Ray Davies wrote this nostalgic song about his older sisters, who loved to dance. The song describes how guys would take them out dancing, only to be frustrated at the end of the night when all they would get for their efforts (and money) was a kiss on the cheek.
Davies had six older sisters (and one younger brother: his Kinks bandmate Dave). For years, Ray said that the specific sister this song is about was Gwen, who was the sixth sister and seven years older than him (this fits the timeline, as a young Ray would have seen Gwen going out dancing and then sending off her dates). He later claimed that the sister in the song was Rene, who was 18 years older. According to Davies, Rene married a Canadian soldier and moved with him to Canada. He says is was an abusive and unhappy marriage, and Rene would often return to the childhood home in Muswell Hill for visits.
One of these visits took place in 1957 when Ray turned 13. For his birthday, Rene bought him his first guitar: a Spanish guitar he wanted. That night, she went dancing at the Lyceum Ballroom in London. Rene had rheumatic fever when she was young, and her heart was weak. That night, she suffered a heart attack and died at the ballroom. Twenty-five years later, Ray wrote this song to memorialize her and remember her love of dancing.
The song became a staple of Kinks live performances, and song Ray Davies really connected with. He said that of all the songs he's written "Come Dancing" is the lyrics he's most proud of.
Clive Davis, the president of Arista Records, disagreed with Davies' choice of this as the album's single. However, he allowed to be released even though he thought it "a ditty" and too slight to be the smash hit it became. The song was the group's biggest American hit since "Tired of Waiting for You" also reached #6 in 1965.
This song's title was inspired by a ballroom dance show called Come Dancing, which ran from 1949-1995 on the BBC. In 2004, the show was revived with celebrities dancing in a competition renamed Strictly Come Dancing.
The dancehall in this song is referred to as the "Palais," which is French for "Palace." Many Victorian buildings that were originally theaters but later became dancehalls went by the name of "The (insert name here) Palais," so in this case, Davies would be referring to his local dance-hall. Another famous example in the context of Rock lyrics would be The Clash's "White Man (In Hammersmith Palais)."
Suggestion credit: Blind-Fitter - Leeds, UK
Ray Davies made no effort to conceal his British accent on this song - he was surprised it did so well in America.
In many ways, the song is about change, a ballrooms in the big band era gave way to car parks and rock music.
Julien Temple directed the video, which got significant airplay on MTV, which launched in 1981. Temple directed some of the biggest videos of the '80s, including Janet Jackson's "When I Think of You" and Culture Club's "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?"
Ray Davies wrote a stage musical based on this song called Come Dancing that was performed in London in 2008.
Wes from Chula Vista, CaI am convinced this is Ray Davies' finest work...Evocative, poignant, and as Jerry in Brooklyn observed, lyrically sharp...I am happy to find that Ray was so proud of this song...This song is way way way underrated, and I truly feel it sneaks its way into the 80s top 10 list (best songs).
Gary from Leicester, United KingdomMarkShark - Pink Floyd had a telephone conversation on The Wall.
Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiI loved this song,it brings back memories of hearing it on the radio.
Spanky from Charleston, ScNot nearly as good but still a decent cover is a version by the punk band Good Riddance.
Barry from Sauquoit, NyI liked this song, but really like 'Don't Forget to Dance" just a little bit better....
Jerry from Brooklyn, NyThis is a beautiful evocation of childhood memories and lost innocence. It is sad and nostalgic as it recalls the changes at this one street corner in Davies' old neighborhood -- from dancehall (palais) to bowling alley to supermarket to parking lot (carpark). I remember a high school English teacher telling us that the power of poetry was to express a lot of ideas in a few words. The first verse of this song is a perfect demonstration of that idea. I just checked out the original video on youtube. If you've never seen it, go there now! A beautiful experience!
Markshark from Denver, CoThis song has what I believe is the first instance of a hit song containing a recording of an actual telephone conversation: there is a section where Ray's sister is being harangued by their mother for staying out late; this was recorded over a long-distance telephone call, as Ray intimated during an interview. An unrelated point: Ray - in his ever-eagerness to promote sexual ambiguity - chuckled about the line when he asks his sister whether she "came dancing", he enjoyed this line and called attention to it in live performances.
Michael from San Diego, CaBrilliant, nostalgic tune that take me back in time!
Don from B G, KyThis song makes me think of a mariachi band. I guess it must be the horns and guitar.
Jeremy from Scottsdale, AzNice, I always wondered what "palais" meant in the song. I thought it was "pally" too and just assumed it was some kind of slang. Great nostalgic song. I'm curious how one piece of land had so many uses. Either Davies is really old and has observed this location over many many years, or they build and tear down buildings faster in this song than they do in America. ; )
Ron from Tyler, TxI think the verse at the end where he talks about taking his sister dancing to remind her of the good times is so sweet and loving - just doing something to show someone you care. We all need to do more of that . . .
Greg from Alsip, IlA great early MtV Video!!
Darrell from EugenePalais? I thought that the dance hall was called the "Pally", as in a British-suonding term for something like a social club. By the way, where I live, lots of historical buildings (but no Victorians) are coming down. I thought that "millennium fever" died with Y2K.
Matt from Downers Grove, IlThis song comes up again in the album "Come Dancing With the Kinks."