Waterloo Sunset

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"Waterloo Sunset"
Waterloo Sunset West German picture sleeve.jpg
West German picture sleeve
Single by the Kinks
from the album Something Else by the Kinks
Released5 May 1967 (1967-05-05)
Recorded3, 10 and 13 April 1967[1]
StudioPye, London[1]
Songwriter(s)Ray Davies
Producer(s)Ray Davies
The Kinks UK singles chronology
"Dead End Street"
"Waterloo Sunset"
"Autumn Almanac"
The Kinks US singles chronology
"Mister Pleasant"
"Waterloo Sunset"
"Autumn Almanac"
Audio sample

"Waterloo Sunset" is a song by English 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, and is ranked number 14 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also their first single that was available in true stereo.

The record reached number 2 on the British charts in mid 1967. It was a top 10 hit in Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe. "Waterloo Sunset" was also released as a single in North America but failed to chart there.


A sunset over Waterloo, taken from the Victoria Embankment in 2001.

Interviewed in May 1967, Ray Davies stated he wrote "Waterloo Sunset" having had "the actual melody line in my head for two or three years".[7] He initially titled the song "Liverpool Sunset", but scrapped the Liverpool theme after the release of the Beatles' song "Penny Lane".[7][8][9][nb 1]

The lyrics describe a solitary narrator watching (or imagining) two lovers passing over a bridge, with the observer reflecting on the couple, the Thames, and Waterloo station.[10][11] Speaking in 2010, Davies commented "I didn't think to make it about Waterloo, initially, 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."[12] The two lovers in the lyric are named as Terry and Julie.[13] Interviewed in May 1967, Davies stated in 1967 that "if you look at the song as a kind of film, I suppose Terry would be Terence Stamp and Julie would be Julie Christie", referring to the popular British film actors romantically linked at the time.[14][15][13] Latterly, Davies has refuted this connection; in 2008, he described the song as "a fantasy about my sister going off with her boyfriend to a new world", referring to Rosy Davies, who emigrated to Australia in 1964.[11][16]

The song was the first Kinks recording produced solely by Ray Davies, without longtime producer Shel Talmy; Talmy's contract with the band expired in Spring 1967.[17] Despite its complex arrangement, the sessions for "Waterloo Sunset" lasted ten hours;[18] 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."[19]

"Act Nice and Gentle"[edit]

The B-side "Act Nice and Gentle" was exclusive to this single and has been described as a plea for "some civility".[20] It has a "country-western influence" that foreshadowed Muswell Hillbillies, and later appeared on album as a bonus track with the 1998 reissue of Something Else by the Kinks.[21]

Legacy and accolades[edit]

Waterloo Station, London.

In Britain, the song is commonly considered to be Davies' most famous work, and it has been "regarded by many as the apogee of the swinging sixties".[22] Highly esteemed for its musical and lyrical qualities, the song is commonly the subject of study in university arts courses.[22] Davies largely dismisses such praise and has even suggested that he would like to go back and alter some of the lyrics; most professionals, however, generally side with the observation of Ken Garner, a lecturer at Caledonian University in Glasgow, who said: "Davies, like all the best singer-songwriters, is intensely self-critical."[22]

Pop music journalist Robert Christgau has called the song "the most beautiful song in the English language".[23] Pete Townshend of the Who has called it "divine" and "a masterpiece".[24] In 1972, Record World said that it "may be the best thing [the Kinks have] ever done."[25]Damon Albarn was similarly effusive, naming it the one song he wished he had written and commenting, "It's the most perfect song I could ever hope to write, with my sort of voice."[26] AllMusic senior editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine concurred, citing it as "possibly the most beautiful song of the rock and roll era".[27] In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine placed the song at number 42 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time,[6] and was re-ranked at number 14 on the 2021 list.[28] Ray Davies performed "Waterloo Sunset" at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.[29] A subsequent reissue of the Kinks' original single entered the UK charts at #47.[30]


According to band researcher Doug Hinman:[31]

The Kinks

Additional musician

  • Rasa Davies – backing vocal


Chart (1967) Peak
Australia (Go-Set)[32] 4
Australia (Kent Music Report)[33] 4
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[34] 10
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[35] 6
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[36] 8
Denmark (Danmarks Radio)[37] 5
Germany (Official German Charts)[38] 7
Ireland (IRMA)[39] 3
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[40] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[41] 1
New Zealand (Listener)[42] 7
Norway (VG-lista)[43] 7
Rhodesia (Lyons Maid)[44] 3
Sweden (Kvällstoppen)[45] 14
Sweden (Tio i Topp)[46] 4
UK Singles (OCC)[47] 2


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[48] Gold 400,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

References in other works[edit]

  • In her 2000 novel, White Teeth, Zadie Smith references a central character fantasising herself "demanding 'Waterloo Sunset' be played at [her boyfriend's] funeral."[49]
  • In the 2018 film Love, Simon, the film's protagonist Simon chooses his username (frommywindow1) from lines of the song as he listens to the record.
  • In the 2018 film Juliet, Naked, singer/songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) plays the song and says he wishes he had written it.
  • Okkervil River's 2018 album In the Rainbow Rain contains the song "Famous Tracheotomies," which tells the tales of several celebrities' brushes with tracheotomies, and ends with the story of Ray Davies's writing "Waterloo Sunset" (and references the song's melody.)
  • In the second season of the Netflix show Green Eggs and Ham, the song is heard twice -- in one episode as background music and in another episode with one of the characters, Looka, singing part of it.

