Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.
30s and looking back: Not Kinks related but reading @Fortuleo ’s commentary has me thinking back to a conversation that I had just as I was nearing that age. I was living in Tokyo and had deftly (!) turned the subject to music and was more than likely prattling on about rock music. I was then brought up short by the observation, “We Japanese turn to jazz after reaching 30 years of age.” Speaking of having a stick up his ****! Ha! (I hate that all-encompassing “We Japanese,” I’m -speaking-on-behalf-of-the-nation bs. And it gets used a lot.)
Further non-Kinksian thought: looking back. That’s my thing now as I’m a month away from reaching 64. I’m seeking out stories of my peers and their parents who ended up as ex-pats in Japan. Actually, have been on a mission for the past 6-7 years. Digging into the past.
Okay, I’m ready for The Kinks again.
So not scrapheap city!
Yeah, it ruins the mood. Obnoxious.
No More Looking Back
Musically brilliant in both its construction and execution. Mark nailed it so I've nothing to add there.
Lyrically the song, which I think is a superb stand alone (who among us has not been haunted by a past love at lome point?), also highlights either the inconsistency of the story as some have noted, or its coherence and unifying thread.
As I noted yesterday with Schooldays and The Last Assembly, we have nostalgic bookends framing real trauma. I like the suggestion that this is really an outgrowth of cluging together Dave's difficulties and Ray's Village Green-ish nostalgia. I don't see this as a huge disconnect though; the story is perfectly capable of sharing points of view. The school experience is broader than any one individual.
Now tying that thought to this song as an epilogue, we find that while The Last Assembly has us looking back fondly at the good parts, especially friendships, apparently having set aside the trauma, years down the road, there's still one thing we just can't shake. We thought we were over it but were not.
No More Looking Back
The words are unambiguous and resolute, but do we really believe it?
I waffle on this. Sometimes I think it's a fine little exclamation point in the album, other times I think totally unnecessary, even detrimental. Lift the needle! (after all, can anything really follow No More Looking Back?)
I’ve decided to close the Second Chapter playlist. Anything from Schoolboys on will go onto a third list. Here’s where Second Chapter ends up:
The Kinks Second Chapter Playlist:
4)Sitting In My Hotel
5)Supersonic Rocket Ship
7)Sweet Lady Genevieve
8)One Of The Survivors
9)Where Are They Now?
11)When A Solution Comes
14)Ducks On The Wall
14 songs/58 minutes
Especially a "reprise" looking back to a previous track! But it may be the whole ironic point Ray's making : no more looking back if I can help it… except I probably can't.
All of this made me remember a little anecdote. When I got the Schoolboys in Disgrace CD, sometimes in 1990/1991, I soon fell in love with Schooldays. No More Looking Back was another immediate favorite but for some reason, on my way to discovering more Kinks records, I didn’t play the LP much and then neglected it (except for the opening song) in the months/years that followed.
Cut to some years later, I wake up one morning with this twin-guitar riff turning in my head. It's there, fully formed, but I don't recognize it, I can't place it. Where does it come from? For days, weeks, months, it's bugging me constantly. I hadn't the slightest idea of where to look for it and it was driving me nuts. I sang it to friends all around but they didn't recognize it. Anyway, it took me months (no kidding) and I suspect most of you stevehoffmanites will understand the ordeal I went through, until I eventually had a “Eureka” moment and started rediscovering the song, then the whole album.
The point of the anecdote being for you to commiserate with me, obviously, but also to underline the hybrid nature of this song, as noted by all the quoted post above. At the time, I would've never placed it as a Kinks tune at all. I knew it sounded “classic rock” – but not quite. Which is the whole point, isn’t it ? I had the riff in my head, and maybe a vague sense of the soundtrack-like groove and slick sound, so I was looking in all kinds of contradictory directions, early-70’s Isaac Hayes, late-70’s Gerry Rafferty, things that should never be mentioned in the same sentence… Frankly, not many valid comparisons come to mind as far as pivotal tunes are concerned in any artist’s discography, songs deliberately designed to close a chapter in a band’s career while opening the next. Well, maybe this one… Something Better Beginning by a cool little band you might know : the Kinks.
