Songs That Were Banned: The Kinks – Lola

This song faced censorship on less common ground than most. I would have thought the subject line would have caused problems…but no. The original studio recording contained the word “Coca-Cola” in the lyrics, which violated BBC Radio’s policy against product placement.

The songwriter, Ray Davies, was forced to interrupt the Kinks’ American tour so he could change the lyric to “cherry cola” for the single’s release. He made a 6,000 mile round trip flight from New York to London and back just for this purpose.

The song peaked at #9 in the Billboard 100, #2 in the UK, #1 in New Zealand and #2 in the UK in 1970.

Ray Davies: “‘Lola’ was a love song, and the person they fall in love with is a transvestite. It’s not their fault – they didn’t know – but you know it’s not going to last. It was based on a story about my manager.”

“The subject matter was concealed,” It’s a crafty way of writing. I say, ‘She woke up next to me,’ and people think it’s a woman. The story unfolds better than if the song were called ‘I Dated a Drag Queen.'”

 

From Songfacts

This song is about a guy who meets a girl (Lola) in a club who takes him home and rocks his world. The twist comes when we find out that Lola is a man.

As stated in The Kinks: The Official Biography, Ray Davies wrote the lyrics after their manager got drunk at a club and started dancing with what he thought was a woman. Toward the end of the night, his stubble started showing, but their manager was too tanked to notice.

Ray Davies revealed to Q magazine in a 2016 interview: “The song came out of an experience in a club in Paris. I was dancing with this beautiful blonde, then we went out into the daylight and I saw her stubble. “

He added; “So I drew on that but colored it in, made it more interesting lyrically.”

The Kinks came up with the riff after messing around with open strings on guitars. The group’s guitarist, Dave Davies, contended that he deserved a songwriting credit on the track, leading to additional friction with his brother Ray, who got the sole composer credit.

This revived the career of The Kinks, at least in America where their popularity was fading. Their previous Top 40 in the States was “Sunny Afternoon” in 1966.

Ray Davies said: “I wrote Lola to be a great record, not a great song. Something that people could recognize in the first five seconds. Even the chorus, my two-year-old daughter sang it back to me. I thought, ‘This must catch on.'”

The line “You drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola” was recorded as “it tastes just like Coca-Cola.” The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) refused to play it because of the commercial reference, so Ray Davies flew from New York to London to change the lyric and get the song on the air.

There was speculation, fueled by a 2004 piece in Rolling Stone magazine, that this song was inspired by the famous transgender actress Candy Darling, who Kinks lead singer Ray Davies allegedly dated for a brief time. This is the same Candy mentioned in Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” (“Candy came from out on the island, in the backroom she was everybody’s darling”)

The Kinks’ fans were not the type of people who would relate to a transvestite, but they loved this. It opened the door for artists like Lou Reed and David Bowie to explore homosexuality in songs that straight people liked too.

Weird Al Yankovic recorded a parody of this song entitled “Yoda” (based on the Star Wars movies) for his 1985 album Dare to Be Stupid

Ray Davies used his National Steel resonator guitar for the first time on this song. He recalled to Uncut: “On ‘Lola’ I wanted an intro similar to what we used on Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, which was two Fender acoustic guitars and Dave’s electric guitar so I went down to Shaftesbury Avenue and bought a Martin guitar, and this National guitar that I got for £80, then double-tracked the Martin, and double-tracked the National – that’s what got that sound.”

The Kinks probably weren’t familiar with it, but an American song published in 1918 also mentions Lola and Coca-Cola. In “Ev’ry Day’ll Be Sunday When The Town Goes Dry,” we hear the line, “At the table with Lola they will serve us Coca-Cola.”

Ray Davies told interviewer Daniel Rachel (The Art of Noise: Conversations with Great Songwriters) that he didn’t initially show the lyrics to the band. “We just rehearsed it with the la-la la-la Lo-la chorus which came first. I had a one-year-old daughter at the time and she was singing along to it.”

Lola is mentioned in the 1981 Kinks song “Destroyer,” which begins: “Met a girl called Lola and I took her back to my place.”

Lola

I met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like
Cherry Cola
C-O-L-A Cola
She walked up to me and she asked me to dance
I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said, “Lola”
L-O-L-A Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola

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 but talked like a man
Oh my Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola

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
Lo lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola
Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola

I pushed her away
I walked to the door
I fell to the floor
I got down on my knees
Then I looked at her, and she at me
Well, that’s the way that I want it to stay
And I always want it to be that way for my Lola
Lo lo lo lo Lola
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

Well, I’d left home just a week before
And I’d never ever kissed a woman before
But Lola smiled and took me by the hand
She said, “Little boy, gonna make you a man”
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

Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola
Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola
Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola
Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola
Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

18 thoughts on “Songs That Were Banned: The Kinks – Lola”

    1. I know…they make it worse lol.
      Fun fact…Coke didn’t release Cherry Cola until 1985. I guess they made cherry cola in Malt Shops manually.

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      1. I just found out the mystery of it. Easy and I didn’t know this…the album contained Coca Cola and the single “cherry cola” for release that went up the charts.

        Like

  1. First concert I ever attended was The Kinks in the late 80s. Around that time my mom, said she heard pop culture reference to it on Family Ties. They were auditioning musicians for to play their wedding and this guy asked if they had any requests. Nick said, “Yeah, do you know Lola by The Kinks?” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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