Lola (song)

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Kinks Lola Uk Cover.jpg
West German single sleeve
Single by the Kinks
from the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
Released12 June 1970 (1970-06-12)
RecordedApril–May 1970
StudioMorgan, Willesden, London
Songwriter(s)Ray Davies
Producer(s)Ray Davies
The Kinks singles chronology
Alternative cover
Kinks 1970 Europe Lola Cover.jpg
Scandinavian single sleeve
"Lola" (official audio) on YouTube

"Lola" is a song written by Ray Davies and performed by English rock band the Kinks on their 1970 album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. The song details a romantic encounter between a young man and a possible trans woman[3][4][5] or cross-dresser, whom he meets in a club in Soho, London. In the song, the narrator describes his confusion towards Lola, who "walked like a woman but talked like a man".

The song was released as a single in the United Kingdom on 12 June 1970, while in the United States it was released on 28 June 1970. Commercially, "Lola" reached number two on the UK Singles Chart[6] and number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.[7] The track has since become one of the Kinks' most popular songs, later being ranked number 422 on "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", and was re-ranked at 386 on the 2021 list.[8] "Lola" was also ranked number 473 on the "NME's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time" list.[9]

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 the US and some European countries, becoming a minor hit. In the Netherlands it reached number 1, just as in 1970 with the studio version. Other versions include an instrumental on the band's 1971 movie soundtrack album Percy and live renditions from 1972's Everybody's in Show-Biz and 1996's To the Bone. The Lola character also appears in the lyrics of the band's 1981 song, "Destroyer".

Origin and inspiration[edit]

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[10]

Ray Davies has claimed that he was inspired to write "Lola" after Kinks manager Robert Wace spent a night in Paris dancing with a cross-dresser.[11] Davies said of the incident, "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".[12]

Drummer Mick Avory has offered an alternative explanation for the song's lyrics, claiming that "Lola" was partially inspired by Avory's frequenting of certain bars in West London.[13] 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.[10]

Ray Davies claimed to have done "a bit of research with drag queens" for the song's lyrics.[14] He has denied claims that the song was written about a date between himself and Candy Darling – Davies contends the two only went out to dinner together and that he had known the whole time that Darling was transgender.[10]

In his autobiography, Dave Davies said that he came up with the music for what would become "Lola", noting that brother Ray added the lyrics after hearing it.[15] In a 1990 interview, Dave Davies stated that "Lola" was written in a similar fashion to "You Really Got Me" in that the two worked on Ray's basic skeleton of the song, saying that the song was more of a collaborative effort than many believed.[16]

Writing and recording[edit]

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 resonator 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.

– Ray Davies[17]

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.[18] Davies said that he had initially struggled with writing an opening that would sell the song, but the rest of the song "came naturally".[18] He noted that he knew the song would be successful when he heard his one-year-old daughter singing the chorus, stating, "She was crawling around singing 'la la, la la Lola.' I thought, 'If she can join in and sing, Kinks fans can do it.'"[14]

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.[17] During April, four to five versions were attempted, utilizing different keys as well as varying beginnings and styles.[17] In May, new piano parts were added to the backing track by John Gosling, the band's new piano player who had just been auditioned.[17] 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 [John Gosling's] first recording with us".[19]

The guitar opening on the song was produced as a result of combining the sound of a Martin guitar and a vintage Dobro resonator guitar.[11][17] Ray Davies cited this blend of guitar sounds for the song's unique guitar sound.[17]


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[10]

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.[17] However, "Lola", which Ray Davies later claimed was an attempt to write a hit, was eventually decided on as the debut single release.[10]

"Lola" was released as a single in 1970.[20] In the UK, the B-side to the single was The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society outtake "Berkeley Mews"[21] while the Dave Davies-penned "Mindless Child of Motherhood" was used in the US.[20] It became an unexpected chart smash for the Kinks, reaching number two in Britain[6] and number nine in the United States.[7] 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, Switzerland and it reached number six in Australia. 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 stated that, if "Lola" had been a failure, the band would have "gone on making records for another year or so and then drifted apart".[22]

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".[10] Conversely, Mick Avory said that he "enjoyed the success" the band had with "Lola" and its follow-up, "Apeman".[10]


