The Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset": Great But Overrated?

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I'm a huge fan of The Kinks. And actually this song, as well. But I just don't think "Waterloo Sunset" is one of the greatest songs ever recorded in the English language. Maybe it's the melody, which doesn't seem to be among Davies' very best (and there's a lot of competition). Or maybe I just can't get close to a couple named "Terry and Julie," I dunno. But I've never been FLOORED by it.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 15:57 (sixteen years ago) link

it's also the nadir of Cathy Dennis's recording career, hurrah!

stevem (blueski), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:01 (sixteen years ago) link

There's no question that it's a great song. I can think of ten Kinks songs I like more, though.

Johnny Fever (johnny fever), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:05 (sixteen years ago) link

.... just greatly overrated, basically! (Ooh-errr!!!)

herbalizer12 (herbalizer12), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:08 (sixteen years ago) link

count me among those who are completely floored by it. i LOVE that melody. i love the contrast between the plainspoken feel of the lead vocal and the angelic backing vocals. i love the sentiment and the sheer musicality of the lyric "people so busy make me feel dizzy." i love the unpolished guitar sound. and i've got no problem with a couple named terry and julie.

fact checking cuz, Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:14 (sixteen years ago) link

Actually, I think the melody is the best thing about it. I constantly find myself humming it, and then I put on one the half dozen recorded versions I have of it and find I prefer my own humming.

Huckleberry Mann (Horace Mann), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:15 (sixteen years ago) link

xpost

Huckleberry Mann (Horace Mann), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:15 (sixteen years ago) link

I think it's been ruined by Britpop for me a bit - not its fault, but that mix of ordinary-bloke singing, isn't-London-great, celebrate-the-everyday etc etc seems pretty toxic now. I put it on a CD just recently and have never almost always skipped it - I think I'll like it again in a few years.

Tico Tico (Tico Tico), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:17 (sixteen years ago) link

this song cannot possibly be overrated. then again, i don't live in the UK -- you don't hear it often enough on american radio to get sick of it. matter of fact, i can't recall having heard it on any american radio station in YEARS.

Eisbär (llamasfur), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:19 (sixteen years ago) link

the kinks songs that one would get sick of on account of overplay over here would be "lola," "you really got me," "tired of waiting for you," and "come dancing." except for "sunny afternoon," everything that the kinks did b/w 1966 and 1971 (or whenever "lola" came out) might as well have been recorded on Pluto as far as american radio programmers are concerned.

Eisbär (llamasfur), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:25 (sixteen years ago) link

where are you that american radio could conceivably be playing Kinks in 2003?

Huckleberry Mann (Horace Mann), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:29 (sixteen years ago) link

this song cannot possibly be overrated. then again, i don't live in the UK -- you don't hear it often enough on american radio to get sick of it. matter of fact, i can't recall having heard it on any american radio station in YEARS.

otm -- it's a beautiful song but i'm sure i'd tire of it quickly if it were on the radio all the time. (not that i listen to radio anymore, but, you know.)

bad jode (Jody Beth Rosen), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:30 (sixteen years ago) link

huck, they play "lola" on those holiday-weekend Top 500 Classic Rock Songs Evah marathons. that's about it.

bad jode (Jody Beth Rosen), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:32 (sixteen years ago) link

yes, definitely critically overrated.

gygax! (gygax!), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:35 (sixteen years ago) link

I play "Dedicated Follower of Fashion."

Huckleberry Mann (Horace Mann), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 16:35 (sixteen years ago) link

Thread title OTM. It's not even the best song on Something Else. But it is very good.

jaymc (jaymc), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 17:08 (sixteen years ago) link

Or maybe I just can't get close to a couple named "Terry and Julie," I dunno

Isn't the couple supposed to be the actors Terrance Stamp and Julie Christie? I heard that and it made me like the song alot more because Stamp is a pretty damn cool actor.

Matt Helgeson (Matt Helgeson), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 17:22 (sixteen years ago) link

Hate to burst your bubble, Matt, but from "X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography", Ray Davies: "Terry was my Australian nephew (my sister was visiting from Australia while I was writing "Waterloo Sunset"). Julie, I just made up".

That said, I think it's a fantastic song, if not necessarily one of the "greatest recorded in English".

Nom De Plume (Nom De Plume), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 17:39 (sixteen years ago) link

Damn! I suppose it was so good it had to be an urban legend. Oh well, it's beautiful no matter.

