Lola (song)

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German single sleeve
Single by The Kinks
from the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
Released 12 June 1970 (1970-06-12)
Format 7-inch single
Recorded April–May 1970 at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London
Length 4:03
Label Pye 7N 17961
Reprise 0930
Writer(s) Ray Davies
Producer(s) Ray Davies
The Kinks singles chronology
Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One track listing
Audio sample
file info · help
Alternative cover
Scandinavian single sleeve

"Lola" is a song written by Ray Davies and performed by English rock band the Kinks on their album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. The song details a romantic encounter between a young man and a possible transvestite he meets in a club in Soho, London, with the narrator describing his confusion towards a person named Lola who "walked like a woman and talked like a man". Although Ray Davies claims that the incident was inspired by a true encounter experienced by the band's manager, alternate explanations for the song's true meaning have been spread by fans and drummer Mick Avory.

Released in June 1970, in the UK on the 12th and in the USA on the 28th, the single reached #2 in the UK charts[2] and #9 in the US.[3] However, due to its controversial subject matter, the single received backlash and even bans from some groups. Despite this, the track has since become one of The Kinks' most iconic and popular songs, later being ranked 422nd on the List of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[4]

Since its release, "Lola" has appeared on multiple compilation and live albums. In 1980, a live version of the song from the album One for the Road was released as a single in America and some European countries, becoming a minor hit. Other versions include live renditions from 1972's Everybody's in Show-Biz and 1996's To the Bone. The "Lola" character also made an appearance in the lyrics of the band's 1981 song, "Destroyer".


It was a real experience in a club. I was asked to dance by somebody who was a fabulous looking woman. I said "no thank you." And she went in a cab with my manager straight afterwards. It's based on a personal experience. But not every word.

– Ray Davies[5]

Ray Davies has claimed that he was inspired to write "Lola" after the band manager Robert Wace had spent a night in Paris dancing with a transvestite.[6] Davies said, "In his apartment, Robert had been dancing with this black woman, and he said, 'I'm really onto a thing here.' And it was okay until we left at six in the morning and then I said, 'Have you seen the stubble?' He said 'Yeah,' but he was too pissed [intoxicated] to care, I think."[7]

Drummer Mick Avory has offered an alternate explanation for the song's lyrics, claiming that "Lola" was partially inspired by Avory's frequenting of transvestite bars in west London after being invited by publicist Michael McGrath.[8] Avory said, "We used to know this character called Michael McGrath. He used to hound the group a bit, because being called The Kinks did attract these sorts of people. He used to come down to Top of the Pops, and he was publicist for John Stephen's shop in Carnaby Street. He used to have this place in Earl's Court, and he used to invite me to all these drag queen acts and transsexual pubs. They were like secret clubs. And that's where Ray [Davies] got the idea for 'Lola.' When he was invited too, he wrote it while I was getting drunk."[5]

Despite claims that the song was written about a supposed date between Ray Davies and trans woman actress Candy Darling, Davies has since claimed this rumor to be false. He said on the topic, "I didn't have a date with Candy Darling. We just went out to dinner. I knew it was a drag act."[5]

In his autobiography, Dave Davies said that he came up with the music for what would become "Lola," claiming that brother Ray added the lyrics after hearing it.[9] In a 1990 interview, Dave Davies said of his involvement, "'Lola' was written in a similar way to 'You Really Got Me.' We got together in Ray's front room, and Ray had the basic idea of the song, the skeleton idea for this song, and I just started playing E in the bottom position, moved it up to A, leaving the E string open and in the chord. Ray said, 'Ah, that's great. Let's put that in as well.' ... [O]n certain songs, there's a lot more collaboration than people realize."[10]

Writing and recording[edit]

Written in April 1970, "Lola" was cited by Ray Davies as the first song he wrote following a break he took to act in the 1970 Play for Today film The Long Distance Piano Player.[11] Davies said of writing the song, "The only thing I had to think about was the beginning, getting the thing to sell in the first five seconds. The rest came naturally."[11]

