The Kinks: Rock Legends and Political Pundits

The Kinks. Four guys from North London whose music was ahead of its time. Although mostly known for their up-beat rhythm-and-blues inspired singles like “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” many of their lesser-known songs are socially driven and continue to be relevant in today’s political climate. The Kinks are not just rock legends; they are political pundits. Their songs “Apeman," “Supersonic Rocket Ship” and “Lola” demonstrate just how political this band really was, and still is.

With the growing environmental crisis, “Apeman”, released in 1970, could not be more politically relevant. The song expresses the desire to go live in a world that has not been destroyed and corrupted by man. Although written fifty years ago, many of the issues outlined by the Kinks are exactly the same as those we are experiencing today. For example, Ray sings, “I look out the window but I can’t see the sky, the air pollution is a-foggin up my eyes”. The Kinks were clearly commenting on the environmental implications of industrialization at the time, yet, here we are, fifty years later, with less than twelve years remaining to reverse the effects of climate change. Additionally, with the rise of right-wing extremism and threats from North Korea, the line, “I don’t feel safe in this world no more, I don’t want to die in a nuclear war”, demonstrates that the political issues experienced in the 60s and 70s, are re-gaining popularity today. “Apeman” is a perfect example of the Kink’s understanding of political of social issues that were often pushed aside at the time their music was made, yet are still equally as relevant today. 

Another example of their social consciousness is their song “Supersonic Rocket Ship”. With the Moon landing occurring in 1969, this song, released in 1972, is both a play on the scientific developments at the time, as well as the social issues. The song, similar to the premise of “Apeman” expresses a desire to escape this world, and create one in which there is equality for all. With lyrics like, “nobody’s gonna travel second class, there’ll be equality and no suppression of minorities” and “nobody has to be hip, nobody has to be out of sight” it shows the Kinks commenting on the lack of respect shown to marginalized groups and those who don’t traditionally “fit-in”. With the current rise of populism and xenophobia worldwide, perhaps this song could bring listeners on a supersonic rocket ship ride through the galaxies of tolerance and respect. 

Similarly, with the mass underrepresentation and underappreciation of the LGBTQ+ community at the time, “Lola” was a very controversial hit. It tells the story of a man meeting a woman in a bar and eventually discovering that she is trans. Some countries, like Australia, even banned the song from the radio for the “mature content”. Although the man in the song is confused at first, he eventually comes to a realization: “I looked at her and she at me, and that’s the way that I want it stay and I always want it to be that way for my Lola”. He does not care about her gender; he loves her and wants to be with her. Similarly, Ray Davies was quoted in his biography saying, “it really doesn't matter what sex Lola is, I think she’s alright”. The song, in addition to Ray Davies’s comments, demonstrates that the Kinks were socially ahead of their time, with some believing that they paved the way for other controversial artists both in music and other forms of media. 

With the Kinks making songs throughout the 60s and 70s about environmental, political and social issues that were taboo, they demonstrate that they are not only musicians, but also influential political commentators. "Apeman", "Supersonic Rocket Ship", "Lola", and many of their other socially-driven songs continue to be relevant. Their lyrics, combined with Ray’s distinctive vocals and Dave’s unique guitar stylings, makes them one of the most unique political influences, both fifty years ago and today. 

 

Information obtained from: 

https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Kinks

https://ig.ft.com/life-of-a-song/lola.html

https://genius.com/The-kinks-lola-lyrics

https://genius.com/The-kinks-supersonic-rocket-ship-lyrics

https://genius.com/search?q=apeman

God Save The Kinks: A Biography. Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1781311646.