Originally, "Lola" saw controversy for its lyrics. In a Record Mirror article entitled "Sex Change Record: Kink Speaks", Ray Davies addressed the matter, saying, "It really doesn't matter what sex Lola is, I think she's alright".[23] Some radio stations faded the track out before implications of Lola's biological sex were revealed.[11] On 18 November 1970, "Lola" was banned from being played by several radio stations in Australia because of its "controversial subject matter", though some began playing "Lola" again after having made a crude edit, which sounded like the record had jumped a groove, to remove the line "I'm glad I'm a man and so's Lola". [24]

The BBC banned the track for a different reason: the original stereo recording had the words "Coca-Cola" in the lyrics, but because of BBC Radio's policy against product placement, Ray Davies was forced to make a 6,000-mile (9,700 km) round-trip flight from New York to London and back on June 3, 1970, interrupting the band's American tour, to change those words to the generic "cherry cola" for the single release, which is included on various compilation albums as well.[25][26][nb 1]

Reception and legacy[edit]

"Lola" received positive reviews from critics. 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".[23][nb 2] Writing a contemporary review in Creem, critic Dave Marsh recognized it as "the first significantly blatant gay-rock ballad".[27] 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".[28] Rolling Stone critic Paul Gambaccini called the song "brilliant and a smash".[29][nb 3] Music critic Robert Christgau, despite his mixed opinion on the Lola vs. Powerman album, praised the single as "astounding".[31] 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".[32] Paste Magazine listed the track as the band's fourth best song.[33]

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,[19] 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".[10] In a 1983 interview, Ray Davies said, "I'm just very pleased I recorded it and more pleased I wrote it".[34] The band revisited the "Lola" character in the lyrics of their 1981 song, "Destroyer", a minor chart hit in America.[35]

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.[36]

The British band, Madness, released a Ska version of "Lola" on their 2005 album, The Dangermen Sessions, Volume One.[37]

Live versions[edit]

"Lola (live)"
Lola - The Kinks (Live single 1980).jpg
Single by the Kinks
from the album One for the Road
B-side"Celluloid Heroes" (live)
Released23 July 1980 (1980-07-23)
Recorded23 September 1979
VenueProvidence Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island
LabelArista (US)
Songwriter(s)Ray Davies
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.[38] 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.[39]

A live version of "Lola", recorded on 23 September 1979 in Providence, Rhode Island,[40] 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 number 81 on the Billboard Hot 100.[41] It was also released in some countries in Europe (although not the UK) in April 1981. It topped the charts in both the Netherlands, matching the number one peak of the original version,[42] and in Belgium, where it exceeded the original's peak of three.[43] It also charted in Australia, peaking at number 69 and spending 22 weeks on the charts.[44] 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.[45] This live rendition, along with the live versions of "Celluloid Heroes" and "You Really Got Me" from the same album, also appeared on the 1986 compilation album Come Dancing with The Kinks: The Best of the Kinks 1977–1986.[46]

Although it did not appear on the original 1994 version, another live version of "Lola" was included on the 1996 US double-album release of To the Bone, the band's final release of new material before their dissolution.[47]


According to Doug Hinman, the following musicians played on the Kinks' original version of "Lola":[20]

The Kinks[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[71] Gold 400,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ray Davies later stated that, like in the lyrics of "Lola", he had actually drunk champagne that tastes like cola, saying, "I had a Californian champagne that tasted like it, in some kind of L.A. bordello tourist trap".[26]
  2. ^ The NME later ranked the song number 473 on their "500 Greatest Songs Of All Time" list, calling it "the sweetest" account of "accidentally sleeping with a ladyboy".[9]
  3. ^ Rolling Stone later ranked "Lola" at 422 on their 2004 list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[30] It was removed from the list on their 2011 revision of the ranking.