Cathy Dennis version[edit]

"Waterloo Sunset"
Cathy WS single.jpg
Single by Cathy Dennis
from the album Am I the Kinda Girl?
Songwriter(s)Ray Davies
Cathy Dennis singles chronology
"West End Pad"
"Waterloo Sunset"
"When Dreams Turn to Dust"

British singer-songwriter Cathy Dennis recorded a version of the song that was released as the second single from her 1997 album, Am I the Kinda Girl?. Her version peaked at number 11 on the UK Singles Chart and number seven in Iceland. Both versions of the CD single feature a cover of another Kinks song: "Sunny Afternoon".

Critical reception[edit]

British magazine Music Week rated Dennis' version three out of five. The reviewer wrote, "The approval of Ray Davies — who appears in the video — will help the cause of this cover which captures the atmosphere and laziness of The Kinks' original. This could be the hit to kick off the album Am I The Kinda Girl?."[50] In a 1997 review, the magazine gave it two out of five, adding, "Ray Davies's song is given an unremarkable treatment by the former dance chanteuse, but television exposure should help this reach the Top 40."[51]

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video for "Waterloo Sunset" consists of Dennis singing the song whilst travelling alone in a taxi driven by Ray Davies in a cameo role. The scenes visible outside the taxi windows vary between the London of the 1990s and film of various locations (e.g. driving up Piccadilly with Green Park tube station on the left, Knightsbridge tube station and the small dome[52] north of Finsbury Square) as they were in the 1960s.

Track listings[edit]

  1. "Waterloo Sunset"
  2. "Consolation"
  3. "Sunny Afternoon"
  4. "I Just Love You"
  1. "Waterloo Sunset"
  2. "Consolation"
  3. "Sunny Afternoon"
  4. "West End Pad" (Alternative Supple 7-inch) – 3:41
  • UK cassette single[55]
  1. "Waterloo Sunset"
  2. "Consolation"


Other versions[edit]

  • Ray Davies performed the song with Damon Albarn, along with a rendition of "Parklife" on Channel 4's show The White Room in 1995.
  • The Jam released their demo cover of "Waterloo Sunset" on the 2010 deluxe edition of their album Sound Affects
  • David Bowie recorded a cover of "Waterloo Sunset" for his 2003 album Reality, which appeared as a bonus track. On his cover, biographer Nicholas Pegg calls it "a faithful, affectionate cover of an eternally wonderful song".[61]


  1. ^ In a 2010 interview with the Liverpool Echo, Davies elaborated "Liverpool is my favourite city... ...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."[8]


  1. ^ a b Hinman 2004, pp. 96, 98, 99.
  2. ^ Bennett 1997, p. 23.
  3. ^ Luhrssen & Larson 2017, p. 197.
  4. ^ Matijas-Mecca 2020, p. 104.
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  6. ^ a b "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 11 December 2003. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b ""I should exploit Dave more..."" (PDF). The History of Rock: 1967. September 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
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  10. ^ Maginnis, Tom. "Waterloo Sunset". Allmusic. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
  11. ^ a b Baltin, Steve (27 March 2008). "The Kinks' Ray Davies Serves Up Songs at the 'Working Man's Cafe'". Spinner. Retrieved 8 December 2009.
  12. ^ "Ray Davies - How a lonely Londoner created one of the great Sixties". The Independent. 23 October 2011.
  13. ^ a b Jenkins, David (3 February 2008). "Julie Christie: Still Our Darling". Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 27 November 2009.[dead link]
  14. ^ Rogan, Johnny (1998). p. 18
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  35. ^ "The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
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  52. ^ on the corner of City Road and Tabernacle Street; as of 2020 this listed building is the Travelodge London Central City Road
  53. ^ Waterloo Sunset (UK CD1 liner notes). Cathy Dennis. Polydor Records. 1997. 575 961 2.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  54. ^ Waterloo Sunset (UK CD2 liner notes). Cathy Dennis. Polydor Records. 1997. 575 963-2.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  55. ^ Waterloo Sunset (UK cassette single sleeve liner notes). Cathy Dennis. Polydor Records. 1997. 5759604.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
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  59. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
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  61. ^ Pegg 2016, p. 303.