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)."
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.
When the song reached its US chart peak of #6 on July 16, 1983, half of the Top 40 was songs by British acts, leading some journalists to call it the "Second British Invasion." The Kinks were part of the first British Invasion in the '60s, as were The Hollies, who also had a song on this chart: "Stop In The Name Of Love" at #32.
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.