The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.

  1. “No More Looking Back”: I played Side Two of Schoolboys recently and, when this song came on, I commented how unlike the Kinks it is. My wife asked what I meant. I started talking about adult-oriented rock, and Fender Rhodes keyboards, and guitars recorded with choral effects, and saxophones. She said, “I don’t know about that—I think it sounds exactly like the Kinks.” She was right, of course. Her unguarded observation was illuminating, and brought me back to what I originally thought about the song, before all the analysis set in, and the categorization, and the historical perspective. None of us thought, in 1975, “How odd for this to be a Kinks song!” We simply thought how great it was for the Kinks to have mounted such a memorable and distinctive cry from the heart. In those days, releases by artists were, by definition, appropriate releases for those artists. We hadn’t put the bands we loved into boxes—not yet, anyway. We were concerned with quality, not style, and what moved us. We enjoyed what was good, and there’s not much in the Kinks’ catalogue more pleasing than this number, especially that yearning, emotional bridge section, as the singer laments being so destructively freighted by his own memories. We get OCD and maybe some stalking, general dysfunction and a wonderful melody. Fantastic. Glorious. “No More Looking Back!” Doesn’t Ray sound like he’s trying to convince himself? He may proclaim, over and over, that from now on there will be no more retrospection, and that the nostalgic Kinks are dead, but the assertion does not quite convince. He backslides on the very next album, which begins, “Ever since I was a child….” It's hard to break the habits of mind. We are addicted, I think, to our own patterns of thinking.
  2. GarySteel

    GarySteel Bastard of old

    Molde, Norway
    And then you take it out on the rest of the world ;)
  3. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Schoolboys In Disgrace.

    This is certainly not a bad album, but it is less than I initially thought it was.
    Side one gets off to a good start, but for me the second half of side one is a bit of a fail, and probably the first fail along our golden road so far. It isn't that I hate the songs...... I'm just not very interested in them. That is partly the topic, and partly the somewhat forced way in which the topic comes through, and for Ray Davies these songs are also rans, not the inspired tracks I/we have come to know so far.
    Side two goes a long way to repair this, with the first three songs being solid entries into the Kinks catalog..... and although the Last Assembly serves somewhat of a plot purpose, it just reinforces the fact that this would have been a better album without the theme.
    No More Looking Back comes in to reinforce the fact that this could have really been pretty special without the theme causing some songs to exist for the theme, rather than actually be worth having on the album.

    Schooldays is a good song, but doesn't connect for me.
    Jack The Idiot Dunce is good fun and I can deal with that
    I'm In Disgrace is an excellent track
    Headmaster is an excellent track
    The Hard Way is an excellent track
    No More Looking Back is an excellent track
    The other tracks have their moments, but I just don't really get into them, and it seems like these are the songs trying to tie the theme together, and it just doesn't quite make it for me.

    This album probably more than any other shows why the Kinks and Ray needed to move on.
    It is surprising to me that I prefer Soap Opera a lot more than this, because before the thread I would have been the other way around on that.

    This album sort of straddles the line between the RCA and Arista years. It doesn't have one foot firmly in either territory, and the more Arista years type songs end up saving this from the scrapheap for me.

    On the whole a disappointing album, but not a complete write-off
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  4. GarySteel

    GarySteel Bastard of old

    Molde, Norway
    Yeah, I made a mental note of this as well. They, or rather he, weren't always this simpatico ("Two Sisters", "Heart of Gold") to the hardships of the other brother.

    I like it a lot. And the finale is useless, BTW.

    Edit: about half a good album and something of a bridge over to the next era, musically speaking. Thankfully it is goodbye to stoopid concepts now and back to music for the sake of the song.
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  5. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    The clip of the group performing 'No More Looking Back' on the ITV (UK) pop show 'Supersonic' in 1976. This is the only available/known pro shot performance footage of a Schoolboys track. I think it also may be the first time The Kinks appeared on UK TV to promote a new single since 'Supersonic Rocket Ship' ! (ironic that they never appeared on 'Supersonic' for that one.. well except the show hadn't started yet)

  6. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "No More Looking Back"

    Possibly the greatest track of the whole RCA era? Not just a fantastic song in its own right, divorced of any context, but also loaded with symbolism due to its position on the album and what it indicates for The Kinks' career and Ray's personal life. It starts off with a wonderfully laid-back 70s vibe, thanks to that Fender Rhodes, but then switches into a chorus full of anxiety and regret, and a determination to move forward - as the song proceeds to do with line piled upon line.

