Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround Part One is Pure Perfection
I have always been a number one fan of the Beatles, but the Kinks intrigued me too. I only bought a few albums of theirs in my teenage years. It has only been the last few years that I have made up for lost time and decided to discover more of their albums.
I heard of the song “Lola”, but other songs on the album I hadn’t. Listening to the album I found myself loving every song.
What is it about this album that makes it so special? Let us find out.
Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround was released in 1970. The album was well received by the public and by the critics. The album reached the Top 40 in the US. “Lola” did well in the United States making it to the Top Ten, and it was Top Ten in the United Kingdom too.
Ray made this a concept album and it was all about the music industry and how corrupt it was. All the songs on the album connect well with each other. Let us delve into the life of a rock musician, and see what life is like in the music industry through the eyes of Ray Davies.
This song from the album Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround begins with a country sound, and then goes into a bluesy, and a rock sound. Covering pretty much all genres of the music industry. It is a song about a man who knows he isn’t qualified to do regular jobs but wants to be a singer in a rock band.
“I don't want to be a constructor of highways
A sweeper of sidewalks, I've got to do it my way
I'm too ill-equipped for a mathematician
A shrewd politician, a maker of decisions”
sum it up well with a Frank Sinatra attitude wanting to do it his way. It is a great song to start the album full of energy and the use of different musical styles make int very entertaining.
Ray Davies brother Dave wrote this song. It is a song about a great friend of his that died young of a drug overdose. The song has a gospel sound and it a song that could be for friends or a spouse or anyone you love.
Songfacts.com delves into how the song came to be.
Davies explained that the initial idea came from Hank Williams' "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," which inspired the "Strangers" line, "If I live too long, I'm afraid I'll die." Davies found the line funny. The song got more serious, though, and eventually came to be about Davies' old school friend George Harris.
"We were dear friends," Davies said. “, George and I were going to start a band, but he got too heavily into drugs and it kind of pulled us apart. The drug thing was like a three-way affair. He died of a methamphetamine overdose. They found him departed... he was young. I always felt it was going to be me and him. I didn't think at that age that it was going to be me and Ray. So I really kind of wrote it to him; 'Strangers on this road we are on, we are not two we are one.' It was like, what might of been if he hadn't died so tragically."
The song has a great melody and it poignant knowing how the song evolved.
This song starts out sounding like you are in a bar back in the old west with a rollicking piano playing at fast speed. It is a fun song explaining about a street that has a publishing company. It a fun poke at the wait and see world of whether your song will be recorded or not. Ray makes this serious business feel light hearted and fun.
“Get Back In Line”
The album this song comes is a concept album of the music business, but this song reminds me of the Great Depression when jobs were not plentiful, and you had to wait to see if you were picked for a job. The same scenario is in the movie On The Waterfront. Ray sings it beautifully and with a sadness in his tone.
This one verse explains it beautifully,
Facing the world ain't easy when there isn't anything going
Standing at the corner waiting watching time go by
Will I go to work today or shall I bide my time
Cause when I see that union man walking down the street
He's the man who decides if I live or I die, if I starve, or I eat
Then he walks up to me and the sun begins to shine
Then he walks right past and I know that I've got to get back in the line
This song is one of first thoughts that comes to mind if asked to name a Kinks song. It was released as a single from the album Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround. The song made it to number 2 on the UK Singles Chart and number 9 on the Billboard Top 100. A song ahead of its time is about a man who meets a transgender person and is not sure of his or her sexual identity.
Dave wrote the music for the song and later Ray provided the lyrics. There are a few stories about how this song came to be. Two versions are by Ray Davies.
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.
Then Ray added a few years later:
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.”
Another version of the story came from the drummer in The Kinks band Mick Avery. He used to frequent the trans bar in London. He met this guy named Michael McGrath who was a publicist for a music company on Carnaby Street. He thought that since the band was named The Kinks he would invite Mick to go to the drag queen acts and transvestite clubs. Ray was invited too and that is where he came up with the idea.
Ray probably combined all these experiences and crafted a great story song about this young guy who was about to grow up quickly getting into something he never knew before.
Ray had a great line to say about the song.
He told Rolling Stone in 2014 that the song didn’t cause much of an uproar.
