Written by Kinks lead singer Ray Davies, he called this "a romantic, lyrical song about my older sister's generation."
Waterloo Bridge is in London, and the lyrics are about a guy looking out of a window at two lovers meeting at Waterloo Station. Davies used to cross Waterloo Bridge every day when he was a student at Croydon Art School.
Ray Davies brought this to the band while they were in the middle of recording the album. He was reluctant to share the lyrics because they were so personal. In a Rolling Stone magazine interview, his brother (and Kinks guitarist) Dave Davies said Ray felt "it was like an extract from a diary nobody was allowed to read."
It is often claimed that the line, "Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station every Friday night" is about the relationship between actor Terence Stamp and actress Julie Christie. However, Ray Davies denied this in his autobiography. He subsequently revealed that 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."
According to Kinks biographer Nick Hasted, Terry was Ray's nephew Terry Davies, whom he was close to in early teenage years.
Further confusing the matter, Davies told Rolling Stone in 2015 that Julie and Terry were "big, famous actors at the time." The actors had been dating since the early '60s and starred together in the film Far From the Madding Crowd, which is often cited as the direct inspiration for the song, but the film didn't come out until six months after the single's release.
Ray Davies started writing this a few years before The Kinks recorded it. At first, it was called "Liverpool Sunset," but when The Beatles released "Penny Lane," he changed the words so it wouldn't look like a rip-off.
On February 23, 2003 David Bowie was joined on stage by Ray Davies and performed a duet of this song at Carnegie Hall in New York City for the Tibet House benefit.
Suggestion credit: Mo - Newark, NJ
The perfectionist Ray Davies, before releasing the single, revisited the song's location at sunset to ensure "the atmosphere was right."
Ray Davies (From Uncut magazine January 2009): "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."
Popular British singer Paul Weller has said this is his favorite song.
Ray Davies performed this with Jackson Browne on Davies' 2010 collaborative album See My Friends. In an interview for Daniel Rachel's book The Art of Noise: Conversations with Great Songwriters, Davies recalled that Browne was taken with a particular lyric: "He said, 'I don't need no friends?' He said it twice. I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'That's the most beautiful thing I've ever had to sing. It doesn't make sense on the page but when you put it with the music...'
I hadn't thought about it that way. The melody takes the curse off the grammar fault. The choice of words, the way they're pronounced, sometimes gives an emotion that's unexpected. Don't is the killer word because it's not correct. Great lines are only great because of what precedes them, maybe sometimes when they happen after."
Jf from Montreal, QcRemember when melodies, harmonies & lyrics came together to move you to places unknown within your hearth & soul ?
A songwriter's songwriter; Ray Davies astonishing catalogue of classics remains one of the smartest, original, deep felt & most beautiful accomplishment in pop music
It was an honor & great privilege to be able to cover the song & crate a video to accompany the magic this song induced...
THANKS RAY !
Colin from Edenbridge, United KingdomFollowing his appearance at the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony, BBC Radio 4 has just broadcast an interview with Ray Davis (18th August 2012 09:00-13:00hrs BST program 'Saturday Live' ) within which he discusses Waterloo Sunset and how it related to his teenage years when he used to change trains at Waterloo station (London) on his way to college in Croydon. The program also discussed with Ray his studio and home in Kilburn.
Colin from Edenbridge, United KingdomIt is not without irony that Waterloo Sunset was released in 1967; the same year that saw the end of steam trains at London's Waterloo station. Although the writing of song has never been linked to this historical event the title 'Waterloo Sunset' has gone on to be used with the end of steam; perhaps as it captures the imagination of the changing world around 1967.
For me it it was the first song to have a real wow factor and 45 years on it still does!
Rod from Gainesville, Fli once met Ray and the band as they went down to the pub before a gig in Salford England. I asked Ray about this song and wondered if it had a satirical element-i.e.that he was making fun of the people and sentiments within. He said No, this was totaslly heartfelt and sincere
B from Nashville, TnThis song is beautiful and brilliant in its seeming simplicity. It conjures up a myriad of feelings that are universal. I can't really add much else to what's already been said about the song itself. However, as a long-time (most of my life) resident of Nashville, Tennessee, I feel compelled to point out that the anonymous person who hates the original Kinks version is from Nashville, Texas (yep, real place), not Nashville, Tennessee. (At least I hope that was not a typo on their part!)
