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"Lola"
The Kinks
Reprise 0930
Sep. 1970
Billboard: #9    Lyrics Icon Videos Icon

Ray Davieshe initial flurry of hits that the Kinks enjoyed during the British Invasion soon proved difficult to sustain. By most accounts, their live shows were often atrocious. The Kinks' stage dress of red hunting jackets and Ray Davies's limp-wristed singing style combined with brother Dave's unusually long hair to give the appearance of blatant effeminacy. Their campy appearance and name notwithstanding, they were as famous for their brawling as for their music, but it appeared that America intended to remain aloof from the Kinks' brand of showbiz. Their role in the British Invasion ended promptly when they were asked to leave the country by the American Federation of Musicians, who claimed they were not cleared to perform musical engagements in the United States. This rather abruptly ended their love affair with America. Directly or indirectly, it had a significant effect on their popularity, and their next few singes did not perform as well as expected.

Lola Vs. Powerman...
"Lola," along with "Apeman," were the two singles off the Kinks' Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneyground, Part One. A concept album built around the story of trying to get a hit record, Lola Versus Powerman... was released in Dec. 1970, peaking at #35 on the Billboard Hot 200 and remaining on the charts for 12 weeks.
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All the while, Davies was becoming increasingly withdrawn and introspective. This manifested itself in his songwriting, which was steadily improving. Unfortunately, it seemed that the better the songs were, the less they sold. By August 1966, the group had its last Top 40 hit of the '60s ("Dedicated Follower of Fashion"). For the next few years, the Kinks could barely get themselves arrested, and judging from the stories of drunken behavior and violence that followed them wherever they went, it wasn't from lack of trying. The band harbored a tendency toward self-destruction that, paradoxically, seemed to be the primary force holding them together.

Then suddenly, in September 1970, an unsuspecting audience heard the chord cluster that opens "Lola." The song bluntly announced its arrival, and we were immediately drawn in. Besides a melody that is unshakable, Davies's droll delivery gradually unfurls the story of an encounter with a presumed transvestite. Initially, Lola seems to be a "forward" woman, but soon enough things start (or stop) smelling fishy, when he sings, "Well, I'm not the world's most physical guy, but when she squeezed me tight, she nearly broke my spine." By song's end, he finds himself questioning his own sexuality, singing, "Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls. It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world -- except for Lola."

This wasn't normal subject matter for Top 40 radio, but it seemed that everybody loved the song. The Kinks were back, but only for a short while. The band's penchant for self-destruction once again took hold. They changed labels, from Reprise to RCA. They fought incessantly, including a stabbing incident between brothers Ray and Dave Davies over some french fries. Ray Davies underwent an emotional collapse onstage. Although their albums would continue to charm their fans, they disappeared from the pop charts as quickly as they returned and would not appear again on the Top 40 for nearly a decade.

- Thomas Ryan, American Hit Radio, Prima Entertainment, 1996.

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