In Ken Emerson's essay on the Kinks in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll (the first thing that I ever read about the Kinks), he noted that many of Ray's songs are directed to people who are not around or who are on the verge of leaving him. "No More Looking Back" is definitely one of those songs. Unlike "Days", where the protagonist fondly remembers and will always fondly remember the time spent together with the other person, this song wants to brutally forget everything that happened before and to plow through life determined not to remember anything about it.
Musically, this song could have been on Sleepwalker with no problem. The Fender Rhodes piano announces it as a mid 70s creation and there's nothing 50s about it. It's a very contemporary song for its time.
I got nothing to say about "Finale", OK
As for Schoolboys, I've always thought it was a solid three star album, with "Education" being the only sore spot for me. I think that it could have been replaced with a studio version of "Slum Kids". "The Hard Way" and "No More Looking Back" are the standouts for me. I really didn't think much of it as a Mr. Flash prequel, although Avid The late (Not last) man's analysis was rather elequent. Again, a solid album, but a necessary end to the concept years, with the Arista years just around the corner.
No More Looking Back
This song is new to me over the past couple weeks. I believe I saw the YouTube clip a few years ago, but that was it. This is one of those songs that has REALLY grown on me and now I think this is one of their best songs post 1971.
No More... looking back... this, from the guy who spent YEARS looking back at the Village Green, the British Empire, childhood friends and past loves (Donna still doesn't come back to that café anymore for her afternoon tea). But this is almost sung in denial -- Ray insisting that there's going to be no more looking back, but that is all he's done -- even in this song. There is something beautifully ironic about the line "And just when I think you're out of my head" because even if that was true, having the thought that she's no longer there in fact means that she is there -- because you are thinking of her not being there. It's almost like playing a cruel trick on someone by telling them "try not to think of an apple" and watch them fail miserably.
This is just one of the best set of lyrics that Ray has written, in my opinion. Rhyming "before me" with "life story" is something I don't think I've ever heard, and it flows so naturally.
The first bridge section when Ray sings, "and just when I think that I'm free of you", I noticed THAT is when the Rasa-like backing vocals come in. These are not the theatrical backing female voices. This is...dare I say, Something Else. And then with "and just when I think you're out of my head", Mick switches to a double-time snare hit and just drives the point home, and Ray then accentuates "every" bar and café and driver, etc etc etc... It's stunning.
The first "chorus" shows another great songwriting trick from Ray. The smooth intro electric piano is actually the first chorus. Similarly, at the beginning, you think that harmonized guitar line is just a guitar hook, but now, it is ALSO used a pre-bridge with vocals at the end of the first bridge. It reminds of the structure of Waterloo Sunset and Sunny Afternoon. The intro phrases are used as the backing of the chorus, and then perfectly guide into future verses/bridges. At the end of this first chorus, we have Ray telling himself that its "got to be hard" not looking back anymore.. with a different set of lyrics and delivery over Dave's harmonized guitar line.
Then, we get the second bridge section that starts with:
Perhaps someday I'll stop needing you
Then maybe one day I'll be free of you
There is a bit of a change-up in the order of lines here. Again, I love the rhyme of "needing you" with "free of you"... but then when "and just when I think you're out of my head" we get the double-time snare hits from Mick, but notice there is NOT any of the Rasa-like backing vocals. It's just Ray and the snare hits hitting him over and over. And then the dagger in the heart comes in again with the realization that "you're not really there 'cos you belong to yesterday."
The second chorus, raised that octave and raised that intensity, with all the horns/saxes and noises/sounds/layers in the background... to me, that is all the stuff occupying Ray's head. Kinda like the psychedelic swirl from Sitting by the Riverside. Ray is trying to defiantly overcome that and insist to himself that there will be no more looking back.
I love this song. I will be playing this many many times for years to come.
The Dave twist on this album sidetracked me a fair bit, but the Ray perspective here is big. I particularly appreciate the Rasa reference you have here.... I hadn't even noticed that.
Fell in love w/ the Kinks when I'd just moved to Japan. Back in the US a long time but still have lots of gaijin friends who live there (mostly Tokyo). Hit me up if you want some references/stories for your mission.
