Tuesday, 11 December 2012
100 LPs Shortlist #24: The Kinks - "Lola vs Powerman and the Money-go-Round"
It's amazing the lasting impression some people leave on you. Oftentimes I remember people by their taste in music. Most of the albums in my 100 LPs shortlist I can remember not only time and place where I first heard them, but also who introduced me to it.
Once upon a time I had a high school girlfriend, whose father was Scottish. I've always believed you could learn a lot about a person from their music collection. With that criteria in mind, then ol' Jimmy must have been a nutter* - His taste ranged from Highland accordion sounds of Jimmy Shand through to the Sex Pistols!
* no disrespect intended.
He was an easy bloke to get along with. He loved his music, and that was half the battle won as far as I was concerned. He'd crack me up with his stinging critiques of my then-faves Pearl Jam and Guns n' Roses. He'd regale me with stories of the time he saw The Kinks in Glasgow at the height the "scream" years: when the noise of the hysterical screaming girls was so loud you couldn't hear the band.
Obviously, having seen the band live as a young working man, he'd probably have one or two Kinks records kicking about. Aside from a greatest hits compilation LP, "Lola vs Powerman..." was the one LP of the bands voluminous discography that he had. In the early 90s, Kinks LPs were available but they were not commonly stocked in stores. Even so, this album struck me as an odd and obscure choice. I'd never seen it before in a record shop (not that that means anything), nor had I heard anything from it aside from the two radio singles "Lola" and "Apeman". Looking at it, I thought the front cover looked like crap. Jimmy insisted, as he often did in his thick Glasgow brogue, that it was "brilliant".
It turns out that the man was an astute judge. Upon deeper listening and through further reading, this record really is brilliant. It is rich in sonic detail and scathing in its commentary on the reality of life in the music industry.
The songs, mind you, are also great. You could take a track out here and there and it will still be listenable, but it makes more sense within the concept of the record. A lot of the songs are hints of the stylistic direction the band was to take in the future. Songs like "The Contenders", "Denmark Street" and "A Long Way From Home" have country leanings which would take root in the albums that came immediately after this one, like "Muswell Hillbillies". "Powerman, "Top Of The Pops" and "Rats" are scorching rockers. "The Money-go-round" is a hilarious little music-hall styled track about who gets the spoils of royalties and the like. "Strangers" is a song so beautiful it may just be the best song the band has ever written.
Over time I played this album many, many times since then and even now I still find so much to gain from listening to it. And every time I play it, I still think about when and where I first heard it, who I was with and what we may, or may not, have been doing at the time...
Meanwhile, time goes on, the tape I recorded it on wore out and I bought the CD reissue with bonus tracks. People come and go. Relationships end. I haven't seen Jimmy (or his daughter for that matter) in well over 10 years, but I recently heard through the social media grapevine that he died last year - well before his time, in my view. I present the "Powerman..." LP for your listening pleasure below, in tribute to him.