It is the first transgender anthem of rock, it was banned from the radio and it was part of the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoroud, Part One, which is reissued in December.
By the way, the appearance of The Kinks on the musical map was far from lucky. A lackluster version of Little Richard’s hit Long Tall Sally released as the first single in February 1964, and the immediate release of You Still Want Me, a song with few merits to aspire to a certain transcendence, seemed to have condemned the gang of brothers Ray and Dave Davies to a premature termination of their first record deal, and possibly the band’s demise.
But as in those movies in which the protagonist’s entire life is on the brink of the abyss but at the last second something happens that prevents his downfall, instead of cutting him off, the people from the Pye Records label gave the quartet one last chance. And the result, as in most of those films, could not be better.
The band formed a few months earlier in Muswell Hill, there in North London, pulled from the gallery You Really Got Me, a milestone that from a distance it is clear that it sounded a step ahead of the Beatles for Sale that the four from Liverpool were cooking in Abbey Road and from The Rolling Stones No. 2 that Jagger, Richards and company recorded at Regent Sound Studios in London.
A month after its release, the theme that would lay the first foundations for what would long later be baptized punk rock and hard rock was located at the top of the UK charts and was making its way into the American Top 10.
Three weeks later All Day and All the Night ranked second in the preferences of the English and seventh in that of the Americans, and the band extended your sequence of numbers 1 with Tired of Waiting for You, in 1965; Y Sunny Afternoon the next year; and reached a second step on the podium with Sunset and a third with Autumn AlmanacIn both cases in 1967, before something quite akin to indifference enveloped, good as they were, the products that kept coming out of the Davies factory.
Of course brothers Ray and Dave, along with their fellow travelers, drummer Mick Avory and bassist Pete Quaife, who was soon replaced by John Dalton, had a lot to do with it. their loss of ground to Sergeant Pepper’s gang, their Satanic Majesties and so many other illustrious names that were filling the scene.
“Understanding” problems with your promoter, the stage as ring from a punching fight between the Davies and Avory, their refusal to go up to play if they didn’t have the silver on the table a roll of pineapples in a dressing room that ended for the band with the ban on playing in the United States for several years did their thing.
But since there is no harm that does not come, or harm that lasts five years, after three or fourteen hundred days of absence at the top of the charts, on June 12, 1970 The Kinks returned to the center of the scene by the hand of Lola, one of those catchy songs that it is very difficult that someone has not heard, that returned the band to the Top 10 in their country and in the US, although not without controversy.
The first was a question of “brands”. “I met her in a club in Soho / where you drink champagne flavored with Coca Cola”, Davies sang in the first verses of the original version of the song, and that meant his automatic exclusion from the list of “radiable” tracks for going against the laws of the media regarding trademarks in content other than advertisements.
The issue was resolved with Davies’ decision to leave the band for a while in the middle of their tour of the United States and fly from New York to London to get into the studio to re-record the vocals of the song. Only this time, the musician replaced the soda brand with “cherry cola”, shortly after the song was included in the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoroud, Part One, published on November 27, 1970, and issue ended. Or almost.
It is that once the champagne instance was overcome, the singer advanced in the story, which translates a certain naivety on the part of its main protagonist. “She came up to me and asked me to dance / I asked her name and in a dark voice she said, Lola”; the ‘narrator’ told in the first person, and continued: “Well, I’m not the best physique guy in the world / But when she squeezed me hard, it almost broke my spine”.
So, concluded: “Well I’m not a fool, but I can’t understand / why she walks like a woman but talks like a man”.
The drinks, the dancing, the lights, the surroundings did everything else to make the night with Lola unforgettable. And that’s how Davies sang it. “The girls will be boys and the boys will be girls / It is a mixed world, confused, shaken, / except for Lola. Lo Lo Lo, Lola “. And he, who had never kissed a woman before; and she, who took him by the hand and told him that she would make him a man. “Well, I’m not the most masculine man in the world / But I know what I am, and I’m glad to be a man / And Lola too / Lo Lo Lo Lola”.
Happy ending for a story that history, five decades ago opened the doors of rock and pop to go out and play in the terrain of an ambiguity that, according to many agree, Lou Reed and David Bowie decided to travel not long after with their successes Walk On the Wild Side, the first, and with Rebel Rebel the White Duke.
The versions about the source that inspired the story of Lola there are several. Some suggest that Lola was a black woman who had been danced with by the band’s manager, Robert Wace, who took a long time to realize that it was a drag queen; Ray himself assured that it is a girl he crossed paths with in a parisian club – “When leaving there, already in the daytime, I saw that the beard of the day after had begun to appear”, he admitted-; although on another occasion Ray himself also seems to have said that the origin was an episode lived at the Spa Royal Hall in Bridlington on May 8, 1965; and there are even those who associate Lola with Candy Darling, a famous transvestite from Andy Warhol’s Factory, with whom the singer came to have a relationship.
It is also not entirely clear who was responsible for that melody impossible to forget once it is heard. The singer once told BBC Radio 4, London, that the first sentence had simply been “Something for (her daughter Victoria) to sing – ‘la-la, la-lah'”. “I added the cross-dressing stuff later.”, He said.