THE GREATEST SONG OF THE 1960S
(It has been a pleasure to edit, and by edit I mean add pictures, to Steve Crawford’s “1,000 Greatest Songs Of The 1960s” project. Much like the many, many readers who have reached out throughout the project, I’ve read it with the utmost pleasure as it makes a case, whether Steve chose to or otherwise, for the 1960s being the single greatest decade in popular music history. It is hard to disagree with his choice for the best song of the 1960s… Iman Lababedi)
“Waterloo Sunset,” The Kinks. Songwriter: Ray Davies; Did Not Chart; 1967.
It is not difficult to find superlatives regarding “Waterloo Sunset,” Ray Davies’ unusual song about finding happiness in love shared by others.
Robert Christgau, “The most beautiful song in the English language.” Pete Townshend, “A masterpiece.” Musician Rhett Miller, “The greatest song ever written by a human being.” Ray Davies, “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 and all the other dreams that we had. 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.” Dave Davies on the guitar sound, “We spent a lot of time trying to get a different guitar sound, to get a more unique feel for the record. In the end we used a tape-delay echo, but it sounded new because nobody had done it since the 1950s.
“I remember Steve Marriott of the Small Faces came up and asked me how we’d got that sound. We were almost trendy for a while.”
Author Rob Jovanovic, “’Waterloo Sunset’ is perhaps the quintessential London song. With it, Ray perfectly married melody with simple yet evocative lyrics to paint a memorable panorama. If Davies had achieved his teenage ambition to become a filmmaker, he could not have hoped to capture the scene more vividly.”
It should also be noted that the harmony singing by Ray, Dave Davies, Ray’s wife Rasa, and bassist Pete Quaife is remarkably gorgeous. Quaife on the recording, “When we had finished, we went home and, strangely, didn’t say a word to anyone! We KNEW that we had a hit on our hands and we were content with that.” Ray Davies on the downside of such a triumph, “I had achieved everything I set out to do creatively and I was 22 years old.”