    As well as the Rhodes we have a smooth harmonised guitar tone from Dave, and then in the final refrain the horns come in for a final refrain to say goodbye to RCA, the touring troupe and theatre rock. The adult contemporary rock of this track would be back on the next album, but the horns would not.

    It's almost tear-jerking in its poignancy. Things would never be the same again for The Kinks.


    Wasn't crazy about this bit first time around, so this addition is completely redundant. It would have been better if "Education" had come to a different ending, then at least this would be a surprise.

    "Schoolboys In Disgrace"

    It was the first RCA album that I listened to and liked and it's the one I've owned for by far the longest. There are a couple of tracks I don't particularly care for, but given my previous experiences with the RCA albums I expected that. I probably didn't expect to enjoy as much of it as I do. Having now re-evaluated the other RCA albums it has to be said that this one has slipped down the rankings a bit, but it's still a solid mid-table album that's worth a regular listen.

    Given that I won't have much to say about tomorrow's compilation album, I'll be doing my ranking of the six RCA albums.
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  7. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Another superb opening post @mark winstanley. Yes, this is a miraculous composition and performance. The whole band is stellar. It’s like every member came up with his own infectious deadly hook. The electric piano has one, the bass has one, Dave has one (plus his fantastic lead licks all the way) and in the end, the sax too (like a frantic and funky reworking of the iconic Village Green Preservation Society one). Not forgetting the drums, right at the beginning.

    It’s the sound of a clock ticking. Tick tock, tick tock, time’s running fast and there’s no stopping it. We’re in 1975, Ray turned 31 the 21st of June that year. So there's a fair chance he wrote this one while still 30… I'd bet he did, because it’s a coming of age song, (almost) concluding a coming of age LP. Turning 30, becoming adult and deciding to change. To move forward and stop "looking in the past". We all know lots of songs like that, but most Anglo-Saxon probably won't know one of my favorite: a French tune by Maxime Le Forestier and Julien Clerc, called J’ai eu trente ans ("I turned 30"), in which the guy says farewell to his childhood sensations. It seems to me Ray shared the same feeling : 30 is the age where you bid farewell to your childhood, not your youth. Which in effect is the main idea of the two bookend tunes of this record : Schooldays and No More Looking Back.

    You can link the idea to the LP story arc or to the Davies bros life experience, both Dave's and Ray's lost loves belonging to "yesterday" – this word complete with that wonderful ethereal chord change. But the real beauty of it is Ray links it to the Kinks’ music, the band itself. This time, it’s over. From now on, there will be no more preservation fantasies (or nightmares), no more old friends (we'll check this along the way with @Brian x!), no more old cafés, no more used-to-bes, no more where-are-they-nows, no more regrets. Or not as many. And of course, Ray expresses it in the most modern sound the Kinks ever used on record up to that point, right after the gospel-y 50’s (I insist) arpeggios of The Last Assembly. This is a very astute move, another proof of Ray's awareness of what his band stood for, what his work was all about, what it represented to many fans and the pages he had to forcefully turn not to become a nostalgia act, in the year nostalgia acts really started to happen. And he put his words into action, which gives this song a pivotal place in the Kinks’s catalogue. Change of label, change of attitude, change of sound (to a certain extent), never looking back to that aspect of the band’s music (well, almost never : Did Ya, I’m looking at you). It’s a farewell song and a disclaimer. Some fans may get off here, the boat will sail on but on a different ocean, and with new horizons. That's the way I see the two "no more looking back" choruses. The first, tired and defeated, resigned, sung with a fatalistic detachment. And the second, urgent, defiant, impatient and agitated. This is the only true finale, in my opinion. They're on their way and I'm on board, ready to embark on new Kinks adventures.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2022
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  8. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Spot on mate.

    I had never considered Ray's age, and being thirty gives added poignancy.
    Also the contrast between Schooldays and No More Looking Back hadn't struck me, but that is a really good observation too.
  9. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    "No More Looking Back". This so obviously the best track on the album that I'm almost tempted to say I wish Ray had kept it for another project and forgotten about doing "Schoolboys In Disgrace". The song definitely works as a stand alone track, you certainly don't need to know the Dave & Sue story, it could be about any relationship - including Ray's marriage!

