Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Song #382 of 9999 - Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks

Song #382 of 9999

Title: Waterloo Sunset
Artist: The Kinks
Year: 1967
Album: Something Else By The Kinks

Disclaimer: I am allowing myself only 20 minutes to write this post this evening—one minute for each year Pirates fans suffered waiting for tonight. Let's go Bucs.

I'm not much of a Kinks fan. I never really got the whole Village Green Preservation Society stuff and I can't just chalk it up to cultural differences. If the songs were awesome, I would like it, right?

So you write them off and then you hear a song like "Waterloo Sunset" and your jaw just drops at the charming simplicity of it all. And while I'd probably rather hear it sung by Elliott Smith, the Kinks' original version has its charms with its quirky backing vocals and McCartney-esque falsetto on the line And I don't need no friends. When I really pay attention to the lyrics, it's Ray Davies I want to hear because, with tongue practically sewn into his cheek, he's much more adept at pulling off lines like Chilly, chilly is the evening time. More earnest versions turn awkward at that moment.

So what's going on with this cascading melody that makes it so damn beautiful? I believe the answer is in the dissonance and resolution of the chordal sixth that occurs just before each chord change. Here's the melody with the sixth highlighted and chord changes below:

dirty old river / must you keep rolling / flowing in to  the night
c# b  e   c#—b   g#     f#   b      g#—f#   c#   b   g# f#—e   c#
                  E                                  B                            A

That the melody is pentatonic helps keep everything nice and open and breathable by not including those sticky semi-tones. This adds to the free and easy descent of the melodic sequence. To me, it's one of the most remarkable melodies in all of pop music history. I just love it. And I'm out of time. Go Bucs!

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