  1. ^ a b c "Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One". AllMusic.
  2. ^ Perone 2004, p. 155.
  3. ^ "Sir Ray Davies wants to turn The Kinks' trans hit Lola into a West End musical". 14 June 2020. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  4. ^ "By supporting a transgender woman, The Kinks were banned from the radio". 5 June 2021. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  5. ^ "'Lola,' who 'walked like a woman but talked like a man,' turns 50". NBC News. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  6. ^ a b "KINKS". Official Charts. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  7. ^ a b "The Kinks – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Lola ranked #386 on Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs List". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  9. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time – 473. The Kinks – 'Lola'". New Musical Express. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Hasted 2011.
  11. ^ a b c Jovanovic 2014, p. 171.
  12. ^ Savage 1984.
  13. ^ Jovanovic 2014, pp. 171–172.
  14. ^ a b Farber, Jim (1 December 2020). "Ray Davies on 50 Years of 'Lola'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  15. ^ Hickey 2012, p. 138.
  16. ^ McCue, Danny. "Dave Davies – Out Of the Ordinary". Guitar Magazine. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Hinman 2004, p. 140.
  18. ^ a b Hinman 2004, p. 139.
  19. ^ a b ""Not Many Drummers from West Molesey Have Done That!" – The Mick Avory Interview: Part 2". Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  20. ^ a b c Hinman 2004, p. 142.
  21. ^ Miller 2003, p. 110–111.
  22. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 145.
  23. ^ a b Jovanovic 2014, p. 172.
  24. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 146.
  25. ^ "Banning songs not a rare occurrence for the BBC". The New Zealand Herald. 19 December 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  26. ^ a b Giles, Jeff. "45 Years Ago: Ray Davies Flies Across the Atlantic – Twice! – to Re-Record Two Words in 'Lola'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  27. ^ Marsh, Dave (March 1971). "The Kinks: Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygroround – Part One". Creem. Retrieved 28 May 2019 – via Rock's Backpages.
  28. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 144.
  29. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 148.
  30. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time – 422: Lola – The Kinks". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2009.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  31. ^ Christgau, Robert. "The Kinks".
  32. ^ Gallucci, Michael. "Top 10 Kinks Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  33. ^ Stiernberg, Bonnie (13 April 2011). "The 15 Best Kinks Songs". Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  34. ^ Goodman, Mark (interviewer) (1983). Groovy Movies (Television production). MTV.
  35. ^ Jovanovic 2014, p. 245.
  36. ^ Caulfield, Philip. "Weird Al Yankovic sings parody hit 'Yoda' with 13-year-old autistic girl". New York Daily News. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  37. ^ "The Dangermen Sessions, Volume One by Madness". Genius. Retrieved 12 February 2023.
  38. ^ Hinman 2004, pp. 161–344.
  39. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 165.
  40. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 238.
  41. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 240.
  42. ^ " – The Kinks – Lola (Live)". Retrieved 9 December 2009.
  43. ^ a b "The Kinks – Lola (Live)" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  44. ^ Kent, David. Australian Chart Book: 1970–1992, 23 Years of Hit Singles & Albums from the Top 100 Charts. Australian Chart Book.
  45. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 248.
  46. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 282.
  47. ^ Hinman 2004, p. 340.
  48. ^ "Go-Set Australian Charts – 16 January 1971". Pop Archives. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  49. ^ "The Kinks – Lola" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  50. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3708." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  51. ^ "The Kinks – Lola" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  52. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Lola". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  53. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 39, 1970" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  54. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 02, 1981" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  55. ^ "The Kinks – Lola" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  56. ^ "The Kinks – Lola (Live)" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  57. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  58. ^ "South African charts". Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  59. ^ Hallberg, Eric (193). Eric Hallberg presenterar Kvällstoppen i P 3: Sveriges radios topplista över veckans 20 mest sålda skivor 10. 7. 1962 - 19. 8. 1975. Drift Musik. ISBN 9163021404.
  60. ^ Hallberg, Eric; Henningsson, Ulf (1998). Eric Hallberg, Ulf Henningsson presenterar Tio i topp med de utslagna på försök: 1961 - 74. Premium Publishing. p. 205. ISBN 919727125X.
  61. ^ "The Kinks – Lola". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  62. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  63. ^ a b "The Kinks Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  64. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 10/31/70". Archived from the original on 9 October 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  65. ^ " – The Kinks – Lola". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 9 June 2015. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON The Kinks"
  66. ^ "RPM Top 100 for 1970". RPM. Archived from the original on 18 March 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  67. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1971" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  68. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1970". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  69. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1970". Billboard. 2 January 1971. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  70. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1970". Archived from the original on 22 July 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  71. ^ "British single certifications – Kinks – Lola". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 18 December 2020.


External links[edit]