal “Don’t Forget To Dance” come to mind.

Like “Lola,” those songs tell us why they’ve enjoyed almost unnatural longevity. Power guitars, engaging lyrics and a hearty sense of humor have kept them on top for decades.

“Father Christmas”

“Waterloo Sunset”

“Son’t Forget To Dance”

mangoids
  • The antagonism between Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks is epic in proportion. Ray Davies once told the BBC, “It’s like Rocky Graziano coming out for one last round with Sugar Ray Robinson. You’ve gone 14 rounds, you’ve got to come out for the 15th. You glaze over at the prospect but it’s the one round you just might win.” He added that the brothers were still “in that long minute” between rounds.

Also by The Kinks on SongMango.com:

  • You Really Got Me Kinks cover 1964You Really Got MeThe parent song of Heavy Rock, Metal music, and most Punk music... it's still hammerin' great.

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