|Single by The Kinks|
|from the album Something Else by The Kinks|
|B-side||UK: "Act Nice and Gentle"
US: "Two Sisters"
|Released||5 May 1967|
|Label||Pye 7N 17321 (UK)
Reprise 0612 (US)
|The Kinks singles chronology|
"Waterloo Sunset" is a song by British rock band The Kinks. It was released as a single in 1967, and featured on their album Something Else by The Kinks. Composed and produced by Kinks frontman Ray Davies, "Waterloo Sunset" is one of the band's best known and most acclaimed songs in most territories. It is also their first single that is available in true stereo.
The record reached number 2 on the British charts in mid 1967 (it failed to dislodge the Tremeloes' "Silence Is Golden" from the number 1 position). It was also a top 10 hit in Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe. In North America, "Waterloo Sunset" was released as a single but was not a hit, as it failed to chart.
The lyrics describe a solitary narrator watching (or imagining) two lovers passing over a bridge, with the melancholic observer reflecting on the couple, the Thames, and Waterloo Station. The song was rumoured to have been inspired by the romance between two British celebrities of the time, actors Terence Stamp and Julie Christie  stars of 1967s Far from the Madding Crowd. Ray Davies denied this in his autobiography and claimed in a 2008 interview, "It was a fantasy about my sister going off with her boyfriend to a new world and they were going to emigrate and go to another country." In a 2010 interview with Kinks biographer Nick Hasted he said Terry was his nephew Terry Davies, "who he was perhaps closer to than his real brother in early adolescence." Despite its complex arrangement, the sessions for "Waterloo Sunset" lasted a mere ten hours; Dave Davies later commented on the recording: "We spent a lot of time trying to get a different guitar sound, to get a more unique feel for the record. In the end we used a tape-delay echo, but it sounded new because nobody had done it since the 1950s. I remember Steve Marriott of the Small Faces came up and asked me how we'd got that sound. We were almost trendy for a while." The single was one of the group's biggest UK successes, reaching number two on Melody Maker's chart, and went on to become one of their most popular and best-known.
Davies considered the song a professional milestone, where he managed to blend the commercial demands of a hit single with his own highly personal style of narrative songwriting. The elaborate production was the first Kinks recording produced solely by Davies, without longtime producer Shel Talmy. In subsequent arguments with Kinks management over the direction of the band, Davies would say "I've done 'Waterloo Sunset', now I want to do something else".
In 2010 Ray Davies stated the song was originally entitled 'Liverpool Sunset'. In an interview with the Liverpool Echo he explained 'Liverpool is my favourite city, and the song was originally called Liverpool Sunset. I was inspired by Merseybeat. I'd fallen in love with Liverpool by that point. On every tour, that was the best reception. We played The Cavern, all those old places, and I couldn't get enough of it. I had a load of mates in bands up there, and that sound – not The Beatles but Merseybeat – that was unbelievable. It used to inspire me every time. So I wrote Liverpool Sunset. Later it got changed to Waterloo Sunset, but there's still that play on words with Waterloo. London was home, I'd grown up there, but I like to think I could be an adopted Scouser. My heart is definitely there.' 
The song derives from the period 1965-73 when Ray Davies lived at 87 Fortis Green, the semi-detached suburban home where almost all his songs were written at this period. "I didn't think to make it about Waterloo, initially", Davies said in a 2010 interview, "but I realised the place was so very significant in my life. I was in St Thomas' Hospital when I was really ill [when he had a tracheotomy aged 13] and the nurses would wheel me out on the balcony to look at the river. It was also about being taken down to the 1951 Festival of Britain. It's about the two characters - and the aspirations of my sisters' generation who grew up during the Second World War. It's about the world I wanted them to have. That, and then walking by the Thames with my first wife and all the dreams that we had." Davies' first wife was Rasa Didzpetris, the mother of his first two daughters. They divorced in 1973.
in 1985 Ray Davies released an album entitled Return to Waterloo, a soundtrack for the movie of the same name. The song and accompanying video seemed to reference the struggles an aging person has returning to the world of their youth, with the narrator wondering "Will I get away/will I see it through/On the return to Waterloo."
Davies also wrote a collection of short stories called "Waterloo Sunset" which revolve around an aged rock star called Les Mulligan and a cynical promoter planning his comeback. All stories are named after Kinks/Ray Davies songs.
Legacy and accolades
A London FM radio poll in 2004 named this the "Greatest Song About London", while Time Out named it the "Anthem of London". It holds spot #42 on Rolling Stone 's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Musicians Paul Weller and Damon Albarn cite the song as their favourite of all time. Pitchfork Media named it the 29th best song of the 1960s.
