Waterloo Sunset

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"Waterloo Sunset"
Waterloo Sunset cover.jpg
Single by the Kinks
from the album Something Else by the Kinks
ReleasedMay 5, 1967 (1967-05-05)
RecordedApril 1967[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 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, 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. In North America, "Waterloo Sunset" was released as a single but it failed to chart.


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

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.[4][5] The song was rumoured to have been inspired by the romance between two British celebrities of the time, actors Terence Stamp and Julie Christie,[6][7][8] stars of 1967's 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."[5][9] 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."[10] Despite its complex arrangement, the sessions for "Waterloo Sunset" lasted a mere ten hours;[11] 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."[12] The single was one of the group's biggest UK successes, reaching number two on Melody Maker's chart,[6] and went on to become one of their best-known.

The elaborate production was the first Kinks recording produced solely by Ray Davies, without longtime producer Shel Talmy.

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.'[13][14]

The song derives from the period 1965–1973 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.[15]

in 1985 Ray Davies released an album entitled Return to Waterloo, a soundtrack for the movie of the same name.

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.

"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".[16] 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.[17]

Legacy and accolades[edit]

Waterloo Station, London.

In the UK, 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".[18] Highly esteemed for its musical and lyrical qualities, the song is commonly the subject of study in university arts courses.[18] 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."[18]

Pop music journalist Robert Christgau has called the song "the most beautiful song in the English language".[19] Pete Townshend of the Who has called it "divine" and "a masterpiece".[20] AllMusic senior editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine concurred, citing it as "possibly the most beautiful song of the rock and roll era".[21] In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine placed the song at number 42 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time,[3] and was re-ranked at number 14 on the 2021 list.[22] Ray Davies performed "Waterloo Sunset" at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.[23] A subsequent reissue of the Kinks' original single entered the UK charts at #47.[24]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[25] 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."[26]
  • 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 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.)

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?."[27]

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video 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[28] north of Finsbury Square) as they were in the 1960s.

Track listings[edit]

UK CD1[29]

  1. "Waterloo Sunset"
  2. "Consolation"
  3. "Sunny Afternoon"
  4. "I Just Love You"

UK CD2[30]

  1. "Waterloo Sunset"
  2. "Consolation"
  3. "Sunny Afternoon"
  4. "West End Pad" (Alternative Supple 7-inch) – 3:41

UK cassette single[31]

  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


  1. ^ "Waterloo Sunset". KindaKinks.net.
  2. ^ "The Story Behind The Song: 'Waterloo Sunset' The Kinks' dreamy love letter to London". Far Out Magazine. 5 May 2020. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 11 December 2003. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  4. ^ Maginnis, Tom. "Waterloo Sunset". Allmusic. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b Rogan, Johnny (1998). p. 18
  7. ^ "Variety biography of Julie Christie". Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
  8. ^ Jenkins, David (3 February 2008). "Julie Christie: Still Our Darling". Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 27 November 2009.[dead link]
  9. ^ "The Kinks: Well respected man". The Independent. London. 10 September 2004. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
  10. ^ "How a lonely Londoner created one of the great Sixties songs". The Independent. 26 August 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 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.
  11. ^ Kitts, Thomas (2007). pp. 86–87
  12. ^ Savage, Jon (1984). p. 87.
  13. ^ Jade Wright (13 May 2010). "Ray Davies: Waterloo Sunset was originally Liverpool Sunset". liverpoolecho.
  14. ^ BBC. "BBC - Radio 2 - Sold On Song - TOP 100 - Number 19 - Waterloo Sunset".
  15. ^ "Ray Davies - How a lonely Londoner created one of the great Sixties". The Independent. 23 October 2011.
  16. ^ Hasted, Nick (1 October 2017). You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-991-8.
  17. ^ Fleiner, Carey (1 March 2017). The Kinks: A Thoroughly English Phenomenon. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-3542-7.
  18. ^ a b c Laing, Allan (22 February 2001). "Waterloo sunset not so fine, says Davies". The Herald. Glasgow. Archived from the original on 11 September 2016. Retrieved 24 June 2016. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  19. ^ "Robert Christgau, Consumer Guide: The Kinks". Robertchristgau.com.
  20. ^ The Kinks - UK Music Hall of Fame 2005 on YouTube
  21. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "To the Bone - The Kinks | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic.
  22. ^ "Waterloo Sunset ranked #14 on Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs List". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  23. ^ Moreton, Cole (22 July 2016). "London 2012 Olympics: The perfect stage for Ray Davies's Waterloo Sunset". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  24. ^ Mapes, Jillian (22 August 2012). "The Olympic Effect: The Kinks, John Lennon & More Re-enter UK Charts". Kluv.cbslocal.com/. KLUV. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  25. ^ "British single certifications – Kinks – Waterloo Sunset". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  26. ^ Smith, Zadie (20 May 2003). White Teeth - Zadie Smith - Google Books. ISBN 9781400075508. Retrieved 13 June 2014 – via Google Books.
  27. ^ "Reviews: Singles" (PDF). Music Week. 5 October 1996. p. 12. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  28. ^ on the corner of City Road and Tabernacle Street; as of 2020 this listed building is the Travelodge London Central City Road
  29. ^ 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)
  30. ^ 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)
  31. ^ 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)
  32. ^ "Response from ARIA re: Cathy Dennis ARIA chart history, received 26 June 2018". Retrieved 26 June 2018 – via Imgur. N.B. The High Point number in the NAT column represents the release's peak on the national chart.
  33. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 14, no. 11. 15 March 1997. p. 13. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  34. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (27.3. '97 – 2.4. '97)". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). 26 March 1997. p. 28. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  35. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  36. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  37. ^ "Árslistinn 1997 – Íslenski Listinn – 100 Vinsælustu Lögin". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). 2 January 1998. p. 25. Retrieved 16 February 2020.