The Kinks were one of the most famous British rock bands of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and “Lola” remains one of their most famous songs. “Lola” was banned by the BBC for its use of a single word. Interestingly, the BBC was not offended by the song’s mention of cross-dressing, but by something else entirely. Let’s look at why the song was banned and how the world reacted to it.
Videos by American Songwriter
The Kinks’ Ray Davies reveals what made ‘Lola’ special
The past few years has seen an explosion of interest in transgender issues. Decades before that, The Kinks’ “Lola” discussed its narrator’s attraction to a cross-dresser. The subject matter of “Lola”’s lyrics were certainly edgy for the time — but Loudersound reports The Kinks’ Ray Davies says the track’s composition made it special as well.
“It wasn’t just the song,” Davies said. “It was the musical design. [‘Lola’] wasn’t a power-chord song like ‘You Really Got Me.’ It was a power-chord beginning. [‘Lola’] needed a special acoustic guitar sound… sonorous, growling, with an attack to it. There’s a macho swing to it, a stride, for all its questionable content.”
The one word in the song which upset the BBC
The BBC found the song’s content objectionable, but not for reasons of gender and sexuality. The BBC objected to the song because the original version of it mentioned Coca-Cola. Since the BBC felt the original lyric could be viewed as advertising, The Kinks had to re-record the song with no mention of the famous soft drink. The re-recorded version of the song mentions generic cherry cola rather than Coca-Cola.
How Brits and Americans reacted to The Kinks’ ‘Lola’
Was the song able to find success after the BBC was onboard with it? According to the Official Charts Company, “Lola” reached No. 2 in the United Kingdom. It was kept off the top of the chart by Elvis Presley’s late-period power balled “The Wonder of You.”
So how did Americans react to the song? “Lola” reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s one of only five top 5 hits on the chart, alongside “Come Dancing,” “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All of the Night,” “Tired of Waiting for You.” In addition, “Lola” influenced American popular culture, as “Weird Al” Yankovic parodied it as “Yoda,” a tribute to the Star Wars character of the same name.
What Dave Davies thinks of the song
“Lola” was certainly an edgy song at the time. However, there are people who might find its treatment of LGBT issues archaic today. In addition, it’s a folk-rock song and — outside of Taylor Swift’s recent material — folk-rock does not have the mainstream appeal it once did. With that in mind, does The Kinks’ Dave Davies still like the song?
“It’s great!” Davies told Under the Radar. “I love it! I’ve always loved that song. I think Ray wanted to try and create a single type track and I think it worked really well. It’s got country influences and I think it’s a fun track. But it’s also about growing up and experimenting with ideas and trying to find a sexual identity when you’re young apart of trying to find your identity in the world as a musician and a player and just growing up. It was a lot of—growing up in the music business. It’s very intense, very.” Davies liked the song and the BBC was fine with it — as long as it didn’t mention a certain soft drink.