52 years ago today saw the release of Waterloo Sunset on the Pye record label. Part of The Kinks album ‘Something Else’ 1967 showed the band take more ambitious turns in their songwriting. Character studies were used in trademark fashion and were later replicated by bands like Blur. Today the song still sounds as fresh as it did in 1967.
The song was originally intended to be ‘Liverpool Sunset’ ( the “dirty old river” being the Mersey), but the band saw similarities with The Beatles ‘Penny Lane’ and switched gears. Instead, Davies based the song on his own nostalgic memories in London. He observes busy London with loneliness, Appreciating the small things in life and watching the world go on from his window. The line being inspired by being in hospital with London views. As he gets older he pictures future generations. Lovers who have been in the same spot as him and his ex girlfriend. Being such a personal song, Davies was too scared to play it for the other band members. Thankfully he did.
Musically, the piece cocoons its way through major and minor. Every time Waterloo is mentioned the mood is lightened. The harmonies are angelic and mesmerising. This along with the backing vocals almost cover the desperation of the lyrics. Pete Quaifes bassline opens the track. It descends it’s way seamlessly into the Davies’ acoustic and electric guitar work, and is still just as effective as in 1967. By the end of the song, the built up guitars and harmonies sound optimistic as the same note is repeated on a fade out.