Nothing saves the season like 'Waterloo Sunset'
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Late-night vinyl thoughts with the Kinks...
It’s perpetually humid during the summer months in New England. Unlike other summers, even a rain or thunderstorm here or there doesn’t seem able to cut through the moist death grip of the thick air. Living on the third floor of a 150-year-old house doesn’t help matters much, either.
So, time to make due. Open all the windows to keep the air flowing, turn off unnecessary lights, run the air conditioner when necessary, and try to keep occupied at all times. Clean, work out, write, listen to music.
On this typically heavy evening, it’s a classic on the turntable — Something Else by the Kinks, the second of six consecutive masterworks pumped out by Ray and Dave Davies in the late 1960s and early ’70s. In a rather bright catalog, this one has always jumped out as a summer classic. I can remember first grabbing the CD as a sophomore in college, putting it in a discman attached to the car stereo via a cassette adapter, and cruising over to class with my windows down through the wooded streets of Dartmouth, Mass., while Ray wished he could be like David Watts, who was so gay and fancy free, and who took his exams and passed a lot.
The Kinks have been something of a comfort band for years now. Whenever I’ve been in a bad place, or in a new spot, or on the road, or just feeling a little out of sorts, there they’ve been, ready to lull me back into a sense of comfort with their perfectly crafted slices of pop, segmented into some of my favorite albums and compilations in all of rock.
Something Else by the Kinks could serve as excellent primer for those unfamiliar with the genius of the brothers Davies. From “David Watts” through perhaps their finest moment, “Waterloo Sunset,” Something Else channels the best of their raw energy coupled with their pure pop sensibilities.
There a number of remarkable songs on this record: "Two Sisters." "Afternoon Tea." "Death of a Clown." But let's take Dave Davies’ “Love Me Till The Sun Shines,” an ode to either groupies or just that elusive sense of unconditional love. In three minutes and 23 seconds, the tune reveals a sense of whimsy and living in the moment while hinting at the desperation evident in the thought of being alone. Who wants to be alone? Not the singer here. Not me. You don’t have to cook for him, you don’t even half to laugh with him. You just have to love him till the sun shines. Does that mean the next morning? Does that mean years from now? Does it matter?
The summer heat does weird things to the brain. Relentless, it can wreak havoc on typical decision patterns. It can levy a sense of desperation that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Maybe there will be a series of transgressions that lead to regret. And maybe they’ll lead to wishing for a Harry rag, whatever that might be. But a “Harry Rag,” as Ray sings, is a sort of cure-all for various ailments of the soul and mind, with a number of characters willing to endure almost anything for their own Harry rag. Transpose that with a sense of being trapped in a humid dungeon in an area where the norm is typically bitter-cold winds and frozen rain, and a cure-all of any kind would be welcomed with open arms.
But seasons change. It won’t always be hot. Soon it will start raining more often than not, calling an end to the summer and signaling the start of school, football, turning leaves and tourists looking for them. It’ll all be over soon. And so will the record.
But not before “Waterloo Sunset.”
I have a lot of songs in my collection. Keeping it purely to my digital cache, iTunes lists 30,237. I’m sure there are a few more stragglers hiding out within my records, or perhaps a tape or CD that never made it onto the hard drive. But among those 30,237, there are few I hold in higher esteem than “Waterloo Sunset.” Simply, it’s a beautiful ode to the simplest kind of love, one of a person and a special place. Waterloo Underground is the English equivalent to Boston’s Park Street station or New York’s Grand Central. I’ve never been there, but busy public transit hubs are typically packed and stressful. But this doesn’t matter to our hero, Terry, who meets his Julie there every Friday night. They have each other, and nothing else matters. As long as they gaze on Waterloo Sunset, they are in paradise.
Summer won’t last forever. Soon it will be cold, snow and slush will line the streets, rain and wind will turn even the shortest walk into an ordeal. But none of it should matter. This is a world where sorrow and sadness intertwine constantly. But this is also a world with a lot of potential, a lot of happiness and a lot of small victories. This is a world where, if you're lucky, you can come home and play your favorite songs over and over.
After a long day, I look for “Waterloo Sunset” to keep me from feeling afraid. Corny? Probably. But that’s life.
Aug. 22, 2010