“The subject matter was concealed,” he said. “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”.
“Top Of The Pops”
A rocking song that explains the joys of watching your record it the top of the charts. The electric guitar rocks along with the vocals it is rock at its finest.
The end the song in the lyrics says it best.
” Now my record’s up to number three
And a woman recognized me and started to scream
This all seems like a crazy dream
I’ve been invited to a dinner with a prominent queen
And now I’ve got friends that I never knew I had before.
Its strange how people want you when your record’s high
Cause when it drops down they just pass you by
Now my agent just called me and said it me’
“Son your records just got to Number One.”
This song sounds like it came from musical or out of a German bar. The song goes around like a carousel. It is a story song and you listen as well as type your foot to the tune listening to find out what happens to this singer in the band. The singer laments that once everyone gets their share from the song there isn’t much left for him. In the end he states,
“On the verge of a nervous breakdown I decided to fight right to the end
But if I ever get my money I’ll be too old and grey to spend it
Oh, but life goes on and on and no one ever wins
And time goes quickly by just like the moneygoround
I only hope that I’ll survive.”
“This Time Tomorrow”
Being on the road as a musician has to get old after a while, and this song captures it all. Ray has said that this is one of his favorite songs that he has written, and it is underrated.
The song begins with the sound of an airplane. The kicks in with guitar and the most beautiful sounding piano riffs that flow throughout the song. The lyrics explain how the singer is caught up in the music business and it is hard to think of anything else but where the next gig will be.
“This time tomorrow where will we be
On a spaceship somewhere sailing across an empty sea
This time tomorrow what will we know
Will we still be here watching an in-flight movie show
I’ll leave the sun behind me and watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by
“A Long Way From Home”
Ray wrote this ballad song for his brother Dave. He was 17 when The Kinks became famous. He wanted to warn his brother that money isn’t the answer to all life’s problems and to remember he still needed someone to guide him. Ray probably wanted to be that guide for him.
The song plays it simple with a piano and vocal starting out the song. It stays simple so that listener will listen to the lyrics. A great song of an older brother wanting to help his baby brother.
Dave Davies wrote this hard rocking tune in it is a bit jarring to precede the slow ballad song of “A Long Way From Home.”
This song was on the B-side of “Apeman”.
In this song Ray wants to get away from the world and all its problems and become an apeman. Who hasn’t thought of living a simpler life just being in a jungle eating bananas and swinging on vines. All places have a bit of stress, and I am sure the jungle isn’t as relaxing as Ray makes it out to be. In fiction, however, this would be paradise.
It has a tropical sound to it. Towards the middle of the song it has the early rock and roll style which adds to the song.
The lyrics included here are the best in the song.
I think I’m so educated and I’m so civilized
‘Cause I’m a strick vegetarian
But with the over=population and inflation and starvation
And the crazy politicians
I don’t feel safe in this world no more
I don’t want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore and make like an apeman
Another rocking song. This time the singer is lamenting the power of some people. Comparing the publisher of his songs to a Napoleon or Hitler. Ray sings that he may not be rich, and he may not be free, but he has what is important to him his girl, and that is all that is important to him.
Even though he thinks he is okay knowing that the publisher has that power is driving him insane.
“Got To Be Free”
This is the last song on the album and freedom is still on Ray’s mind. The song starts out like a lullaby and then has that country sound of travelling out to the country. This song has a sing along quality to it. The music really moves and the piano and drums keep the song rolling.
The lyrics wrap of the album well and state what Ray wants to convey freedom.
“Got to be free to say what I want
Make what I want and play what I want
I’ve got to be proud and stand up straight
And let people see I ain’t nobody’s slave
I’ve got to be free before it’s too late
I’ve just got to be free
Got to be free to do what I want
Walk if I want, talk if I want”
The Kinks may not have found the same success as the Beatles, but if anyone listens to their albums they will find beautifully written lyrics and styles that take you to the pubs of Britain, to the outskirts of the city, and to a rocking out jam.
Lola Versus The Powerman And The Moneygoround is an album that Ray Davies and the band should definitely be proud of. All the songs are timeless. Each generation should discover this album and find out for themselves what a well-crafted album this one is.