"No More Looking Back"
Many great comments already made by everyone! This definitely gets you ready for the next album. It's like they are telling you in advance to look forward and don't expect the same Kinks of yesterday. Someone mentioned that every instrument has a hook and I agree. Dave's licks are the glue that seal it all together. I love that they end with some horns to say goodbye to the RCA years. "Just when I think you're out of my head, I hear a song that you sang, and a book that you read." This is such a great vocal and lyric. Ray knows that he has to move forward and play more by the rules if he wants to keep his band together and sell records. This morning I am feeling a deep sadness in these lyrics. The fact that Ray had just turned 30 and was going through a rough time makes them even more poignant. I don't think there could be a better song to close this chapter of The Kinks. The "Finale" doesn't bother me because "No More Looking Back" seems to have an abrupt ending. They could have done a longer fade out on that song, but this neatly brings everything full circle and wraps it up. Another great album in what is one of the most impressive album runs in history.
Schoolboys In Disgrace
I may have ranked this one over Soap Opera a month ago, but that all changed when I realized how much I loved Soap Opera. I have always kind of viewed them as sister albums anyhow, just like all the RCA albums. We have six albums that can all be grouped into three sections, Muswell/Showbiz, Act 1/Act 2, Soap Opera/Schoolboys. I thought about attempting to rank them, but a few of them are so close that I find it would be pointless. I do say that the Preservation albums are the high point for me. This is where my uncontested devotion and love for the band ends, but I look forward to coming out of the next few albums with a deeper appreciation for them. The next two albums already fare pretty well, but after that I will be standing on shaky ground. I am sad that we finally came to the end of my favorite Kinks eras! A "Stormy Sky" is on the horizon, but "Life Goes On".
"Yesterday's gone, that's a fact, now there's no more looking back".
"No More Looking Back" is an entertaining listen - there's a lot going on in this track. At the outset, I hear the same tick tock drum sound that begins the Stones' "Time Waits For No One", then some prog twin guitars and then into a gospel tinged vocal ensemble. The message is surprisingly close to a song by @mark winstanley 's other big thread subject - Bob Seger - "Lookin' Back" which was on a very popular live album around this time. And "Finale" - unnecessary perhaps but never knew Keith Richards played on a Kinks record - I am sure I could play "Finale" for real Stones fans and convince them that he did based on the dead-on imitation Dave pulls off.
No More Looking Back
"If ever you think about/the happiest days of your life"; "How well I remember/that very first love affair"; "No more looking back/no more living in the past."
Full circle, and makes me think this whole album could be about how we/Ray struggle with memory.
"I won't forget a single day, believe me." Won't or can't?
It starts with Ray, surprise surprise, walking down a crowded street -- how many times have we heard that before? He's in the "observer" mode from Waterloo Sunset and Sitting in My Hotel (songs that also feel like uncharacteristically, intensely personal statements). And alone again, naturally.
As I noted about The First Time we Fall in Love, great observers generally have excellent memories, and vivid memories can be overwhelming. Were schooldays good or bad, is education torture or enlightenment, was Jack an idiot dunce or the coolest cat in school? The memories replay in your head over and over, they haunt you but (or because) you can never untangle them all to make sense of them.
And your "friends" (or in this case, your lover), the people who witnessed it all, who might help you process it, are all gone. You see them everywhere, you remember them every time you pick up a book or hear a song, but they've moved on or moved away or died. In "All my Friends Were There," the old cafe is full of his old friends & their welcoming, exculpatory laughter; in this song, no one's really in the old cafe, just memories -- it's all an "illusion" (not the real reality).
Time to leave it all behind, to stop trying to make sense of it. Time to move on.
There's a lot of Kinks to unpack in this song, even leaving aside the Dave/Sue story and what's coming up for the band.
Dave sounds like a songbird that's been let out of its cage. His guitar work is intuitive and exuberant, but perfectly controlled, never intrusive. Ray's voice is raw and honest, no impersonations or masks -- he even makes a couple of sotto voce comments ("gotta be hard," "yeah, look straight ahead") on what he seems to be going through at the moment he's singing this.
A couple of side notes: When I was listening to this last night, shuffle brilliantly played Juke Box Music afterwards. & I noticed that the slight strain I hear in Ray's voice on the higher notes in No More Looking Back is gone. Not sure what it means or if it presages a new singing style but it was very striking.
