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Bernard Meets Dorothy, Waterloo Station, Every Friday Night

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‘For me the perfect pop song is Waterloo Sunset,’ Dave Gilmour has said on a number of occasions, while according critic Robert Christgau, it’s ‘the most beautiful song in the English language’.

‘Three minutes of sheer musical genius which is still regarded by many as the apogee of the swinging sixties single,’ Allan Laing gushed in the Glasgow Herald twenty years ago. ‘Quite simply, nothing better ever revolved around a Dansette turntable at 45rpm.’

So, if I told you I had seen the band take to the Glasgow Apollo stage early in 1979, you might ask how it felt to be singing along with thousands of others to one of the most achingly poignant and evocative songs written in the twentieth century?

Whether or not Waterloo Sunset was fine on that particular night, though, was not disclosed by Raymond Douglas Davies.

Okay, it was a long time ago and I would have been the worse for wear after far too many beers for somebody who was still underage and relatively new to the drinking game, but I am pretty certain they didn’t play it, which must be the equivalent of the Stones failing to trot out Satisfaction in whatever enormodome they next perform in, or Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey deciding to remove My Generation from their set-list.

Certainly, The Kinks did put on a fantastic show that night despite the absence of their most loved track.

I’m not sure about Waterloo Sunset being the most beautiful song in the English language myself. That’s a big claim. It’s definitely up there but if I’m being super pernickety, I’m not very keen on the double negative of ‘I don’t need no friends’ or the ‘chilly, chilly is the evening time’ line which sounds as if it comes from the England of Thomas Hardy rather than the London of Blowup, Oz and the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream. Not that the contrarian singer would be much enamoured with the summer of love, which when Waterloo Sunset was released that May 1967, was just beginning to get into gear.

Davies, incidentally, has claimed that before he settled on Terry and Julie for his lyrics, he considered George and Mabel and even Bernard and Dorothy instead. Just try singing ‘Bernard meets Dorothy, Waterloo Station / Every Friday night.’

Not quite the same ring to it, has it?

I reckon Ray was on the wind-up when he mentioned those names as they scan so badly. Not only does Terry and Julie have a better flow but I would guess by choosing them, Davies intended to inject a talking point into the song knowing the public would inevitably debate whether it was about Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, two of the stars of Far From The Madding Crowd, John Schlesinger’s high-profile adaptation of the Hardy novel that was being filmed as the record was being recorded.

Sadly no promo was shot to promote the single and there doesn’t seem to be any performances of the track from the 1960s available to watch online but here is Waterloo Sunset from The Kinks In Concert, a half hour live concert first shown on BBC 2 in March 1973:

For more on The Kinks: https://www.facebook.com/TheKinksOfficial

A Kind of Loving & This Is My Street (New Waves #11)

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A Kind of Loving

Among the special features on the Vintage Classics blu-ray of A Kind of Loving I’ve been watching, there’s an interview with Stuart Maconie, where he speculates that The Beatles might have been encouraged to write tracks like Penny Lane by watching films like A Kind of Loving. It’s an excellent extra but I wasn’t entirely convinced by this idea.

Being Stuart Maconie, he also manages to bring up music by later Northern English bands like Joy Division and The Smiths that obviously watched this cycle of dramas too.

Based on Stan Barstow’s debut novel of 1960 and adapted by Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse, this is a simple story. Boy meets girl. The boy is Vic Brown (Alan Bates), a draughtsman in a northern English factory. The girl is Ingrid Rothwell (June Ritchie), a typist in that same factory where Vic works. At the wedding of Vic’s older sister Christine, Vic catches Ingrid’s eye. Soon he’s smitten. She likes him too.

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Ingrid is a good-looking blonde named after Ingrid Bergman, although her life certainly lacks the glitz and glamour of the famous Swedish star. She lives at home with her widowed mother played by Thora Hird. A poisonous old biddy, she constantly bumps her gums about any subject you could care to name, without demonstrating a single insight into any of them as she does so.

