Certain Songs #864: The Kinks – “Lola”

Album: Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
Year: 1970

The Kinks recorded better songs. The Kinks recorded more popular songs. But The Kinks never recorded a more iconic song.

Not “You Really Got Me,” which got co-opted by Van Halen for better and worse. Not “Celluloid Heroes,” even if I sing it to myself every time I walk down Hollywood Blvd. Not even “Waterloo Sunset,” no matter how beautiful it was.

No, it’s “Lola.” “El-oh-el-Ay, Lola.” From the percussive riff that anchors it to the sing-along fade out, “Lola” was the song that — more than any other — would forever be associated with The Kinks. Its unexpected popularity — their first top ten hit in the U.S. in 5 years (and their last one for 13) — was credited by Dave Davies for saving the band.

And in fact, while it didn’t really fit the concept album that Ray was working on about the evils of the music industry, it was so popular that not only did they slot “Lola” on the album, they made sure to put Lola in the album title, as well. Thus the sublimely silly Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround, Part One, the last of their four-of-the-greatest-albums-ever run.

And why not? At its heart, “Lola” is a massive folk-rock singalong that showcases just how clever of a songwriter Ray Davies had become. “See-oh-el-ay, cola” (Coca not cherry!) in the first verse was just the beginning, as Ray mixes just the right amount of ambiguity, enthusiasm and confusion describing a night that didn’t go the way his character might have imagined but better the he could have possibly hoped.

Well, I’m not the world’s most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight
She nearly broke my spine
Oh my Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola

Well, I’m not dumb but I can’t understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man
Oh my Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola

By this point, the quiet opening guitar has given way to the full band, Dave’s leads searing between nearly every line, and his high harmonies right there in the mix during the more rockier parts, and down in the mix during the quieter parts as “Lola” continued to keep you the dark where it was going musically, as well.

And so one iconic set of lyrics would be set to a quieter part:

Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls
It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world
Except for Lola
Lo lo lo lo Lola

And another iconic set of lyrics would be set to a noisier part:

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
Lo lo lo lo Lola
Lo lo lo lo Lola

And the exact meaning of both sets of lyrics could be debated until the end of time, and probably will be. But one thing was absolutely sure: “Lola,” both the song and the character, was a rousing good time, which is why we will all sing “Lo lo lo lo Lola” for the rest of our lives.

“Lola”

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