Arlette from Corona, CaIt sounds very British to me. I love it.
Christopher from Marlboro, NjI love this song. I heard this for the first time one morning in the car. It didn't sound anything like the Kinks songs that I have heard before. I think this is their best song.
John from Walton On Thames, United KingdomEven more relevant to the debate is that Waterloo on the Mersey offers open, west-facing views across an ever widening estuary framed by distant sun-crested mountains - thus providing especially favored aspects of spectacular sunsets. Whilst Waterloo in London is tucked away on the east bank of a relatively narrow, muddy stream that winds between a cluttered foreground of buildings most noted for their veils of choking smog. Indeed, it's hard to imagine what inspiration for a song about sunsets the latter scene could possibly arouse. No, I'm more and more convinced that Liverpool's "Waterloo" was the song's genuine inspiration.
John from Walton On Thames, United KingdomIt's about time this long-standing wrangle over which "Waterloo" - Liverpool's or London's - was the original inspiration for "Sunset" really should be put to rest. Frankly, having lived and worked in both cities - and being familiar with that same-named section in each one - the claim that it relates to Waterloo on the Thames has increasingly rung very hollow indeed. Especially since it is by now widely acknowledged that Ray Davies' first spontaneous name for the song was "Liverpool Sunset." It also makes much more sense because the West-facing sunsets regularly reflected on Liverpool Bay - viewed from the city's northern stretch of suburbs along the crane-decked Mersey - have long been celebrated in poetry, prose, and indeed were praised by Charles Dickens. Frankly, I've long suspected that Davies was persuaded to change the song's title by Carnaby Street influences, who were determined to 'swing' pop-dominance away from Liverpool in the interests of what the British capital was desperately trying to promote and market, worldwide, as "Swinging London...!"
Alex from Dunkirk, NyActually, William (in Syracuse), there is an attempt to set Kubla Khan to music. It is Rush's "Xanadu."
Eisso from Groningen, NetherlandsIt's such a beautiful song! Actually it should be too complicated to be a good pop song, but there's something mysterious about it which makes it as good as perfect.
Jon from Scotland, United KingdomCathy Dennis' cover of Waterloo Sunset is the only version officially endorsed by Ray Davies. As it was released in the early days of the 90s Brit Pop era, this is definitely a version to check out.
None from None , WyJesus Christ... this song is so beautiful. It's just one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. Has a wonderful, almost bitter-sweet atmoshpere about it.
Thom from New Orleans, LaWhen David Gilmour of Pink Floyd was asked in an interview if he could name any song he wishes he might have created, he replied it would be The Kinks' Waterloo Sunset, and went on to praise the song.
Kristina from Albuquerque, NmI once stood in Waterloo Station looking at all the people listening to this song--one of the best London moments.
A. Ward from Arnold, MdI was lucky to have an enlightened English professsor in school that considered "Waterloo Sunset" and "A Day in the Life" the 2 most significant songs of the British Invasion. After dissecting them both we agreed that Waterloo Sunset had the best imagery and meaning. This was all of 40 yrs. ago and I think we are still right!
Jim from Liverpool, United KingdomBrian Matthews threw me yesterday when he said it was orininally titled 'Liverpool Sunset' and I thought it must be about the same sunset I see from my flat each day, the setting of the sun across Liverpool Bay, between Snowdonia at this time of year through to just west of Formby Point in July. But it IS about Waterloo London. Anyone know why Mr Davies decoded to confusde us all? The sunset from Waterloo/ Crosby at Liverpool Bay has been voted in the top 7 in the whole wide world, I am informed.
Nick from Brisbane, AustraliaI have read Ray Davies saying 'Terry and Julie' are in fact his sister and her boyfriend, now husband.
Confidential from Confidential, NyOne of the greatest calm songs i ever heard. It's perfectly done.
Paul from Longwood, FlCan someone explain iTunes period, or why people would actually pay equal or more money for just a digital file (no jacket, no note/lyrics where they might exist with the real CD, no second copy you can put in your bedroom...) As for the song, it's just BB (Bloody Brilliant)! Made RS's top 50, would probably make my Top 10 or 20. The Kinks are THE most under-rated and under-appreciated British band, period.
Paul from Longwood, FlOh and for the dude from Nashville saying the Def Leppard version being 100X better... Even though I've never heard their version, and even though I think there ARE possibly better covers of, say, a bunch of Dylan songs, I can't conceive of a better version of Waterloo Sunset than the original. It's almost like saying so-and-so has a better version of Don't Explain than Billie Holiday.