Vic can be selfish. Ingrid can be demanding and unimaginative, almost like a representative of everything Richard Hoggart railed against in Uses of Literacy. She fanatically watches soaps and game shows and loves buying clothes, especially coats. Vic’s held onto his Northern working-class roots to a greater extent – he’s more brass bands than rock’n’roll.

He can be foul tempered, such as his reaction to Ingrid bringing her headnipping pal along to what was supposed to have been a date but he’s more a frustrated young man than a permanently angry young man like Look Back In Anger‘s Jimmy Porter or Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

He’s also more ambitious than Ingrid, with a desire to see a bit of the world before settling down. But as you likely know, this doesn’t happen. The pair have sex and Ingrid becomes pregnant. Although this was an X-rated film on its release, we don’t see any sex. Instead, we see only its aftermath. And I reckon it’s safe to assume that the earth failed to move for either of them.

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This is a world of Brylcream, Woodbine, half pints of bitter and taking rattles to the football and it’s the same world that Barstow grew up in.

When the novelist first started out in his writing career, he still worked in a draughtsman’s office like Vic. His own father played cornet in a brass band (as Vic’s father does), while like Mrs Rothwell, his mother disapproved of strong alcohol. It would seem he also experienced a number of difficulties during his marriage.

As a middle-class gay Jewish intellectual from Hampstead, John Schlesinger might not have struck many as the ideal director to bring Barstow’s nuanced tale of working class life to the big screen but what an exceptional job he does. A Kind of Loving is poetic and lyrical and funny but entirely realistic too.

Alan Bates & June Ritchie in A Kind of Loving

The acting from Bates (even if he’s a little too old for his role), Ritchie and Hird is uniformly excellent and there are a number of actors like James Bolam and Jack Smethurst in smaller parts, who also manage to shine, albeit more briefly.

A Kind of Loving was a box-office success in Britain, ending the year as one of the top ten grossing films, and it scooped the Golden Bear at the 12th Berlin International Film Festival. It’s one of the best British films of the 1960s, and maybe Schlesinger’s finest ever although Midnight Cowboy might just edge it and Billy Liar is a delight too.

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If you like A Kind of Loving, you might also like This is My Street (1964).

This is My Street quad poster

My copy of Robert Murphy’s Sixties British Cinema has a photo of June Ritchie and Alan Bates in A Kind of Loving on its cover but This is My Street, which also starred Ritchie, wasn’t deemed important enough to merit a single mention in the book.

This largely forgotten slice of kitchen sink is set on an estate in the shadow of Battersea Power Station, which Ritchie’s character Marge Graham calls ‘a hovel’, although it’s not as grim as many of the northern settings in British New Wave films.

This is an interesting watch, a time capsule of 1960s London on the brink of starting to swing. The women do all the skivying while the men pay for the drinks and meals. It’s the 1960s and Beatlemania must have been happening while it was being made but don’t expect females in mini-skirts or men with longish hair.

Ritchie here teamed up for a second time with Ian Hendry – after 1962’s Live Now Pay Later proved there was a good chemistry between the pair. Both perform credibly again here although unlike A Kind of Loving, the plot veers towards the melodramatic on a couple of occasions.

June Ritchie in This is My Street

June Ritchie does a good job, but she would not go on to enjoy the same success in acting that Alan Bates did, largely due to her decision to concentrate on raising her children. But she did take part in some interesting projects including 1963’s The World Ten Times Over, which the British Film Institute described as ‘the first British film to deal with an implicitly lesbian relationship.’ In 1974, she appeared on one-off Granada TV drama Starmaker opposite Ray Davies and soon afterwards she sang on The Kinks’ album, Soap Opera – which was based on Starmaker.

Ray Davies, incidentally, brought up a similar point to the one made by Maconie. Talking about his time in art school in the early 1960s a few years ago, he noted: ‘The kitchen-sink dramas did show that people responded to subject matter that wasn’t purely about the leisure classes. It also allowed bands like The Beatles, The Stones and The Kinks to come through.’

For more on June Ritchie: https://juneritchie.co.uk/