Matt Helgeson (Matt Helgeson), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 17:40 (sixteen years ago) link

Isn't x-ray kind of written to be a little unreliable. I'm not saying he is or he isn't, but it never struck me as the most trustworthy autobiography.

dlp9001, Tuesday, 25 November 2003 17:53 (sixteen years ago) link

well, hell, he did call it an "unauthorized autobiography"

fact checking cuz, Tuesday, 25 November 2003 18:05 (sixteen years ago) link

the change from the end of the verse proper ("taxi light shines so bright" etc) into the "But i don't.." that leads to the chorus is beautiful.

just sayin', is all...


is it Friday yet?

ian johno (ian johno), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 18:16 (sixteen years ago) link

it's tuesday where I live.

Matt Helgeson (Matt Helgeson), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 18:17 (sixteen years ago) link

the best song on Something Else were written by Dave, yo.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 18:30 (sixteen years ago) link

that should read "songs" plural, he really shined on that one.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 18:31 (sixteen years ago) link

dave shined on that one indeed, but i'm not so sure he bettered ray, who besides "waterloo sunset" also offered "no return," "lazy old sun," "two sisters," "harry rag," "david watts" and, uh, i could go on.

fact checking cuz, Tuesday, 25 November 2003 18:33 (sixteen years ago) link

given, but Death of a Clown, Love Me Till the Sunshines and Afternoon Tea are amazing and Dave would never have so many good songs on one record, this was his moment. btw, I forgot which reissue has them, I think Arthur, but his songs Mindless Child of Motherhood and This Man He Weeps Tonight kick ass.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 18:45 (sixteen years ago) link

agreed that dave kicked major ass in the late '60s!

fact checking cuz, Tuesday, 25 November 2003 18:52 (sixteen years ago) link

Death of a Clown and (non-Something Else's) Susannah's Still Alive are awesome. But Love Me Till the Sun Shines "amazing"? No way — prob. his weakest song from the era.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 19:10 (sixteen years ago) link

"Terry and Julie" are Terrence Stamp and Julie Christie in Far From the Madding Crowd, btw.

Alistair Sim (Methuselah), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 19:38 (sixteen years ago) link

oh man, matt, are you kidding? That was the song! I guess it didn't have enough fractal granular synthesis and midi-horn for you, did it. (apologies to the rest of you for that VERY inside joke...)

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 19:39 (sixteen years ago) link

actually I read, maybe in X-ray, that that was a coincendence. Terry was his cousin or childhood friend or something...

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 19:39 (sixteen years ago) link

i'm getting a strange feeling of thread deja vu here.

fact checking cuz, Tuesday, 25 November 2003 19:43 (sixteen years ago) link

Actually, Dan, I'm not sure they had MIDI back in '67, but if I'm correct, there's quite a bit of fractal granular synthesis and midi horn on most of those Arista albums...

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 21:13 (sixteen years ago) link

If you get my meaning...

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 21:18 (sixteen years ago) link

Terence Stamp was amazing as General Zod.

Keith Watson (kmw), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 21:27 (sixteen years ago) link

KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!!

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 21:53 (sixteen years ago) link

(God, I've hijacked my own thread — embarrassing)

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 21:53 (sixteen years ago) link

Great and not overrated.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 22:07 (sixteen years ago) link

i'm with geir. its beautiful and brilliant. what more do you want?

gallantseagull, Tuesday, 25 November 2003 22:32 (sixteen years ago) link

Great and not overrated.

It may not be the best Kinks song or even the best song off the album, but it has a certain quality that is beautiful and poignant.

It's both sad and uplifting at the same time.

I want it played at my funeral (hopefully a long time from now).

Debito (Debito), Tuesday, 25 November 2003 23:35 (sixteen years ago) link

Waterloo Sunset is an amazing record. Totally different than anything they had done before, and has the ability to rescue me from intense depression or acute anxiety.

Maxwell von Bismarck (maxwell von bismarck), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 01:24 (sixteen years ago) link

i like the idea of "waterloo sunset" more than the execution: the words and delivery are quite moving, but i find the too-prominent sloppy rhythm guitar really distracting. i do like it but i remember being disappointed the first time i heard it, after hearing so much about how great it was.

"shangri-la," on the other hand, has pretty trite words (suburban middle-aged male angst ho hum), but the execution is obscenely beautiful. their greatest moment, i think.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 01:36 (sixteen years ago) link

elliott smith's cover of waterloo sunset is superior than the original. if there is interest i'll post it.

MerkinMuffley (MerkinMuffley), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 02:30 (sixteen years ago) link

merkin, i believe you not.

gallantseagull, Wednesday, 26 November 2003 03:32 (sixteen years ago) link

Yeah, don't. It's lame.