Initial recordings of the song began in April 1970, but, as the band's bassist John Dalton remembered, recording for "Lola" took particularly long, stretching into the next month.[12] During April, four to five versions were attempted, with different keys as well as varying beginnings and styles.[12] In May, new piano parts were added to the backing track by John Gosling, the band's new piano player that had just been auditioned.[12] Vocals were also added at this time. The song was then mixed during that month. Mick Avory remembered the recording sessions for the song positively, saying that it "was fun, as it was the Baptist's first recording with us."[13]

The guitar opening on the song was produced as a result of combining the sound of a Martin guitar and a vintage Dobro resonating guitar.[6][12] Ray Davies said of the opening, "I remember going into a music store on Shaftesbury Avenue when we were about to make 'Lola.' I said, 'I want to get a really good guitar sound on this record, I want a Martin.' And in the corner they had this old 1938 Dobro [resonating guitar] that I bought for $150. I put them together on 'Lola' which is what makes that clangy sound: the combination of the Martin and the Dobro with heavy compression."[12]

Release and controversy[edit]

I wanted to write a hit [with "Lola."] It wasn't just the song. it was the musical design. It wasn't a power chord song like "You Really Got Me." It was a power chord beginning. It needed a special acoustic guitar sound ... sonorous, growling, with an attack to it.

– Ray Davies, Radio 4's Master Tapes[5]

Despite the chart success "Lola" would achieve, its fellow Lola vs. Powerman track "Powerman" was initially considered to be the first single from the album.[12] However, "Lola" was eventually decided on as the debut single release.

In a deliberate attempt to write a hit, "Lola" was released as a single in 1970, backed with the The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society outtake "Berkeley Mews" in the UK[14] and the Dave Davies-penned "Mindless Child of Motherhood" in the US.[15] It became an unexpected chart smash for The Kinks, reaching #2 in Britain[2] and #9 in America.[3] The single also saw success worldwide, reaching the top of the charts in Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa, as well as the top 5 in Germany, Austria, Belgium, and Switzerland. The success of the single had important ramifications for the band's career at a critical time, allowing them to negotiate a new contract with RCA Records, construct their own London Studio, and assume more creative and managerial control. In a 1970 interview, Dave Davies claimed that, if "Lola" had been a failure, the band would have "gone on making records for another year or so and then drifted apart."[16]

Although the track was a major hit for the band, Dave Davies did not enjoy the success of "Lola," saying, "In fact, when 'Lola' was a hit, it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Because it was taking us out of a different sort of comfort zone, where we'd been getting into the work, and the writing and the musicality was more thought about. It did have that smell of: 'Oh blimey, not that again.' I found it a bit odd, that period. And then it got odder and weirder."[5] Mick Avory, however, said that he "enjoyed the success" the band had with "Lola" and its follow-up, "Apeman."[5]


Originally, "Lola" received backlash for its controversial lyrics. Talks of band began to arise, with some groups fading the track out before the revelation of Lola's gender was revealed.[6] On 18 November 1970, the song was banned in Australia because of "controversial subject matter."[17] In a then-current Record Mirror article entitled "SEX CHANGE RECORD: KINK SPEAKS", Ray Davies refused to tell Lola's true gender, saying, "It really doesn't matter what sex Lola is, I think she's alright."[18]

Despite its subject matter, the BBC banned the track for a different reason. The original song recorded in stereo had the word "Coca-Cola" in the lyrics, but because of BBC Radio's policy against product placement, Ray Davies was forced to make a six thousand mile round-trip flight from New York to London and back—interrupting the band's American tour—to change those words to the generic "cherry cola" for the single release.[19]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Upon the single's release, the NME praised the song as "an engaging and sparkling piece with a gay Latin flavour and a catchy hook chorus."[18] Billboard said of the song at the time of its US release, "Currently a top ten British chart winner, this infectious rhythm item has all the ingredients to put the Kinks right back up the Hot 100 here with solid impact."[20] Rolling Stone critic Paul Gambaccini called the song as "brilliant and a smash."[21] Music critic Robert Christgau, despite his mixed opinion on the Lola vs. Powerman album, praised the single as "astounding."[22] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic lauded the song for "its crisp, muscular sound, pitched halfway between acoustic folk and hard rock."[1] Ultimate Classic Rock ranked "Lola" as The Kinks' third best song, saying "the great guitar riff that feeds the song is one of Dave's all-time greatest."[23] Paste Magazine listed the track as the band's fourth best song.[24]

