CLASSIC ALBUM: THE KINKS-LOLA VERSUS POWERMAN AND THE MONEYGOROUND AND PERCY.
Classic Album: The Kinks-Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround.
By 1970, The Kinks had been through the ringer and everything that could’ve gone wrong had gone wrong. They had lost of bassist Pete Quaife in 1969 after they released their sixth album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. It was released in November 1968 and failed to chart in Britain and American. For The Kinks this was a disaster as this was the first time one of their albums failed to chart. This was a first. Surely this was a mere blip as they were one Britain’s most popular musical exports?
Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).
Down but not out, Ray Davies returned with Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). This was a concept album which was meant to be the soundtrack to a television play based around a story written by novelist Julian Mitchell.
The album was recorded between May and July 1969 with new bassist John Alton making his Kinks debut. It was a lavish album and horns and strings adorned Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). It was as if The Kinks were determined to get their career back on track and what better way than providing the soundtrack to television play? After all, The Kinks’ music would be heard by a large part of the British population.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be as the television play was cancelled. This presented The Kinks with a problem as they has just written the soundtrack to a play that would never be made, never mind seen. Despite this, they released Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) in October 1969.
On its release, the album failed to chart in the UK and stalled at number 105 in the US Billboard 200 charts. For The Kinks, this was an improvement in their previous album. The two singles also gave the group minor hits.
Plastic Man was the lead single and reached number twenty-eight in Britain. Then neither Drivin’ nor Shangri-La failed to chart. The final single Victoria then reached number thirty in Britain and number sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. Maybe The Kinks luck was changing?
It wasn’t and 1970 proved to be one of the most turbulent years in The Kinks’ career. Drummer Mick Avoy’s illness meant The Kinks had to cancel all booking for ten weeks. This resulted in The Kinks American tour being cancelled. Sadly, that wasn’t the end of their problems.
In the background, The Kinks were experiencing problems with their manager and bureaucrats. It would take time to free themselves of the contractual problems and the problems with bureaucrats really hampered the groups’s career.
The Kinks had been banned from entering and touring America and were unable to build on the early success they enjoyed. That had been the case since 1965. and for four years they hadn’t played live in America. Longterm, this cost The Kinks dearly and they never quite reached the heights they should’ve.
Belatedly, the ban on The Kinks from playing in America had been lifted in 1969. For the first time in four years, The Kinks were able play live in America. Sadly, the concerts weren’t as successful as The Kinks and promoters had hoped. To make matters worse, illness meant the remaining concerts were cancelled and The Kinks lost the chance to make up for lost time.
As a new decade dawned, The Kinks hoped that their luck would change. Sadly, it proved to be one of the most turbulent years of their career
Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround.
After the disappointment of 1968s The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society and 1969s Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), The Kinks hoped that a new decade would bring about a change in fortune. For their eight album, Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, Ray Davies decided to write another concept album. This was a concept album with a difference though, it was about the music industry.
For Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, Ray Davies wrote eleven of the thirteen tracks. Dave Davies penned Strangers and Rats. The Kinks concept album is best described as a satirical, tongue-in-cheek concept examination of the various aspects of the music industry.
During the thirteen tracks, The Kinks look at the various facets of the music industry. Everyone, from music publishers, the music press, accountants, managers and The Kinks’ bette noire, music unions. The American musician’s union had stopped The Kinks playing in America for five long years and now was The Kinks opportunity for payback.
Recording of Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, took place took place between at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London. The sessions began in April and lasted until May 1970. The Kinks Mk.II then took a break until August 1970. They then worked through to September 1970.
The latest lineup of The Kinks featured drummer and percussionist Mike Avory, bassist and guitarist John Dalton, Dave Davies on lead guitar, slide guitar and banjo. He also took charge of lead vocal on the two tracks he wrote, Rats and Strangers. John Gosling played piano and organ, while Ray Davies sang lead vocals, played guitar, harmonica, keyboards and resonator guitar. After four months in the studio Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround was complete.
Before the release of Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, two singles were released. The lead single was Lola, which was released in Britain on the ’12th’ of June 197 and it reached number two in Britain, Germany and Canada, four in Australia and topped the charts in Holland and New Zealand. In America, Lola reached number nine in the US Billboard 100 and gave The Kinks one of their biggest hit singles.
Then Apeman was released as a single and just like Lola, gave the group another hit single. It reached number five in Britain, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, nine in Holland and nineteen in Canada. In America, the single stalled at forty-five in the US Billboard 100. However, with two hit singles worldwide it looked as if Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, would revive The Kinks’ fortunes.
When Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround was released in November 1970 it was well received by the British music press. The majority of other reviews were positive and Rolling Stone called it: “the best Kinks album yet.” This includes contrarian critic Robert Christgau. He was one of few dissenting voices. That isn’t the case now.
