Saturday, August 25, 2012

Song Spot: Waterloo Sunset


  

So what moments from the London Olympics closing ceremony remained in your memory afterwards?

One of them for me was Ray Davies singing Waterloo Sunset, a song that I found myself humming and whistling for days afterwards.  Despite Davies’ shaky beginning and his difficulty with some of the notes, it was an enjoyable performance of a song symbolic of 1960’s London.

Some trivia: 

The Olympics Police zealously guard all things Olympic so if you do find a clip on You Tube, it won’t be there for long.  Here is a link to Ray Davies performing it at the 2010 Glastonbury Festival:

1960’s clip:.


Apparently NBC, broadcasting the ceremony in the US, cut the Davies’ song from its telecast.  The network cut out performances by Ray Davies, The Who and Muse for an hour-long preview of Animal Practice.

The lyrics:

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright
But I don't need no friends
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset's fine

Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station
Every Friday night
But I am so lazy, don't want to wander
I stay at home at night
But I don't feel afraid
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset's fine

Millions of people swarming like flies 'round Waterloo underground
But Terry and Julie cross over the river
Where they feel safe and sound
And they don't need no friends
As long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset
They are in paradise

Waterloo sunset's fine


The person singing is either watching, or imagining watching, two lovers, Terry and Julie, passing over a bridge.  It was speculated at the time that the lovers were Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, stars of the 1967 flick Far from the Madding Crowd. 

Ray Davies wrote, produced and sings the song.  In a 2008 interview he denied that the lovers were Terence Stamp and Julie Christie:   “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 he has said that Terry was his nephew, with whom he was close during adolescence.

Ray Davies in a 2009 interview:  "It came to me first as a statement about the death of Merseybeat. But I realized that Waterloo was a very significant place in my life. I was in St. Thomas' Hospital when I was really ill as a child, and I looked out on the river. I went to Waterloo every day to go to college as well. The song was also about being taken to the Festival of Britain with my mum and dad. I remember them taking me by the hand, looking at the big Skylon tower, and saying it symbolized the future. That, and then walking by the Thames with my first wife (Rasa, who left Ray, taking his two daughters, in 1973) and all the other dreams that we had. Her in her brown suede coat that she wore, that was stolen. And also about my sisters, and about the world I wanted them to have. The two characters in the song, Terry and Julie, are to do with the aspirations of my sisters' generation, who grew up during the Second world War and missed out on the '60s.  Sometimes when you're writing and you're really on good form, you get into the frame of mind where you think, I can relate to any of these things. It's something I learned at art school-let all the ideas flow out. But if you listen to the words without the music, it's a different thing entirely. The lyrics could be better. But they dovetail with the music perfectly."

2010 interview:  “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.”


The song was released as a single in 1967.

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's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Pete Townshend of The Who has called it "divine" and "a masterpiece".


Davies is also the author of You Really Got Me, All Day And All Of The Night, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, Sunny Afternoon, Days, The Village Green Preservation Society and Lola.  He has also composed musicals, acted, directed and produced shows for theatre and television.

And now it’s going around in my head again.

C’mon. . .  sha la la . . .




3 comments:

  1. Loved this song, way back when, and recently after a VH1 story on the group (which left me singing Waterloo for days).

    Really disappointed to hear that NBC cut the performance out (I only knew the Who had been cut, and was already miffed enough about that!).

    Thanks for all you do - much appreciated.

    Cue the exit music:
    [Sha-la-la'ing into the sunset]

    ReplyDelete
  2. While I am not of that era, nor am I a Londoner (or Brit for that matter), I have always felt connected to the music and lyrics of Ray Davies and the Kinks. I found your piece on "Waterloo Sunset" very interesting, not having known anything really about the inspiration behind it. To me, this song has always appealed to my memories of isolation. Not a despairing sort of isolation, mind you, but rather a sense of comfort in my own skin. In my late twenties I found myself living in a remote northern town in Mongolia, under the guise of teaching English to the locals. In retrospect, it was never an altruistic undertaking. It was more about finding myself. In that little apartment overlooking the dusty street and the Trans-Siberian railway, I found solace in my limited music supply (and the various journals I had been writing). Anyhow, to make a long story short, I identified a great deal with the narrator in this song, as he conjured up stories in his mind as he sat in his apartment alone overlooking the Waterloo area sites.

    ReplyDelete
  3. While I am not of that era, nor am I a Londoner (or Brit for that matter), I have always felt connected to the music and lyrics of Ray Davies and the Kinks. I found your piece on "Waterloo Sunset" very interesting, not having known anything really about the inspiration behind it. To me, this song has always appealed to my memories of isolation. Not a despairing sort of isolation, mind you, but rather a sense of comfort in my own skin. In my late twenties I found myself living in a remote northern town in Mongolia, under the guise of teaching English to the locals. In retrospect, it was never an altruistic undertaking. It was more about finding myself. In that little apartment overlooking the dusty street and the Trans-Siberian railway, I found solace in my limited music supply (and the various journals I had been writing). Anyhow, to make a long story short, I identified a great deal with the narrator in this song, as he conjured up stories in his mind as he sat in his apartment alone overlooking the Waterloo area sites.

    ReplyDelete