    You're going to hear this a lot but it doesn't sound like the Kinks - well not any Kinks I was familiar with until I actually sat down and listened to the Arista albums. Not only that but when I hear the vocal in the first verse - especially the "I see thousands of faces before me" line I think of ... the Who!
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  10. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    As for the album as a whole, if I say it's my least favourite Kinks album to date that makes it sound like an unmitigated disaster but it isn't. The plus points are that it's very well played and produced and seems less stuck in the early 70s - the fact that I'm not much of a fan of this particular on the cusp of punk/new wave era is my problem. Apart from the 50s pastiches that are scattered throughout the album, which I can't be bothered with, the songs are well written and arranged, they just don't excite me much. I've said my piece on the concept, which I think is trite in the extreme and a waste of Ray's time and talents - knowing the backstory helps but not enough.
  11. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    No More Looking Back
    @Mark says it so well. I also can't find a single thing about this song that I dislike. It's perfectly formed in its music, lyrics and singing and is a real standout on the album. And if I were putting together a '70s Kinks' playlist this would definitely be on it. I said at the beginning that I thought Schooldays would have made a good final song but I can see now that it's too different in sentiment to No More Looking Back so they would have clashed. Still, this would have been a great place to end the album rather than the redundant Finale.

    As for the album as a whole, my feelings are mixed. I didn't want to buy into the school concept which means I can't commit to those songs in the way others might. Even so, a bit like Ray/Norman in Soap Opera, songs as good as No More Looking Back and the Hard Way make it all worthwhile.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2022
  12. pantofis

    pantofis Senior Member

    Berlin, Germany
    "No More Looking Back" The best about this track for me is the intro with the brooding electric piano and the harmony guitars which combined perfectly evokes the sense of evening and things getting darker. The pre-chorus waters the track slightly down for me but it delivers at the end again when Ray takes the upper octave to solidify his point.
    The Education reprise seems unnecessary to me. In my opinion the only time a reprise of this kind really works is on Wings' Band On The Run right after 1985. Education seems to be a lame attempt to do that.

    After analyzing these songs day by day, my opinion of the album as a whole hasn't changed much. Some songs seem to cancel each other out and there's still that sensation that the mood has become colder. Only "The Hard Way" seems to really stand out. The preceding albums still have a more warm and inviting aura of a summer camp play. This one seems more suited for a stormy night.
  13. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    No More Looking Back:
    Intro is radically different from anything I’ve heard from The Kinks to date. Unrecognizable as a Kinks song but undeniably 70s.

    It begins with a pensive, melancholic introduction that somehow I already know will lead to the words, “walking along…” (strange, but true!). And then twin guitars.

    Vocals? Hmm, I think this is similar to parts of the Preservation, perhaps like ‘When A Solution Comes.’ “Is it something playing tricks with my eyes,” guitars mirroring the vocal melody…again dating this to the mid-latter 70s FM Radio fodder.

    Backed by heavy use of the organ, guitars, Ray suddenly reverts to Ray Davies of The Kinks voice with “and just when I think you’re out of my head.” Yep, I guess it is The Kinks, at least briefly.

    I can’t get over the twin guitars. It’s nicely executed, very smooth…but I just don’t associate Kinks music sounding this mainstream. Bass lines, towards the end, by the way, sound like Uriah Heep. “You’re not really there because you belong to yesterday.” Heepy Bass.

    Do I like the song? Yes, in a background music sort of way. Is it a playlister? Possibly on a newly created list (I had it under consideration initially but dropped it later).
  14. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    You mentioned "smooth" and that's one of the first words that come to my mind comparing this song with earlier Kinks songs or even the others on this album. It's really polished and I think that's where we see a Kinks style that we haven't seen much of before. There was always a rough edge to their songs or at least a sense that things could easily go off the rails. No More Looking Back is almost too perfect in comparison. I believe the pinnacle of the polished Kinks (or nadir if you don't like it) is the Sleepwalker album which I expect @Zeki will dislike. But they returned to a rougher-edged style in subsequent albums - which I think was a good thing.
  15. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I’ve scribbled down some thoughts and planned to flesh things out this a.m. but it’s easier to just say that you’ve pretty much articulated my feelings about this album.
  16. GarySteel

    GarySteel Bastard of old

    Molde, Norway
    I didn't cry in either of my grandmothers funerals. But this... :shake::confused::eek:
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  17. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I put that line in just for you.
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  18. GarySteel

    GarySteel Bastard of old

    Molde, Norway
    You rascal you.
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  19. The late man

    The late man Forum Resident

    Thanks Avid Diskojoe. Still, I maintain that the expulsion is not explicit in the lyrics (though possibly implied in The Hard Way), even if Dave is aware that his story is part of the inspiration for the album. It could be that Flash was caned, publicly humiliated, and then reintegrated to finish his cursus. Then at the Last Assembly, the good and bad memories are blending in a last show of nostalgia. Ite missa est.

