Ray Davies was asked to tell the story behind Waterloo Sunset:
Although I’m an observer in the song, in many ways it is about me. I’d had a breakdown and, though I wasn’t a gibbering wreck, I was feeling vulnerable. The river is depicted as a protective force. I didn’t show the lyrics to the band in case they sniggered. Instead, I played it to my niece Jackie and sister Rosie and, when I told them I didn’t want it to be released as a single, they seemed to understand.
When we recorded it, my brother Dave proved that he can sometimes do what I tell him – he played lovely, compelling guitar lines to underpin my fragile vocal. Afterwards, Penny Valentine, a journalist at Disc magazine, heard it and rang me up to say: “You’ve got to put this out as a single. It’ll be a massive hit.”
The song is about how innocence will prevail over adversity. It starts out delicate, but by the end has become awesome in its power. Those triumphant chords come in – and the angels tell you everything is going to be OK.Still better than anything the Beatles ever did.