Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.
Does Dave's AFL get your wooden spoon?
I said yesterday that musically, The Hard Way is punk in the making. But I’ll give it to @Vangro: coming right after the abrupt "Don't make me take my trousers down" line , the riff stands for the sound of the stick on the poor lad's buttock… This and the abusive headmaster being the singing protagonist makes it quite the opposite of punk… So it still had to happen.
Nevertheless, the song is perfect in execution, deliberately short, concise, hard. There’s a power, grit and urgency that’s been all but absent of any Kinks song since the double punch of Rats and Powerman on Lola. The call and response left & right guitar solo(s) is the X factor. At some points, Ray’s singing it like Lou Reed, and I must say imagining Lou in the role of the headmaster brings a big smile to my face.
The irony of it : most punk bands who did use (more or less) the same riff, be it Clash, Jam or everybody else in their teenage rooms or rehearsal spaces would've thought they were emulating Can’t Explain Who or 1964/1965 Kinks, most likely ignoring that Jeff Lynne used it with two of his (non-punk to the extreme) bands and that Dave & Ray came back to it so many times in between. Almost once on every LP, as was observed by @Ex-Fed when we discussed Everybody’s a Star…
I never get around the fact Ray writes most of these songs on the piano. When I first read that You Really Got Me was a piano song, I was floored. The Hard Way could be as well. The big guitar riffs Kinks songs written on the piano… how ironic is this?
"The Hard Way" is one of the reasons I love the Kinks. First of all, it is based on the same three chords as a ton of classic rock n roll songs but it makes a comment about the education system, the use of corporal punishment and it quotes the Bard (and not just any old quote but the "cruel to be kind" one from the Hamlet "closet" scene - probably the most used Shakespeare quotation in rock n roll). As a rock n roll loving former high school English teacher, it doesn't get much better than this. Ray's vocal delivery is amazing - those words come fast and it takes skill to spit them out like he does. The chords are just so infectious. I don't care if they are recycled because the song rocks. And as a song, it is a time capsule. It was written in an era when corporal punishment was a common practice (I am not sure when it was decided how barbaric it was!). My favourite version is this one from the Christmas Eve show at the Rainbow in 1977. I like it so much because all the band members (except Ray) where silly hats.
Mick Jones of The Clash used to see all the bands - the Stones, Mott The Hoople, The Faces etc. - before forming the Clash. Chrissie Hynde tried out for one of his pre-Clash bands and we know how much she loved the Kinks.
Is it a tax paid on animal coats?
Corporal punishment is illegal in all public (government) schools in Australia, but it does appear to not be banned in private schools in one state, banned in the rest. We used to use the cane.
Are You absolutely sure physical punishment is still permitted in Australia, I can't imagine that across the board?
See my post two above yours.
Thanks for the info concerning Autralia.
Here's the detail for the US. Red states allow corporal punishment in school.
Does this seem accurate?
Ha! Too much pressure now.
There’s the public school vs private school component, too. Unfortunately, I was sent a comprehensive study (as I said upthread, an outside investigation was just completed on abuse at my school and, while my school was private, included boarding, and was overseas). A friend assisting the victim/survivors sent me the study to show me that corporal punishment was alive and well in the US (as I expressed surprise when I read the school board minutes banning corporal punishment in September 1976). It turns out that my school was quite “progressive,” ahead of the curve.
They used a tawse in Scotland, which was such a sadistic invention it must have come from the Royal Navy. On the hands, by the way.
Tawse - Wikipedia
Wow – this would have made a great second song had Ray started the album with I’m in Disgrace! Ray’s soaring vocals backed by Dave’s crisp riffs is the highlight. The 40 second jam-like guitar excursion from 2:05 is a bit of a mystery. I would have left that out, but I’m still very happy with this tune as it is.
The Hard Way
From side one’s homages to the fifties The Hard Way places the band ahead of the coming guitar-based trend – all the more so because it burns out (rather than fades away ) after just two and a half minutes. I probably heard it the first time as the terrific opening track on One for the Road: it’s a perfect song to warm up a live audience. It features a brilliantly dumb riff played in the spikiest possible way - hello garage-punk. Sure I hear Clash City Rockers, I Can’t Explain and All Day and All of the Night but I love every one of them. I think there should be more songs with this riff.
"The Hard Way". Is this Ray's revenge on Pete Townshend? I know Pete admitted to ripping off the Kinks on "I Can't Explain", but this actually more of a rip off than "I Can't Explain" was! This has a punky sound but that's more because it revisits the early Kinks and er the Who, than it being any kind of harbinger of what was to come. I think a spotty punk rocker in his bedroom in 1976 was more likely to be listening to "Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy" than "Schoolboys in Disgrace". The song is OK, seems like it would be a good palate cleanser in concert, but "I Can't Explain", "Clash City Rockers", "A Bomb in Wardour Street" - to name but three - are all better. Plus Ray has saddled himself with this The Dave Davies Story - The Schoolboy Years concept.
Had my regular school canings been delivered by Ray's backing singers in that clip I think I might have fonder memories of corporal punishment!!
In the live versions doesn't Ray sing "don't just sit there and masturbate"?
If not, I've been singing along incorrectly...