The song was also well-liked by the band. Mick Avory, who noted the song as one of the songs he was most proud to be associated with,[13] said "I always liked 'Lola', I liked the subject. It's not like anything else. I liked it for that. We'd always take a different path."[5] In a 1983 interview, Ray Davies said, "I'm just very pleased I recorded it and more pleased I wrote it."[25] The band revisited the "Lola" character in the lyrics of their 1981 song, "Destroyer," a minor chart hit in America.[26]

Satirical artist "Weird Al" Yankovic created a parody of the song called "Yoda," featuring lyrics about the Star Wars character of the same name, on his 1985 album Dare to Be Stupid.[27]

Live versions[edit]

"Lola (live)"
Single by The Kinks
from the album One for the Road
B-side "Celluloid Heroes (live)"
Released July 23, 1980 (1980-07-23)
Recorded 23 September 1979 (1979-09-23) at Providence Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island
Length 3:56
Label Arista AS 0541 (US)
The Kinks US singles chronology
"Catch Me Now I'm Falling"
"Lola (live)"
"You Really Got Me" (live)

Since its release, "Lola" became a mainstay in The Kinks' live repertoire, appearing in the majority of the band's subsequent set-lists until the group's break-up.[28]

Everybody's in Show-Biz version (1972)[edit]

In 1972, a live performance of the song recorded at Carnegie Hall in New York City appeared on the live half of the band's 1972 album, Everybody's in Show-Biz, a double-LP which contained half new studio compositions and half live versions of previously released songs.[29] This version was an abbreviated cut beginning at the audience singalong of the chorus.

One for the Road version (1979)[edit]

A live version of "Lola", recorded in 1979 in Providence, Rhode Island, was released as a single in the US in July 1980 to promote the live album One for the Road. The B-side was the live version of "Celluloid Heroes". The single was a moderate success, reaching #81 on the Billboard Hot 100.[30] It was also released in some countries in Europe (although not the UK) in April 1981. It was a big hit in the Netherlands, matching the #1 peak of the original version,[31] and in Belgium where it reached #2. It also charted in Australia, peaking at #69 and spending 22 weeks on the charts.[32] Although not released as a stand-alone single in the UK, it was included on a bonus single (backed with a live version of "David Watts" from the same album) with initial copies of "Better Things" in June 1981.[33]

This live rendition, along with the live versions of "Celluloid Heroes" and "You Really Got Me" from the same album, later appeared on the 1986 compilation album Come Dancing with The Kinks: The Best of the Kinks 1977-1986.[34]

To the Bone version (1996)[edit]

Although it did not appear on the original 1994 version, another live version of "Lola", this one an acoustic reworking of the track, was included on the 1996 US double-album release of To the Bone, the band's final release of new material before their dissolution.


1970 studio version[15]

  • Ray Davies - vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Dave Davies - electric guitar, backing vocals
  • Mick Avory - drums
  • John Dalton - bass
  • John Gosling - piano
  • Ken Jones - maracas

1979 live version[35]

  • Ray Davies - vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Dave Davies - electric guitar, backing vocals
  • Mick Avory - drums
  • Jim Rodford - bass, backing vocals
  • Ian Gibbons - keyboards