Since 1970, some critics have changed their opinion of Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround. Mostly, the album has been well received by critics. However, some recent reviews have been mixed. In the main, Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround is perceived as one of The Kinks’ finest album and it certainly revived their fortunes.
Just like their previous album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround fared better in American than Britain. It reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200 charts and failed to chart in Britain. It seemed that The Kinks were more popular in America than their home country. Maybe, America got better understood the group’s latest concept album which also reached twenty-four in Australia?
Just like so many of their previous albums, Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround was eclectic off. It veered between pop, power pop, hard rock and folk. There was even a homage to the British music hall which Ray Davies was a devotee of. The Kinks combined acerbic comment, wit, nostalgia, frustration and anger. After all, The Kinks hadn’t had an easy ride at the hand of the music industry. This was apparent when Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround.
Opening Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, is Contenders, a song about bands who dream about making it big. That’s until they have to negotiate with the music publishers in Denmark Street or the unions that feature in the ballad Get Back In Line. Then there’s Lola, the best known song on the album.
Whilst not directly about the music industry, Lola is a song about the type of people who populate the fringes of the music industry. The song is about brief romantic encounter between a young man and a transvestite. Ray Davis’ voice gets across the confusion, panic and bewilderment the narrator encounters when he sings the lyric: “walked like a woman and talked like a man.” Although Lola is the best known track on Lola Versus The Powerman and The Underground, there’s much to the album than one track.
Ray Davis then directs his ire to the television show Top Of The Pops. It was merely an arbiter of popularity, not quality. This must have frustrated him as the music he wrote was much more cerebral and incisive than most of the music that appeared on Top Of The Pops. After Top Of The Pops, business managers and accountants incur the wrath of Ray on The Moneygoround. It’s as if he’s been waiting a while to unleash his ire.
Business managers and accountants incur the wrath of Ray Davis on The Moneygoround which is a homage to the English music hall. It’s as if he’s been waiting a while to unleash the anger and frustration that has been building up.
This Time Tomorrow and the ballad A Long Way Home finds Ray Davis reflecting on the life on the road. Gruelling, tiring and boring, he admits that he misses his family and home.
Dave Davis then tajes charge the lead vocal on the hard rocking song Rats. It features some of the best guitar playing on the album. It’s also reminder of his talent as a singer and songwriter. The hard rocking sound continues on Powerman where The Kinks cut loose on this impressive sounding song.
Closing Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround, is the poignant, wistful Got to Be Free. It’s a mixture of country and bluegrass and the way Ray Davis delivers the lyrics, it’s as if Ray feels enslaved by the contract he’s tied to. It’s as if all he longs for is to be free of the recording contract.
Never before had anyone written a concept album about the music industry until The Kinks released their eighth album Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround in 1970. It found the Davies brothers unleashing their acerbic comment, wit, nostalgia, frustration and anger. They turn their guns on the music industry which they felt had treated them badly.
The only way they had of telling people about this was through their music. It proved an eye opener for music fans. Many of them had no idea how the music industry worked. Ironically, having exposed the inner workings of the music industry this proved profitable for The Kinks.
After the commercial success of Lola, The Kinks were offered a new contract by RCA Records. The Kinks negotiated hard. As a result, they were able to build their own recording studio. This made life much easier and cheaper for The Kinks. Now whenever they wanted to record new music, they could head to their own studio. All this was the result of The Kinks best known singles, Lola.
The last few years had been tough for The Kinks in Britain as neither Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall of The British Empire) nor Lola Versus The Powerman and The Underground had charted in Britain. At least the single Lola had given The Kinks a top ten hit single. However, mostly, times had been tough for The Kinks.
There had been illness, managerial problems and tours cancelled. They’ had lost their original bassist Pete Quaife and been banned from playing in America for four years. Despite that, The Kinks returned with one of their biggest hit singles and Lola, and their most successful American album since The Kinks in 1969. Maybe the Davis’ brothers’ luck was changing.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case and their next seven albums failed to match the success of Lola Versus The Powerman and Moneygoround. Then their sixteenth album Sleepwalker became their most successful American album when it reached twenty-one in the US Billboard 100. It surpassed the success of their Lola Versus The Powerman and Moneygoround and became their most successful album.
Fifty years ago in 1970, The Kinks released Lola Versus The Powerman and Moneygoround, which was a concept album about the music industry that explored and exposed its practices and allowed the Davis brothers to vent their frustration and tell the record buying public how badly they had been treated and how difficult it was for them to make a living. Nowadays, Lola Versus The Powerman and Moneygoround is regarded as a minor classic and was one of the finest The Kinks released during the late-sixties and early seventies.
Classic Album: The Kinks-Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround.