1970 Kinks – Lola
Ray Davies and his brother Dave formed half of a British band, the Kinks. With their first charting singles beginning in 1964, the group had two number one singles and one that “only” reached #2. The three records all reached the top ten in the US. The early recordings by the Kinks featured early hard rock music that stood out from what the radio normally played in the early to mid-sixties.
The band changed formats dramatically over the next few years, featuring songs with lyrics and music by Ray that became softer, more melodic, and often sarcastic. The hits dried up in the US, but they scored another number one record and a half-dozen additional top ten hits in the UK.
In 1969 and 1970, the band produced two themed albums that met with critical acclaim but negligible sales in the US. Their biggest breakthrough after that in the US came with the release of the single Lola. The hit helped inspire the album that followed, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. Sadly, we never got part two.
The song caught a lot of notice thanks to a cleverly written, ambiguous line:
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
So is Lola glad, or a man? Debate that all you like, it’s probably answered by Ray’s claim that he wrote the lyrics after the band’s manager (Robert Wace) spent a night in Paris dancing with a cross-dresser.
Other songs on the album offer a cynical view of the music business in the seventies. Most telling is a line from The Moneygoround:
Do they all deserve
Money from a song that they’ve never heard?
They don’t know the tune and they don’t know the words
But they don’t give a damn
Lola reappeared in another song by the Kinks in 1981. Destroyer only reached #80 on the Hot 100. It turned into the most successful single that the group landed on the US Mainstream Rock chart, where it peaked at #3.
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