Chart performance[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c "Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One". AllMusic. 
  2. ^ a b "KINKS". Official Charts. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "The Kinks - Awards". allmusic. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004. Retrieved 9 December 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Hasted 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Jovanovic 2014, pp. 171.
  7. ^ Savage 1984.
  8. ^ Jovanovic 2014, pp. 171-172.
  9. ^ Hickey 2012, pp. 138.
  10. ^ McCue, Danny. "Dave Davies - Out Of the Ordinary". Guitar Magazine. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Hinman 2004, pp. 139.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Hinman 2004, pp. 140.
  14. ^ Miller 2003, pp. 110-111.
  15. ^ a b Hinman 2004, pp. 142.
  16. ^ Hinman 2004, pp. 145.
  17. ^ Hinman 2004, pp. 146.
  18. ^ a b Jovanovic 2014, pp. 172.
  19. ^ "Banning songs not a rare occurrence for the BBC". The New Zealand Herald. 19 December 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2011. 
  20. ^ Hinman 2004, pp. 144.
  21. ^ Hinman 2004, pp. 148.
  22. ^ Christgau, Robert. "The Kinks". 
  23. ^ Gallucci, Michael. "Top 10 Kinks Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  24. ^ Stiernberg, Bonnie. "The 15 Best Kinks Songs". Paste. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  25. ^ Goodman, Mark (interviewer) (1983). Groovy Movies (Television production). MTV. 
  26. ^ Jovanovic 2014, pp. 245.
  27. ^ Burton, Bonnie (October 27, 2006). ""Weird Al" -- Nerdy Something". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  28. ^ Hinman 2004.
  29. ^ Hinman 2004, pp. 165.
  30. ^ a b Hinman 2004, pp. 240.
  31. ^ " - The Kinks - Lola (Live)". Retrieved 9 December 2009. 
  32. ^ Kent, David. Australian Chart Book: 1970-1992, 23 Years of Hit Singles & Albums from the Top 100 Charts. Australian Chart Book. 
  33. ^ Hinman 2004, pp. 248.
  34. ^ Hinman 2004, pp. 282.
  35. ^ Hinman 2004, pp. 239-240.
  36. ^ "Go-Set Australian Charts - 16 January 1971". Pop Archives. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  37. ^ " – The Kinks – Lola" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  38. ^ "RPM Top Singles - Volume 14, No. 12, October 31, 1970". Library and Archives Canada. 
  39. ^ a b " – The Kinks – Lola" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  40. ^ " – The Kinks – Lola". GfK Entertainment.
  41. ^ " search results". Retrieved 9 December 2009. 
  42. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 39, 1970" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40
  43. ^ a b " – The Kinks – Lola" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  44. ^ "Lola". Tsort. 
  45. ^ "South African charts". 
  46. ^ " – The Kinks – Lola". Swiss Singles Chart.
  47. ^ "Archive Chart: 1970-08-08" UK Singles Chart.
  48. ^ "The Kinks Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for The Kinks.
  49. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 02, 1981" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40
  50. ^ "Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts - 1970s". 
  51. ^ "Top 100 End of Year CAN Charts - 1970". 
  52. ^ "Top 100 End of Year UK Charts - 1970". 
  53. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1970". Retrieved 2011-01-03. 


  • Hasted, Nick (2011). You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1849386609. 
  • Hickey, Andrew (2012). Preservation: The Kinks' Music 1964-1974. ISBN 978-1291049329. 
  • Hinman, Doug (2004). The Kinks: All Day and All of the Night: Day by Day Concerts, Recordings, and Broadcasts, 1961-1996. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0879307653. 
  • Jovanovic, Rob (2014). God Save The Kinks: A Biography. Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1781311646. 
  • Miller, Andy (2003). The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-0826414984. 
  • Savage, Jon (1984). The Kinks: The Official Biography. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0571134076. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"The Wonder of You" by Elvis Presley
Irish Singles Chart number-one single

7 August 1974
Succeeded by
"The Wonder of You" by Elvis Presley
Preceded by
"Back Home" by Golden Earring
Dutch Top 40 number-one single

26 September 1970 - 10 October 1970
Succeeded by
"To My Father's House" by Les Humphries Singers
Preceded by
"Pinocchio" by Maria Dallas
Official New Zealand Music Chart number-one single

9 October 1970 - 13 November 1970
Succeeded by
"Cracklin' Rosie" by Neil Diamond
Preceded by
"Santa Maria" by Roland Kaiser
Dutch Top 40 number-one single
"Lola" (live version)

10 January 1981 - 31 January 1981
Succeeded by
"Shine Up" by Doris D & the Pins