August 1, 2021

50 years of ‘Lola’, by The Kinks, a cross-dressing story that is still an enigma today | Culture

The Kinks in the early seventies. From left to right, John Dalton, John Gosling, Mick Avory, Dave Davies and Ray Davies.GAB Archive / Redferns

A song about a small town boy who comes to London, goes into a nightclub in a basement and falls in love with a transvestite without him knowing that the person who goes by the name of Lola is a transvestite, nor put it, what the hell is it a transvestite. So in 1970, it might have unnerved The Kinks fans, perhaps not overly prepared for Ray Davies, their singer and frontman, to present this song as the first. single from the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. But surprisingly for the author and his band, the first stumbling block the song had to overcome was being banned by the BBC.

“I met her at a club in Soho where you drink champagne and it tastes like Coca Cola,” Davies sings at the start of the song. The British corporation’s policy regarding the appearance of trademarks in content other than advertisements was very strict at the time. Davies (London, 1944) immediately flew from New York –the band was on tour in the USA- to London to re-record the vocals of the song and replace Coca Cola with “cherry cola” (cherry cola). And so, on June 12, 1970, one of the most iconic songs in rock history was released. Today turns 50 and #LolaDay is going to be celebrated: the group launches a version with improved sound and professional and amateur groups will post their interpretations of the song on the Internet.

The British corporation’s policy regarding the appearance of trademarks in content other than advertisements was very strict at the time. And he vetoed the first version of ‘Lola’

There are two theories about the origin of the subject. The original maintains that the source of inspiration was a night of terminal drunkenness by Robert Wace, the band’s manager. The man, apparently, was dancing and flirting in a club with a transvestite, not realizing until hours later that he was not a woman. How did he know? He had a beard. But in 2016, in an interview with the British music magazine Q Magazine, Ray Davies changed that version. “The song comes from an experience in a Paris club. I was dancing all night with this pretty blonde. When I left there, in the daylight, I saw that his beard had started to grow the day after, ”the singer revealed.

Years before, in 2004, the magazine Rolling Stone had speculated on the possibility that the protagonist of the subject was Candy Darling, a transgender actress who was a partner of Davies for a short time and who is mentioned in Walk On The Wild Sideby Lou Reed. In fact, in many respects, Lola is, always from a much more ironic and subtle point of view (more Evelyn Waugh than Hubert Selby Jr.), a precedent of the Lou Reed classic and even of Rebel Rebel, by David Bowie, two songs that address the same theme, but from much deeper inside.

Ray Davies had the lyrics written long before he started rehearsing the song with the rest of the band. When they played her at the venue, she just hummed the melody of the verse and then proceeded to sing “lo lo lo lola” when the chorus came. He was not very sure that his classmates would understand what he had written and that he spoke of boys who will be girls and girls who will be boys. Meanwhile, in the musical, the famous riff of the song became another reason for dispute between Ray and his brother Dave, the band’s guitarist.

In the credits, Ray is listed as the sole composer, but Dave has always maintained that that riff it’s yours. The matter remains unresolved, but surely Dave is not amused that his brother still likes to remember that day when he walked into an instrument store on Shaftesbury Avenue (London) in order to buy an amplifier that offered him the sound I was looking for Lola. And, once there, he also took a guitar with him. Davies was convinced that the song was going to be a success and he was going to invest in it.

On more than one occasion he has commented that if Lola It would not have worked, perhaps that same 1970 the band would have dissolved. But Lola it was number two on the British charts and was placed in position nine of the Americans. At the end of that year, Davies rented an apartment in Hollywood and wrote the theme there Celluloid heroes, with which he almost managed to make peace with the United States.

It had been speculated that the protagonist of the subject was Candy Darling, a transgender actress who was a partner of Ray Davies for a short time and is mentioned in Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’

The history of The Kinks changed, unintentionally, in 1965. They went on tour to the United States in order to show the public in that country that they could make as much noise as The Who and write songs as good as The Beatles. It was the height of the british invasion And there was no reason why the Davies brothers combo couldn’t become famous in America. But there was no human factor, the one that made The Kinks an absolutely discarded entity.

They had problems with their promoter, who abandoned them halfway through the tour because they could not meet the band’s demands to receive their cache in cash and before playing. One night the Davies brothers and drummer Mick Avory started fist fighting on stage. The affair ended with the brothers in hospital and the drummer arrested. Days later, in San Francisco, they refused to go up to perform because they were not paid in advance, which led to them being reported to the US Musicians’ Union. And, finally, the night they were to appear at the TV show hosted by Dick Cavett,

The Kinks received in the dressing room the unexpected visit of a mysterious character who began to insult them. “When the Russians invade you, don’t expect us to rescue you again. When I write my report on you you are not going to play in America again. You are going to see how powerful this country is, you shitty English people ”. Fists flew and the next morning a ban on acting in the US for the next four years landed at the band’s offices. The Kinks returned to the UK and decided to become the most English band ever to see the still young history of pop. And they succeeded.

Portada de 'Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One' (1970).
Portada de ‘Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One’ (1970).

“It may be that Lola refers to the male and female genders. In Spanish ‘lo’ refers to the masculine and ‘la’ to the feminine ”. This is how author and teacher expert in gender studies Madeleine Camara explained in an article published in an Ohio State University newsletter her theory on why Lola it is called like that. Perhaps it is somewhat convoluted, but it is true that there is something in the lyrics written by Ray Davies that has made it practically immune to the hammer of revisionism.

It is simply a song that exudes irony and tenderness at the same time, in which one person who should not be in that bar and another who should not be in that body meet. Could it be done today ?, As is said of so many things in order to seek some acquiescence when referring to past times that some, those who can afford the luxury of not having to empathize with the weakest part of the society, they yearn. Undoubtedly. In fact, the only thing that can be missed when listening to this classic is that there are no more white Western gentlemen treating these issues with this humor, this tenderness and this ability to laugh at yourself.