Scott from Boston, MaCan someone please explain to me why iTunes has like 50 Kinks songs, but not this one? This is easily one of their top 3 songs along w/ "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night."
Justin from Georgetown, Inwhen i heard this song for the first time..i had to listen to it over and over.. for quite a bit.. no wonder John lennon said they wish they could harmonize like the kinks.
Greg from Alsip, IlThat guy from Nashville is right to remain annonymous. A top notcher!!
Shannan from Wilmington, DeI love this song. It is soooo poetic and beautiful. Every time I hear it I imagine Rays' just singing to me I love it.
Hans from Kristiansand, NorwayRay Davies wrote this song when he was at the hospital, having the window view to Waterloo Station. A beautiful song from a great man.
Al from Baltimore, MdI think this is not only a great, great song, but great poetry as well. The economy of the lyrics is incredible. In just a few sentences, Ray creates an entire cast of characters, and an entire situation that is bittersweet and totally believable. Although Ray sings it, the song works even better perhaps if sung by a woman. I place this song in the middle of a trio of great English tunes: "She's Leaving Home", "Waterloo Sunset" and "Baker Street", which would cover a complete story arc of restless youth, loneliness, and eventual return to home.
Anne from York , EnglandI heard this song was inspired by the Beatles Ray Davies said this on Mojo Magazine.
Anonnymous from Nashville, TxI hate this song by the Kinks, but the Def Leppard cover is 100x better.
Paul from Sacramento, CaThe absolute brilliance and greatness of this song results from the interplay of a number of factors. The obvious ones are the gorgeous melody and beautiful vocals on the Kinks' production - those alone make it a classic. But it is Davies' skill as a lyricist that makes it a masterpiece. There is the remarkable economy of the lyrics - Davies created vivid characters and a simple but emotional story from the sparest lines. Yet in spite of this simplicity, the song is laced with a level of depth that can easily escape a superficial listener. For instance, how does the narrator know "Terry and Julie" if he never ventures outside? The obvious implication is that he has given two strangers these names, and is imagining details of their story from his window - a fact that makes his loneliness and introversion all the more heartbreaking. But to this Davies adds yet another twist, leaving no doubt that the narrator is perfectly content with his plight. Like good literature or art, the song reveals new levels over time and through repeated listenings.
Joe from Lethbridge, CanadaRay's wife Rasa sang background, as she did on many kinks tracks. Truly a beautiful song. Pete Townshend loved it! Def Leppard does a pretty good cover of this song also.
Nicola from Balgowlah, WiBloody brilliant song!!! Love it!
Johnny from Los Angeles, CaSounds like a song David Bowie would want to cover. Such a great song...
Andy from Mdq, ArgentinaRay Davis sung this one with Damon Albarn from Blur. Great version
Don from Newmarket, CanadaA brilliant song! Ray's first wife Rasa sings the high part on this (and many other Kinks' songs) of the sixties.
Alex from Thompson's Station, TnOne of the best songs of all time!
Sam from Edinburgh, ScotlandBowie does a decent cover on the B-side to 'Never Get Old'.
Ross from Independence, MoThis is #42 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
Ross from Independence, MoThis is #41 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
John from Fremantle, AustraliaOne of my all-time favourite tunes this one. Dave Davies' distinctive riff and the vocal harmonies work especially well in this evocative song. Along with Paul Weller, this also remains the favourite song of Tim Finn, co-founder of the legendary NZ band Split Enz and part-time member of full-time brother Neil's old group Crowded House...when Tim first came to London in '76 with the Enz, his head was full of the imagery from the song, anticipating what his city of dreams might be.
William from Syracuse, NyArguably the finest song of the rock era. Ray Davies says in the unauthorized biography that the characters in his songs are taken from the people in his life. "Terry" is his nephew, his sister's son who along with Arthur, the father, emigrated to Australia.But, Ray is an ambiguous trickster and its hard to suss the genuine meaning of his lyrics. If Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" was set to music "Waterloo Sunset" would be on par with the finest of British Romantic poetry.
Nessie from Sapporo, JapanAnd it's perhaps the Kinks' finest.
Dave from Cardiff, WalesCathy Dennis scored a transatlantic hit in 1997 with a cover of this song