The Kinks song David Bowie called “timeless”

London-born English rock outfit The Kinks emerged alongside the Merseybeat movement that spawned the likes of The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Cilla Black. Combining fuzzy guitar with quintessentially British writing, The Kinks gained huge success with the 1966 release of ‘Sunny Afternoon’ for its cynical commentary on taxation.

A year later, The Kinks released ‘Waterloo Sunset’, which went on to become one of their most celebrated songs. Utilising a tape-delay echo, it’s a nostalgic, fuzzy track with picturesque, dreamy imagery. The track’s protagonist gazes over a Waterloo sunset from his window as a couple cross over the river below.

It’s an intimate song, one that Dave Davies once revealed his brother Ray thought was almost too personal. Detailing the reservations, he told Rolling Stone that Ray felt “it was like an extract from a diary nobody was allowed to read”. Nonetheless, it formed the first single from their 1967 album Something Else by the Kinks and gained the band a number one spot on the UK chart.

David Bowie, a man who etched out his own history in the British music landscape, expressed his love for the Kinks track and his admiration for vocalist and songwriter Ray Davies. In an interview for the 2004 Ray Davies documentary, Ray Davies: The World from My Window, Bowie called the track “timeless”.

Detailing further, he stated: “There’s something so anchored about that song… It’s as English as Peter Ackroyd is English. It’s as London as Peter Ackroyd is London. There’s something so deeply moving about the song and so timeless. Couldn’t be set in any other place or any other country in the world.”

Davies had originally planned to situate the song in Liverpool, but The Beatles released ‘Penny Lane’ in the same year, so he later changed the setting to Waterloo. The protagonist is placed in Davies’ hometown, just above the Thames, overlooking Waterloo Station.

Bowie went on to explain his admiration for Davies’ songwriting, calling him “without doubt one of our leading songwriters, always has been and I believe always will be. He’s never lost his touch”.

He continued: “The secret of Ray’s success is that he’s just got it. He’s just a wonderful songwriter. That guitar sound, of course, was most incredibly important. That fuzz box really made such a sonic difference to everything.”

In 2003, Bowie even joined Davies for the Tibet House benefit concert at Carnegie Hall in New York to perform the beloved song together. Bowie seemed right at home on stage beside Davies, singing ‘Waterloo Sunset’ as if it were his own.

The track has only further proven its timelessness over 50 years after its release, featuring on film soundtracks and subject to endless covers. Artists who have released their own interpretations of the track include Peter Gabriel, Def Leppard, and Blur frontman Damon Albarn who was again joined by Ray Davies himself. Albarn even cited ‘Waterloo Sunset’ as the song he wishes he had written in an interview with Record Mart & Buyer.

Aside from its enduring cultural impact, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ is sonically timeless. From its romanticised picture of London to its innovative use of guitar, it remains one of the most beautiful songs of all time.

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