Garlanded wordsmiths like Ted Hughes and Alfred, Lord Tennyson have presided as Great Britain’s poet laureate, yet surely more enduring in the hearts of a nation of pub-crawlers is the singular Ray Davies. Buoyed by cascading harmonies and choral “sha-la-la”s, the lyrics to “Waterloo Sunset” pinpoint an instant of transcendence in the solitary glance of a London everyman: “Every day I look at the world from my window / But chilly, chilly is the evening time / Waterloo sunset’s fine.”
Through 32 (on-again, off-again) years with the world’s greatest (underrated) rock & roll band, the Kinks, and a subsequent solo career, Davies has written dozens of unforgettable songs. Just ask Wes Anderson or the ad agency that produces commercials for Hewlett-Packard.
Whether subversively catchy trick narratives (“Lola”), lyrical romantic elegies (“Days”) or even perfect jukebox thrashers (“You Really Got Me”), the songs illustrate a quotidian sensibility with a vulnerability and charm that cock-rocking peers like the Who and the Stones never had. Quite a few of those tunes appear on last year’s See My Friends, a rather unnecessary all-star retrospective (Bon Jovi? Mumford & Sons? Must we?).
Thankfully, the performer’s current solo tour—after his recovery from a medical crisis earlier this year—won’t be leaning on celebrity special guests. Fans can enjoy Davies unfettered. Though a pint of Guinness wouldn’t hurt.