    Schoolboys in Disgrace - A Counter-Analysis

    To me, the Schoolboys in Disgrace concept and narrative is perfectly consistent, maybe more than Soap Opera's. Provided that you accept Ray's assertion that this is about Flash's youth. On the whole, this is about the way the school system as it stood at the time of Ray's childhood could produce mental health issues and generate perverts. As Avid Fortuleo and others have shown, all the song's lyrics mix up good and bad, hope and disappointment, costs and benefits, pleasure and pain, love and crime. Teachers exhibit their prestige, grounded in the higher values and promises of Education; but confronted with a real educational challenge - an underage boy has an affair with an underage girl - their only response is violence and humiliation, the most anti-education forces you can think of. Between the violent society of teenagers and the rash behaviour of the so-called educators, double-binds are at large in the schoolyard like pickpockets in the London Tube.

    Flash gets out of this moral maelstrom both toughened and crooked, with brute force and clanism the only values he retains. A beggar, a hypocrite, hatred reigns o'er him, and so does love, in a brutish, competitive way. Education taught him the power of seduction, love as a battlefield, the strength and versatility of the group, the importance of holding the whip. His perversion is a wild, free and unstable one, and will prove no match for the structured and calculated brand of the same that Mr Black will incarnate. This record is more successful as a prequel to Preservation than is usually stated, in my opinion. I feel it does a better job of explaining how Mr Flash's character turned into Mr Evil than Revenge of the Sith does in accounting for Anakin Skywalker's transformation into Darth Vader. (OK, that one is a bit far-fetched).

    Headmaster is eloquent in this perspective. Someone noticed how Flash both humiliates himself and views himself as a victim. This is typical of the double-bind he's confronted to. He acted foolishly, but out of love. In the previous song, the girl has turned against him. In Headmaster, the institution punishes him, according to rules imposed from above, but that must appear to him devoid of all justice and logic. Moved by fear and a survival instinct, he grovels at the feet of the Headmaster, in the hope of lessening the punishment. But deep down inside he feels he's a victim. All his life, he will carry on that way, lying on the surface to ensure he reaches his purposes, while feeling entitled to the status of righteous victim by the injustice he's endured. And all the while, he’ll be seeking for revenge, in the shape of towering triumph over his next of kin, mimicking the Headmaster's dominant position.

    In The Hard Way, I feel a hint of retrospective elation, as if Flash was caricaturing the words of his former executor, implicitly saying "well, look how well I've done" ! In retrospect, words like :

    Well, you'll do it your way and I'll do it my way
    And we'll see who's the one to survive
    You'll find that with no foundation
    Or qualifications
    There's no way that you can get by

    ...have kind of a Joe Jackson's "On Your Radio" feel about them, don't they? (Note that this interpretation works with Dave’s story as well).

    The Last Assembly shows us how Flash says goodbye to his childhood and embraces his peculiar brand of clanic sentimentality, where the tyranny of immediate feeling precludes any moral goals, aiming beyond good and evil, blending love and hate.

    In today’s song, we see that the love wound that Flash received during his schooldays will be long to heal; but he won’t overcome it by turning it into a bitter-sweet memory, with the bitter slowly fading and the sweet taking over, as most of us do; he will try to bury it, to turn his eyes away, and he will live forever in a pastless present, vowing a cult to the future and forgetting all that is gone - which is also all that makes us human.

    Of course, this last song can also be seen as a description of Dave's or Ray's hearts healing with time, and I love that interpretation too. Trouble is, if you view Schoolboys as a concept album about Dave, it doesn't make much sense. As the prequel of Flash's story, it does, though. Side one introduces the school universe and its ambivalence – ambivalence of our memories, of the way the school mob can harm kids one moment and deify them the next, of the way education elevates us up to a point and confuses us from there on - and the very cynical view of Education in the song of the same name could very well be held by Flash. Then comes the story proper, of love, disappointment, humiliation, punishment. The Flash that emerges from there is a damaged ego, who's been taught distorted values by experience. Rather than fetichising the past, whether to love or loathe it, he chooses to deny everything that happened before and to head straight for his destiny as a predator.

    I'm not sure I've managed to convince myself enough to be convincing, but I do believe it can hold. The emotional nature of many of the songs, though, makes me think that they were composed with Ray and Dave's past in mind, and express things on the brothers' relationship level. So you can listen to the whole as a consistent but cynical story (Flash’s youth), or as a collection of loosely related, but fairly sincere and moving personal songs.

