Release date: 27 November 1970
UK chart peak: —
Running time: 40:25
Singles: Lola (#2), Apeman (#5)
After some well-documented struggles across the Pond, Lola Versus Powerman did some work in repairing that relationship, charting at number 35 and appearing as a comeback album of sorts. The record also did well in Australia, peaking at #24.
Following the Beat explosion of the early 60s (including the British Invasion), and the advent of psychedelic music later in the decade, the 70s was primed for whatever musical stylings the artists could throw at it. This is demonstrated rather neatly by the tussle between Simon & Garfunkel and Black Sabbath for the number 1 album spot in the weeks prior to the release of Lola Versus Powerman (Bridge Over Troubled Water and Paranoid, respectively). Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother and Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin III were also knocking about, plus Bob Dylan’s New Morning and Andy Williams’ Greatest Hits managed to coincide with The Kinks’ effort. Not to mention Voodoo Chile, War, Woodstock, and I Hear You Knocking occupying the singles charts around the same time. It was all happening in 1970!
For The Kinks, this was a period of resetting as bassist Pete Quaife had left the band once and for all in 1969, replaced by John Dalton (a previous stand-in member).
Lola Versus Powerman was the next in a run of concept albums of varying degrees (following on from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), initially meant as the soundtrack to a TV play) – this time taking aim at multiple aspects of the music industry. Perhaps most obvious in tracks such as Denmark Street, The Moneygoround, Top of the Pops, and Rats.
There is quite a diverse range of musical styles on display, perhaps reflecting the different strands of the broad concept Davies was working from. Sometimes this can make an album feel unfocused, however the variety makes for an interesting listen – and definitely helps tracks stand out from one another. I personally tend to enjoy albums that take this kind of approach, which possibly goes some way to explaining why this is possibly my favourite Kinks album (of the selection I’ve heard).
As such, there are quite a few highlights for me. Several tracks were used in Sunny Afternoon, which is where I first heard them (aside from Lola – I think most people have heard this one!); the numbers in the show were done in a similar style, so this was a good introduction to them, and also helped to reinforce the music industry satire concept given when they’re employed in the show. Apeman and This Time Tomorrow are two definite favourites of mine, as is the Dave Davies penned Strangers (which I didn’t realise was a Kinks song – I found that to be something of a trend when I first saw Sunny Afternoon) – these tracks feel like quite a good trilogy, as there’s an underlying worry & anxiety to all of them. Other highlights for me are Top of the Pops and Powerman.
The Greatest Show
Plenty of live dates were attempted throughout 1970, though there were various cancellations (from drummer Mick Avory recovering from hepatitis to Ray Davies having recording commitments). However, the Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround Tour kicked off in earnest in November 1970 in California, taking in stops from Minneapolis and New York City to Vancouver, Canada; Australian stops were thwarted by the postal strike in January 1971.