The Kinks, "Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround: Part One" Cover

The Kinks: Lola Versus The Powerman and The Moneygoround: Part One

Pye (UK), Reprise (US), 1970

“Hush little mommy don’t you cry/ I’ve got to see what it’s like on the world outside/ got to get out of this life somehow/ got to be free, got to be free now.”

Thus begins this absolutely essential album and an excellent intro for anybody totally unfamiliar with The Kinks, released as the official US ban of the band by the American Musician’s Union (1967-1970, seminal rock years) finally expired. This album was a fairly big hit on both sides of the Atlantic, making it a bit of a comeback album, and the song “Lola,” possibly the first rock n’ roll song with a trans protagonist, which though quite comic, can also be read as a loving portrait, is a perennially played classic rock song, and even “Apeman” can still be heard here in the States on classic rock radio every so often.

This record contains a multitude of facets that we Kinks acolytes love about the band: comical yet scathing sociopolitical critique, the advocacy of compassion and empathy for those on the fringe of society, a coherent narrative within a theme (in this case a parody of an up-and-coming rock n’ roll band navigating the labyrinthine major label quagmire), awesome deep cuts that are soulful and moving that would be on any other bands’ ‘greatest hits anthology’ such as “Strangers,” “Get Back In The Line,” and “A Long Way From Home,” hell, the whole record practically — and a variety of styles from rockers like the acoustic driven “Lola” and the heavy proto-metal riffage of “Powerman” and “Rats,” to vaudevillian show tunes, “The Moneygoround,” to the sweet-nostalgia-with-just-a-tinge-of-sadness that is Ray Davies’ specialty, like “Long Way From Home.”

Just listening to this after not listening to it in its entirety in months, trying to imagine with fresh ears, I have a grin on my face that I can’t help; the stuff we call “classic rock” should only be called that if it meets this high of a standard, it’s densely packed with exuberant rock and roll like  only the Davies brothers and company can make, those wonderfully yowling harmonies, the imperfect proto-punk nasality of Ray’s lead vocals, the jaunty piano melodies with buoyant acoustic guitar accompaniment as the drums march along, that you can’t help but nod your head to.

To me, The Kinks are and always will be an affirmation: if you got soul and you got stuff to say, you work hard and consistently, the body of output will reflect that no matter what your limitations are, and you can carve your own style, create your own imprimatur, and those idiosyncrasies are the stuff that makes art vital. The Kinks say, in essence, “Just do you.” God Save The Kinks Forever.

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