The song Lola was much ahead of its time when it was released in 1970, yet it still resonates strongly with contemporary conversations about sexuality. It represented one of the earliest victories for acceptability in music, being far, far ahead of their time. In this essay, we’ll discuss Lola’s background and legacy, go into the song’s lyrics and content, and then examine the two very distinct reasons the song had temporary bans in the US and the UK.
The History And Reception Of “Lola”
The Kinks would record Lola for their 1970 album Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One. Lola was written in 1970 by Ray Davies.
The band released it as a single in the US and the UK, and it was rather successful. The song reached its top position on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number nine before rising to number two on the UK Singles Chart in the UK.
Lola is undoubtedly one of The Kinks’ most well-known tracks and has evolved over the years into something of a hallmark song for the band. Even Rolling Stone and NME have included it on a number of their lists of the 500 best songs ever.
The Inspiration And Content Of “Lola”
The plot of Lola is quite humorous. It portrays a guy and a potential transgender lady or cross-dresser having a love encounter. He runs into them in a club in Soho, London, and finds the entire meeting to be a bit confusing. In the song, they are portrayed as having moved like a lady yet spoken like a male.
There are several theories as to where the song’s inspiration came from.
The song’s author, Davies, stated that the manager of The Kinks had spent the evening dancing with a transgender person in Paris, which gave him the idea for the song. The producer said at one point in the evening that he believed he was on to something, but the others pointed out the subject’s facial stubble. Davies said that the producer didn’t care since he was too drunk.
According to Mick Avory, the drummer for The Kinks, the song’s idea came from somewhere else different. He claims that his experiences in London’s pub culture served as inspiration for the song. The invitation Davies received from a secret party or drag performance, which The Kinks frequently attended because of their fame, gave Davies the idea for the song.
According to some speculations, Candy Darling, a well-known transgender entertainer, and Davies formerly dated. He disputed them, claiming that they had dinner together once and he was present the entire time. He did admit that before creating the song, he conducted a significant amount of study on drag queens.
Whether either version is accurate or not is mostly immaterial. The song ultimately became one of the group’s most cherished records and contributed to their history.
The Meaning Of “Lola”
Lola is recognized as one of the greatest pieces of folk-rock ever written and was one of The Kinks’ most commercially successful songs. The LBGTQ+ community, however, also scored a major victory, and it was perhaps 50 years ahead of its time. You see, the narrative about the man having a great time with someone who turned out to be likely to be transgender was sincere in its acceptance of ‘Lola’ as a person and didn’t make fun of the circumstance.
Lines such as:
Well, I’m not dumb but I can’t understand
Why she walks like a woman and talks like a man
Make it clear that the protagonist was first perplexed. But in the song, he appears to rapidly move past those emotions.
Well, we drank champagne and danced all night
Under electric candlelight
She picked me up and sat me on her knee
She said, “Little boy, won’t you come home with me?”
Well, I’m not the world’s most passionate guy
But when I looked in her eyes, well, I almost fell for my Lola
Whether Lola is transsexual or not is unimportant to the man singing the song. The entire song is centered on how much fun they had together, how well they got along, and how things really heated up once he got past his first confusion. By the song’s conclusion, it appears like he even left the pub to accompany Lola home.
Remember that this song was a tremendous smash single when it was released in 1970. To put it gently, the 1970s weren’t exactly a time when LGBTQ+ individuals were honored, therefore the lyrics and plot of this song were far more welcoming than one would anticipate from any popular work at the time.
Lola and the song’s main character were both looking to have a good time. For the other person, it was irrelevant what their background was, who they were, or how they identified. They discovered each other and the joy they were looking for. And to be really honest, that’s the lesson you should take away from this song—one that still holds true today.
Nobody should be surprised that in the 1970s, people were outraged by the mere mention of transgender persons or any celebration of them. It received criticism in the US for encouraging sex changes. Before Lola’s gender was revealed in the song, some radio stations muted the sound out, while others flat-out refused to play it.
Some radio stations would cut off the phrase “…I’m glad I’m a man, And so is Lola” poorly in order to air the song. It truly doesn’t matter what sex Lola is, in answer to inquiries about the song, Davies publicly stated, “I think she’s alright.” And it encompasses both the song’s message and his thoughts on whether it upset anyone.
The song encountered a different issue in the UK. It repeatedly references Coca-Cola, which is against BBC policy about product placement. Yes, they did prohibit it there, but it wasn’t because of the transgender plot; it was because of the advertising. By substituting “cherry cola” for “Coca-Cola” in the song’s UK radio release version, Davies had to go 6,000 miles and modify it.