Leaving your heart in San Francisco is one thing – right up there with feeling New York is so good you have to name it twice (and end many a party night kicking your legs up in the air to celebrate the fact).
What about trying to walk to New Orleans with – or more likely without – Fats Domino? Finding yourself just 24 hours from Tulsa before hand held gadgets made breaking up so easy to do? Or singing the praises of the artificial charms of Las Vegas?
There’s always seemed to be something a little magical about songs naming American cities and landmarks.
Closer to home the charm more often seemed thin on the ground but that’s because it’s difficult to become too lyrically dewy eyed about Salford of Sheffield, Bognor or Bradford.
Alright the likes of Bangor and Luton have had their moments in the limelight but usually in a smirky kind of way.
Surprising then that the seventh of eight children born in 1944 to working class parents in North London (dad Fred was a slaughterhouse worker and ladies man of Welsh descent, whose own dad was a slaughterman in the Rhondda Valley) should be the one to add a touch of sociology, psychology and geography to the pop charts.
All the more so when the first mass sighting of Ray Davies (that’s “Sir” Ray Davies to you and I these days) and his usually overshadowed younger brother Dave (unfortunately for sibling rivalries that’s still just “Mr”) was in what looked like an outfit borrowed from the local fox hunt (does Denmark Terrace in Fortis Green have a local hunt?) was fronting yet another pop-cum blues band which felt they could do justice to the raucous rock and roll of Long Tall Sally?
Even when The Kinks broke big with their third single, the much borrowed blues riff of You Really Got Me (a chart topper from August 1964 and its follow up All Day and All of the Night (basically the same song with different lyrics – which surprisingly reached number two) there was little to indicate that the gap toothed frontman would become a troubadour of his generation.
By the time of the band’s second chart topper (Tired of Waiting For You – Jan 1965) there were hints of something stirring but it wasn’t until Dedicated Follower of Fashion (March 1966), Sunny Afternoon (June 1966) and Dead End Street (November 1966) that it became obvious there was more going on here than the relentless release of seven inch singles.
And then came Waterloo Sunset in May 1967. Ironically at the same time that the New Vaudeville Band were crooning into a mock megaphone about the delights of Finchley Central, Ray Davies was painting a portrait of a far different inner city working class life in the mid 1960s.
Gone the simplistic repetition of You Really Got Me (the title’s four words are repeated around 20 times) and in its place the instantly evocative “Dirty old river, must you keep rolling, flowing into the night, people so busy, make 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.”
No blazing Californian sunshine or blue skies here. Instead Davies observes it all almost as an outsider: “Every day I look at the world from my window but chilly, chilly is the evening time – Waterloo sunset’s fine.”
But every Paradise requires its Adam and Eve – and in this case it’s Friday night lovers Terry and Julie existing in their own world just as Davies watches from his window.
“Terry 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 need no friends. As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset I am in paradise.”
They share a similar self inflicted isolation.
“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.”
Like us they agree: “Waterloo sunset’s fine.”