Colin Beckett (Colin Beckett), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 03:34 (sixteen years ago) link

except for "sunny afternoon," everything that the kinks did b/w 1966 and 1971 (or whenever "lola" came out) might as well have been recorded on Pluto as far as american radio programmers are concerned.

I was in a grocery store the other week and they played "Who'll Be the Next in Line" in their rotation of barely audible background music! I was so excited I started singing along, probably making me sound like some sort of freak to the shoppers around me. But I guess that was from '65, so it doesn't really count. Dunno. Isn't "Days" from that time period? For some reason, I feel like "Days" and "A Well Respected Man" are trite and overplayed, but I don't know how often I've actually heard them on oldies radio here in the US. It's weird.

I once visited a friend who was working at a "classic rock" station. Hanging out in the studio, I convinced him to put on the Kinks when he had to do a "three in a row" thing... Got him to play "You Really Got Me" and "Waterloo Sunset", but then he balked at my third choice (whatever old sixties Kinks hit it was, it wasn't too weird) and played "All Day and All of the Night" instead, which sounds incredibly stupid when played shortly after "You Really Got Me". He said "nobody knows any Kinks songs, aside from 'You Really Got Me', 'All Day', and 'Lola'"!

Anyway, I think "Waterloo Sunset" is a mite overrated, but I wasn't around when it originally came out, so I can't really judge.

Chris F. (servoret), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 07:12 (sixteen years ago) link

"shangri-la," on the other hand, has pretty trite words (suburban middle-aged male angst ho hum), but the execution is obscenely beautiful. their greatest moment, i think.

I agree. It's nowhere near the Kinks' tritest track lyrically, though.

Chris F. (servoret), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 07:20 (sixteen years ago) link

Graceful, seemingly offhand lyrics that describe a very specific lonely person relating to a very specific lonley-making place with a melody for the ages and a structure with only a couple dits on it. How many songs are there like that? Not lots.

Dock Miles (Dock Miles), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 07:54 (sixteen years ago) link

Almost always on my way into town I stop and stand on Waterloo Bridge, thinking about this song. Imagining RD watching the lovers meet before disappearing into the city.If he'd only written this it would still show Davies to be the greatest British songwriter. The fact that he wrote 20 or 30 equally as good is staggering. Genius.

**but that mix of ordinary-bloke singing, isn't-London-great, celebrate-the-everyday etc etc seems pretty toxic now.**

Agreed. But WS is a million miles away from this. Far more subtle and totally different. Britpop never *got* The Kinks - the likes of Albarn et al bigging up the music hall 'stroike a loight guv' simply disguised their inability to even imagine writing something with as much *longing* as WS. (To be fair Yuko and Hiro is good) Likewise See My Friends, Where Have All The Good Times Gone, I Go To Sleep....and on and on.

Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 08:25 (sixteen years ago) link

I'm learning to play the drums right now. I sat down in front of a drum set and started playing along with Waterloo Sunset on my headphones. It was very emotional. I'm not being sarcastic.

Debito (Debito), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 08:42 (sixteen years ago) link

Almost always on my way into town I stop and stand on Waterloo Bridge, thinking about this song. Imagining RD watching the lovers meet before disappearing into the city.If he'd only written this it would still show Davies to be the greatest British songwriter. The fact that he wrote 20 or 30 equally as good is staggering. Genius.

Yeah, if I were actually from the UK or had at least lived in London for a while, I might be able to better appreciate that point of view. As it is, I still think it's a great song, but I have to take it on faith that it's the greatest British song ever. I don't think that it's my favorite Kinks song, but then I wouldn't be able to name one particular song as my top Kinks favorite anyway.

Chris F. (servoret), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 11:30 (sixteen years ago) link

Much as I love that period of the Kinks, my two main thoughts on "Waterloo Sunset" are this:

1) My Dad had "Golden Hour of the Kinks" when I was about 2, and taped it when he got rid of the album a few years later. "Waterloo Sunset" was track 2 on side one, if I remember correctly (I bought a copy of the album a few years ago, it's the only place you can get "Wonderboy" in stereo, y'know). And the record stuck during the intro, and this is where I'm going to sound like a prat. You know the proper intro where Dave's playing the vocal melody on the guitar? Imagine the first three notes of it played repeatedly for 20 seconds. That's how I heard "Waterloo Sunset" until I was 13. So I always have the 'stuck' version in my head and I was quite disappointed to find it didn't do that in reality.

2) Ray Davies and Damon Albarn singing "WS" on "The White Room", circa 1995. Yuck.

And "Love me 'til the sun shines" rocks.

Rob M (Rob M), Wednesday, 26 November 2003 11:35 (sixteen years ago) link


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