    A third way of approaching it would be as a general overview of the school system and its contradictions, showing us that most of what it teaches us has little to do with the textbooks, and that we survive it rather than we succeed in it. A collection of impressions that school left on little Ray.
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  20. Endicott

    Endicott Forum Resident

    No More Looking Back

    I consider this probably the most singular and unique song in the Kinks' long history. The intro sounds like the typically slick L.A. studio pop of the era, in keeping with the song's bland title, and you worry that it's going to be a snoozer. But Dave then swoops in with a guitar break and rescues things before any Pablo Cruise comparisons can take root, and frames the initial low-key verses with some effective scattered fills. The intensity builds up (I love the way Dave almost exactly tracks Ray's vocal in this section) and then the song really comes to life, as Ray lets loose his anguish while pulling off a Village-Green-worthy melodic phrase ("but lately, I've been going to all the places that we once knew..."), accompanied by more piercing work by Dave. He and Dave kick it up yet another notch ("and just when I think you're out of my head..."), and after this catharsis, Ray temporarily calms down, only to go through the trauma again. He finishes trying to convince himself (and us) that he really means it this time -- no more pining for her, whatever the triggers.

    Unusually for Ray, his delivery is completely devoid of its customary bemused detachment, snarkiness, or irony -- this is a right-on-target, so-direct expression of his frustrations at his inability to put a broken relationship behind him. Seldom has Ray sounded so raw, so unguarded. It had been only a couple of years since Rasa walked out, and he was probably still processing the whole experience. If "Waterloo Sunset" is his most beautiful song, "Mr. Reporter" his nastiest, and "Shangri-La" his grandest, "No More Looking Back" is his most soul-baring.

    I can't think of any other item in the Kinks' catalogue that sounds like this track. Truly sui generis.


    Educationeducationeducationeducationeducationeducationeducationeducation dum-dum-dum-dum-ta-da-da-da! Cute if silly capper to an outstanding album.
  21. I think you identified the highlights of 'Schoolboy' correctly. I enjoy this one more than the 3 previous RCA albums. The ratio between the good and filler places this near the top of the RCA albums for me (behind 'Muswell' and 'Show-Biz').
  22. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line The Under Asst East Coast White Label Promo Man

    No More Looking Back

    3 quick plays and only read our headmaster's review which I really enjoyed and I must say made me want to love the song!

    Oh brother the harmonized guitars you can bett remind me of the Allmans and I actually found some of the brief single string breakages remind me of Pete Townshend especially from 2:55 to Dave also, "Going Mobile?"

    I love Ray's lyrics as it is all so true to life and if you can't let go of these thoughts of people and emotions that had been a strong presence in your life you compromise your future outlook.
    Another powerful and I think overlooked song on a love from the past clouding our present is 1989's Old Love by Eric Clapton that is an unexpected gem, especially live!

    If we follow Ray's advice and apply that literally to the LP's front cover it says our protagonist should look forward, think forward and things will better fall into place and you will stand a far better chance of not being as frequently hurt by your actions and be not looking back for that padal, drilled board or strap!
  23. The late man

    The late man Forum Resident

    I thought about this song the minute I read the number "30" in your comment. It's not a very famous song. I love it, though I find it mildly depressing. Maybe because it reminds me of my own 30th birthday, that is already so long gone... The thing is, No More Looking Back sounds just as depressing to me, but I like it less, both musically and lyrically. All in all, @Mark very eloquently listed the reasons why I'm not so fond of this song. It's the first real Arista-sounding song, and to me the Arista years are akin to adulthood, something I had to accept, occasionnaly appreciate, but mostly endure with patience. Adult life can be great if you manage to forget about childhood; and post-1975 Kinks - and post 1975 music in general - can have their moments if you put away the greatness of past achievements. But the older I get, the less I feel inclined to follow Ray's advice, which is the same as Persephone's counsel to Orpheus : I can't help looking back.

    The bridge of this song, though, is great, and somedays it saves the song for me. I need to have a lot of inner energy to accept the new sound as it is.

    The Education reprise is not necessarily a bad idea in itself, it's just bad music. So it has to go. The problem is, the way the end of No More Looking Back is mixed, it doesn't work so well as a closer to me, but I don't really know why nor how to fix it.
  24. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    It's an odd one for me. The highlights are high, but as an album it just doesn't quite mesh for me.
    I'll have to revisit it with @The late man 's overview in mind, and see how it flies
  25. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line The Under Asst East Coast White Label Promo Man


    A cool riff is wasted here as from there it is all down hill.
    Yes Mark this feels anti climactic and perhaps worse, unnecessary!
    An odd finale.

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