Pop music journalist Robert Christgau has called the song "the most beautiful song in the English language". Pete Townshend of The Who has called it "divine" and "a masterpiece". Allmusic senior editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine concurred, citing it as "possibly the most beautiful song of the rock and roll era".
"Waterloo Sunset" was performed by Ray Davies at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. A download of the performance briefly charted at #200 in the UK, while The Kinks original re-charted at #47.
References in other works
In 1979, the song featured in a BBC Play for Today by Barry Keefe called 'Waterloo Sunset', about an elderly woman living in a London housing project. Several performers have written songs that continue the story of Terry and Julie, including:
- The 1987 Bob Geldof song "Love Like a Rocket" tells of Terry and Julie's romance having gone cold twenty years on. In it, "the Waterloo sunset won't work for her anymore".
- "4 am", a song written by Mike Barson and Graham McPherson, recorded first by Suggs on his 1995 album The Lone Ranger and then by Madness on the 1999 LP Wonderful, also picks up the story of Terry and Julie some years later.
- John Wesley Harding wrote the song "In Paradise" which included Terry and Julie. One version of the song also includes the chorus of "Waterloo Sunset".
- Indie group The Willows wrote a song about Terry and Julie passing like ships in the night on Wandsworth Common in the early 90s. The song was called "South of the River" and is included on their album English Country Garden (Suddick 1993).
- In her novel, White Teeth (2000), Zadie Smith references a central character fantasizing herself "demanding Waterloo Sunset be played at [her boyfriend's] funeral."
"Waterloo Sunset" has been covered many times, including by:
- British dance-pop artist Cathy Dennis on her third album, Am I the Kinda Girl?
- In 2001, The Fastbacks on the tribute album Give The People What We Want: Songs of The Kinks.
- David Bowie, during the sessions for the album, Reality, in 2003. This version was released as a bonus track on the Japanese edition.
- Def Leppard for their 2006 cover album Yeah!
- Show of Hands for their 2000 cover album Covers.
- Peter Gabriel for his 2010 collection Scratch My Back. "Waterloo Sunset" did not make the final cut, and is available only as a bonus track with the special edition issue of the album.
- Elektryczne Gitary - Stacja Wilanowska on album Na krzywy ryj released in 1997.
- Danish singer-songwriter Allan Olsen recorded a version with Danish lyrics called "På Kanten af Vesterbro" for the album "Multi Importante" released in 2007.
- Rhett Miller on his 2011 live cover album entitled The Interpreter Live at Largo. He calls it "the greatest song ever written by any human being" when he introduces it on stage.
- Elliott Smith played a version on the Jon Brion show, an internet music program.
- Maginnis, Tom. "Waterloo Sunset". Allmusic. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
- Baltin, Steve (27 March 2008). "The Kinks' Ray Davies Serves Up Songs at the 'Working Man's Cafe'". Spinner. Retrieved 8 December 2009.
- Rogan, Johnny (1998). p. 18
- "Variety biography of Julie Christie". Retrieved 27 November 2009.[dead link]
- Jenkins, David (3 February 2008). "Julie Christie: Still Our Darling". Sunday Telegraph (London). Retrieved 27 November 2009.
- "The Kinks: Well respected man". The Independent (London). 10 September 2004. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
- "How a lonely Londoner created one of the great Sixties songs". The Independent. 26 August 2011. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
Davies says" “Liverpool is my favourite city, and the song was originally called Liverpool Sunset,” ."I was inspired by Merseybeat. I'd fallen in love with Liverpool by that point. On every tour, that was the best reception. We played The Cavern, all those old places, and I couldn't get enough of it.“I had a load of mates in bands up there, and that sound – not The Beatles but Merseybeat – that was unbelievable. It used to inspire me every time. “So I wrote Liverpool Sunset. Later it got changed to Waterloo Sunset, but there's still that play on words with Waterloo. "This statement confirms local folklore that the Waterloo is the Waterloo in Liverpool, a suburb on the banks of The River Mersey looking out towards the Irish sea and now host to the Anthony Gormley Iron Men statues.
- Kitts, Thomas (2007). pp. 86–87
- Savage, Jon (1984). p. 87.
- Ray Davies: Waterloo Sunset was originally Liverpool Sunset
- Ironically, this most London of songs started its life as ‘Liverpool Sunset’
- The Independent, 26 August 2011
- "Robert Christgau, Consumer Guide: The Kinks".
- The Kinks - UK Music Hall of Fame 2005 on YouTube
- "Allmusic Review: To the Bone".
- "White Teeth - Zadie Smith - Google Books". Books.google.ca. 2003-05-20. Retrieved 2014-06-13.