Unlike in say’ Everybody’s A Star’ where the use of the ‘Can’t Explain’ riff seemed like a somewhat unadventurous redeployment of a comfortable old trick to establish an ‘upbeat rocking’ but not actually really very genuinely exciting, (not like how The Kinks used to be), scene setting ambience, in 'The Hard Way' that old riff is the focus and is remade anew, and in this new context I'd say it actually marks an advancement (if not necessarily an improvement) over how similar riffs were employed in those classics wrought in the heat of youthful exuberance such as 'You Really Got Me' I Can't Explain' et al.. let me try to explain my reasoning.
1) As @Fortuleo already mentioned, the riff here is used to onomatopoeic -ly dramatise the brutal staccato punishment meted out by the Headmaster. Whereas those high amphetamine singles of a decade prior has used this and similar riffs to express the inexpressibles of hormonal obsession and confusion of the teens and early twenties, here it's pointedly being doled out by a middle aged if not older character, and with calculated precision (of course it was just those kind of hormone driven passions of You Really Got Me' and 'I Can't Explain' that got the schoolboy into this situation in the first place!).. again, it's that Kinks/Ray Davies brilliance of putting a genuinely rocking, cool sounding song/performance into the context of something (literally) old-school and establishment that really makes this: that hint of absurdity that gives it that extra magic that makes pure Kinks to me.
2) Apart from the (pretty major I admit) element that he's giving out a sadistic physical punishment now banned across many corners of the civilised world, I don't actually see the Headmaster as a monster or villain in this song, as the life advice/lesson he's giving is actually (IMO) pretty sound in theory at least. This is particularly tangible in those two brilliant bridges: the ways the chords unfold in those two sections, it sounds to me like the Headmaster is looking ahead to see the schoolboys whole future life laid out, and what he sees isn't pretty.. in fact he's seen it many, many times before and is hugely wearied by it, as generation after generation of school pupils, in their arrogant sun of youth fail to heed his words at this key moment in life and end up doomed to live lives of unfulfilled potential.. and the Sisyphus like frustration the Headmaster feels as year after year after year, he fails in his job to get through to these pupils at the time when he could in theory make a difference.. and I must add here that I don't actually agree with that in practice ( I got decent grades and behaved well in school and it didn't get me very far in life!) but it's so strikingly (excuse the pun) expressed here that it still gets me..
Now, last point, who the heck is 'Ramona' who Ray gives a shout out to a few times in the second half of the song? While I don't agree with the critics that Mark quoted above who see this song as being primarily sado-sexual, I do wonder if this was some kind of coded message/injoke to a woman in Ray's life at the time. I dunno, probably not, who knows. Even less likely but I'd love it to be: was it a very very very early Ramones reference inserted as acknowledgement that this was the most minimalistly rocking The Kinks had been since 1965?
He sure does!
The Hard Way
My first Kinks album was One For The Road, and this song comes up quickly on the first side. I thought it was a solid enough opener.
A few years later, sometime in the mid eighties, I picked up Schoolboys. I heard the studio version of this track for the first time.
It was like tasting Ben & Jerry's after a few years of the store brand.
What an outburst! In my universe, this is the greatest one-hundred-and-fifty-seven seconds of Dave Davies' career. He starts out with his oft-deployed "I Can't Explain" riff (he always manages to make it sound a little different each time), like a machine gun reinforcing his brother's verbal barrage. Then comes the bridge, where his crackling fills add the requisite edge to Gosling's organ flourishes... and then he saves the best for last -- an utter barnburner of a solo, equally scorching AND melodic. And we get it twice!
Ray is no slouch here, either, playing the tyrannical disciplinarian to perfection -- you just want to punch him out. As a Cold War kid, I heard "illiterate" as "a little red". In my defense, the next song does feature the word "comrades".
Good thing these, er, motivational techniques for students have largely fallen out of fashion today.
"The Hard Way" is a great Kinks record. It's got everything. It is to Dave's guitar playing what "Waterloo Sunset" is to Ray's songwriting.
The Hard Way
The verses have me thinking of a Sting affectation with The Police in close support!
The opening of the lead lick anticipates Sleepwalker's lead work unless it's just too late at night and i am thinking of Do It Again or some other such song?
At least if I think about it with Ray's vocal meter i am somehow able to think of the riff as not a total "borrow" and can enjoy the song.
Not sure what else to say but with it's surroundings it's easily one of the best cuts on the album and if judged purely on entertainment value it's hands down the best as you need not be aware of any storyline or even follow the songs message!
It is mostly definitely not an improvement on You Really Got Me and I Can't Explain! And is Ray Davies writing an entire album on his brother's report card from school an advancement? Let the people decide!
A neat copy however it finds me following the lyric so I prefer the Kinks version and Ray's vocal plus overall it is just a bit looser.
The Hard Way:
I first heard and fell in love with this song on One from the Road. I remember back when I downloaded Schoolboys 4 or 5 years ago and give it one cursory listen before filing it away (until this thread), thinking that the studio version oh The Hard Way just didn’t compare with the live one. I no longer feel that way. It’s a great song whichever version.
That opening riff is arguably Dave’s mightiest riff since the YRGM/ADAAOTN/TTEOTD era. all angular guitars and snappy lyrics, the song is a short, sharp jab to the solar plexus like the kinks hadn’t done in a decade. The guitar solo sizzles, whipsawing channel to channel. Mick is on fire throughout, but especially at the end, as Dave simultaneously fires off yet another blazing solo on the way out. Best song on the album!
I think he does, but the way he sings it brings to mind the "Fogging" use earlier on. It is a little vague
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