Meaning of Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks

Renowned music critic Robert Christgau called The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” “the most beautiful song in the English language”. All Music editor Stephen Thomas Erlwine described it as “perhaps the most beautiful composition of the rock and roll era”. And Reth Miller generally stated that this is “the greatest song ever written by a human being.”

Many famous rock musicians also confessed their love for the track, including Pete Townsend, who considered it “divine”. Let’s remember how the masterpiece of the famous Ray Davis, the author of most of the works of The Kinks, was born.

Song history

The song was written in the late sixties and early seventies when Davis was living at Fortis Green, where many of his compositions were born. Ray has repeatedly said that “Waterloo Sunset” is a very personal composition for him. It is directly related to his childhood impressions, youthful experiences, memories of his first love. Let’s listen to the author:

Waterloo is an area of ​​London that has always been very important to me. When I was a boy, my father took me there for the 1951 Festival of Britain. When we looked at the Skylon tower, he said: “I think this should be the future.” Then, when I was thirteen, I became seriously ill, and the windows of my department of St. Thomas’ Hospital overlooked the river and Parliament. These are very vivid memories. When I was at Croydon School of Art, I had a transfer at Waterloo Station. There was something romantic about it: as a teenager, I often walked with my girlfriend along Waterloo Bridge.

These thoughts swirled in my head for years, and then suddenly a song appeared. The words and the melody merged together very quickly, almost as if it was the song that composed me, and not vice versa.

I grew up in a large family, and my sister’s generation before mine was expected to get married, work in factories or do menial jobs. They weren’t supposed to stand out as individuals, so I wrote this song for them.

The Guardian

However, despite Ray’s stories about his spiritual connection to Waterloo, it seems that he wrote the composition with other places in mind.

Liverpool is my favorite city and the song was originally called “Liverpool Sunset”. Mersey Beat became a source of inspiration for me [музыкальное издание с редакцией в Ливерпуле]. By that time I had already fallen in love with Liverpool. There we were best received on all tours. We played The Cavern, all those old places, and I couldn’t get enough. I have a lot of buddies there from other bands, and that sound – not The Beatles, but Merseybeat – was just incredible. He has always inspired me.

So I wrote “Liverpool Sunset”. The name was later changed to “Waterloo Sunset”, but it’s still a play on words with Waterloo. London was my home, I grew up there, but I like to think that I might have been adopted by a Liverpool boy. My heart definitely belongs to him.

Liverpool Echo, 2010

In another interview, he openly admitted that the original idea was not about Waterloo:

I don’t think it originally had anything to do with Waterloo, but I came to the conclusion that this place was very significant in my life.


There is an opinion that Ray decided to change the name because of the release of the song “Penny Lane” by The Beatles, dedicated to the bus station in Liverpool, where young Lennon and McCartney often met. Perhaps Davis was afraid that he would be reproached for borrowing the idea.

The meaning of the song

Many listeners decided that the track was about the relationship of popular actors Julie Christie and Terence Stamp. This version of the main idea of ​​”Waterloo Sunset” was very popular, although Dave vehemently denied it:

Of course, everyone thought that “Terry and Julie” was a nod to Terry Stump and Julie Christie, as they were incredibly popular because of “Far from the Madding Crowd”. But actually, I had an image of my sister and her boyfriend heading into the future. I do have a nephew named Jerry, but his nickname is “Todger” and he emigrated to Australia.

The Guardian

To understand the meaning of “Waterloo Sunset” the following explanations of the author will help:

Even though I’m an observer in the song, a lot of it is about me. I, too, had been defeated, and although it did not come to a complete catastrophe, I felt vulnerable. The river is depicted as a kind of protective force. I didn’t show the lyrics to the band so they wouldn’t giggle at me. Instead, I played it for my niece Jackie and sister Rosie. When I told them that I didn’t want to release it as a single, they seemed to understand me.

When we recorded it, my brother Dave proved that sometimes he can do what I ask him to do. He played beautifully, and his powerful guitar lines supported my weak voice. Then it was heard by Penny Valentine, a journalist from Disc, who called me and said: “You should release it as a single. It’s going to be a big hit.”

This song is about the fact that innocence will triumph over any misfortunes. It starts timidly, but by the end it reaches tremendous power. When triumphant chords sound, the angels tell you that everything will be all right.

The Guardian

Release and success

In May 1967, the song was released as a single from Something Else by the Kinks. She reached the second line of the British charts and hit the charts in many other countries. We cited the enthusiastic responses of music critics to her at the beginning of the article. We add that the analysis of composition is included in the curriculum of many British art schools.

Cover versions of the composition were recorded by David Bowie, Def Leppard and other popular artists.

The song was included in the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Now let’s watch the music video for “Waterloo Sunset”.

Interesting Facts

  • “Waterloo Sunset” was The Kinks’ first single in true stereo.
  • Ray Davies sang “Waterloo Sunset” at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Waterloo Sunset lyricsWaterloo Sunset LyricsDirty old river must keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright
But I don’t need no friends
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise
Leak somewhere in the night?
People are so busy it makes me dizzy
Taxi headlights are bright
But I don’t need friends
As I watch the sunset at Waterloo
I’m in heaven Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset’s fine
But chilly, chilly in the evening
Sunset on Waterloo is beautifulTerry meets Julie, Waterloo Station
Every Friday night
But I am so lazy, don’t want to wander
I stay at home at night
But I don’t feel afraid
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise Terry meets Julie at Waterloo Station
Every Friday
But I’m so lazy I don’t want to roam
I stay at home in the evenings
But I’m not afraid
As I watch the sunset at Waterloo
I’m in heaven Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset’s fine
But chilly, chilly in the evening
Waterloo sunset is beautiful Millions of people swarming like flies
’round Waterloo underground
But Terry and Julie cross over the river
Where they feel safe and sound
And they don’t need no friends
As long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset
They are in paradise
Near the subway at Waterloo,
where they feel safe
And they don’t need friends
As they watch the sunset at Waterloo
They’re in Paradise Waterloo sunset’s fine

Song Quotes

…it was like a passage from a diary that no one was allowed to read.

Dave Davies, Rolling Stone

…a romantic, lyrical song about my older sister’s generation.

Ray Davis

It’s about two characters and the aspirations of my sisters’ generation that grew up during World War II. It’s about the world I wanted for them.

Ray Davies, The Independent

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