Today (June 12), marks the 50th anniversary of The Kinks' career-defining single, "Lola," which was released on their 1970 album, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part 1. The Ray Davies' penned hit single was full of risqué allusions for its time, telling the tale of an innocent young man's navly romantic encounter with a transgender person he met at a club "down in old Soho." But that’s not what saw it almost banned from the BBC.
No, the real scandal, in their eyes, was that the song’s opening line dropped the brand name “Coca-Cola” which violated the station’s strict policy against product placement. But Ray Davies was looking for a hit; as he wrote in his autobiography, he wanted something that would "sell in the first five seconds" – so he wasn't about to let "Lola" be banned.
The Kinks | “Lola” [Official Audio]
The glory days of rock and roll are chock full of stories about wild excesses, however, the exuberance of “Lola” had little to do with sex and drugs. With the band on tour in America and the master tapes back in the UK, Davies would blow an outlandish sum of money on the two transatlantic journeys it took to transform those two short words into “cherry cola.” Here they are performing the track live – with the updated broadcast friendly lyrics – in 1970.
The Kinks | “Lola” [Live, 1970]
Davies flew between London and the US west twice in a week (because he wasn't able to get the performance he wanted the first time) to make the changes needed to get “Lola” passed the BBC censors – racking up 25,000km’s of airtime in the process! But all that effort was certainly worth it in the end. "Lola" was a smash success around the world, and one of The Kinks' all-time biggest singles, peaking at #9 on the US Billboard Hot 100, at #2 in the U.K. and hitting the upper reaches of charts across Europe. Here in Australia, the song’s controversial song matter saw it banned on some stations – but controversy, in the right measure, can turn a hit single into a career-defining moment. And, it seems in this case the recipe was perfectly balanced!
As for the contentious champagne that tasted just like Coca-Cola? Davies insists it's not a myth. "I have," he responded when asked, in a 2011 interview with The Guardian, if he'd ever actually come across it. "I had Californian champagne that tasted like it, in some kind of L.A. bordello tourist trap."
This week, The Kinks are launching #LolaDay to celebrate 50 years since the groundbreaking single was first released. Fans are invited to join in the festivities, share their memories and anecdotes about the song and ‘Lolafy’ their individual photos with 10 new custom made stickers available via The Kinks website, here.
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