Also, I tried out @Ex-Fed's experiment this morning, playing it for my 12 year old on the way to school. She's got a lot of '60s Kinks on her spotify playlist (along with tons of riot grrrrrl and indie punk) so I started with "some people think this is a total departure, some people think it's the same Kinks with an updated sound." She asked me to play it a second time, then said "I love it. I think it's one of my favorite Kinks songs." "So," I said, "no difference?" "Nope. None at all."
The beginning of the song still jars me, though, moored to my historical-musical context. Sounds like Atlanta Rhythm Section or something. Very, very happy when the guitars kick in.
Schoolboys in Disgrace
Soap Opera's still my favorite from the (let's say) Everybody's in Showbiz through Schoolboys period, but this thread has bumped Schoolboys up for me. If I put aside the Flash backstory conceit and the whole examination-of-the-educational-system thing and think about it as a meditation on memory, it feels much more coherent. And my kids' demands for repeated plays of Jack the Idiot Dunce have made the whole exercise worth it, anyway.
With Ray (and I admit that my primary focus with the Kinks isn't on the rest of the band, or the music, but on Ray's emotional journey), I see a seamless continuation of just about everything that's come before, and finally a declaration of future intent. It isn't just the end of a certain Kinks sound, or the concept album era, or a record label -- it's looking back on youth and putting it away (the 30 benchmark does seem very relevant).
If your friends could see you now, what would they say? Maybe it doesn't matter anymore.
And yes, it's still unmistakably the Kinks. No other band, no other lyricist could pull off an album like this, or for that matter Sleepwalker or Misfits. As my daughter and @Ex-Fed's wife suggested, guitar effects and keyboard choices aren't why I love this band. Schoolboys is a sad, strange, emotionally conflicted set of songs from a great artist. I no longer think of it as "lazy" or an indication of an imminent "sell out." It's a crucial part of Ray's long, tortured story.
I have it (tentatively) broken out a bit differently as I’m attaching Muswell to Village Green. Still working on clever names.
I’ll have to see. Don’t know yet but I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be the same.
Mark’s had many big thread subjects! Is Seger still on-going?
…which is decidedly different.
PS. I think this is the song the beginning of No More Looking Back reminds me of --
No, we finished off Bob.... let me rephrase that lol.
I think Genesis, Rush, Elvis and Heep were the big ones.
I keep meaning to start another, but I'm too kinky at the moment
No More Looking Back
So much intelligent discussion on this track. I can add nothing. It is a long time favorite of mine. It would have fit perfectly on Sleepwalker.
As for Schoolboys itself, half of it is excellent, really good stuff. The other half, not so much in my opinion. Still, like most inks albums, it is better than most can pull off.
This thread is almost exclusively my only forum activity now. I’d be interested in a Decemberists deep dive but am hoping that no one starts it before the concluding days of this discussion.
Hmmm ... perhaps.
I need to get into those albums.
Hazards of love is stunning, but I haven't listened to the others nearly as much.
9 albums. Peanuts by your standards.
On shuffle…’David Watts’! Now we’re talking.
“No More Looking Back” – (I'm posting this before reading other comments). This was an important song to me the First Time I Fell in Love, so it has inspired wordy thoughts. While this song could tenuously be a reference to the lost love in the Schoolboys storyline, “The Last Assembly” feels more like the end of the album, and this more like a strong, unrelated song Ray decided to include.
This was a standout on my broken heart soundtrack after the end of my first real love affair at age 20. It was 1977 and The Kinks (including this album) were a recent discovery; “Days” also made the playlist. However, until recently I had not closely listened to the song in quite some time.
Oh, how many beloved songs, films, books that were once so meaningful and fulfilling at some point in our lives have faded over time from overexposure, or through our maturity, or just years of livin’, no longer giving us the high or emotional succor we once enjoyed and took to heart and took for granted? They are now once-precious companions that sadly no longer inspire and thrill and impress us, whose newly diminished state of importance leaves us with feelings of disappointment, lost youth and enthusiasm, or sorrow about aging or a hardened heart.
From our mature vantage point of wisdom, we are forced to dismiss them as youthful but transient fancies. We can recognize they were joyous soundtracks or precious lifelines at a happy or tender time, but must concede they weren’t strong enough works to withstand the test of time. We sadly file them under “Guess you had to be there at the time,” primarily useful for pulling off the shelf to conjure up those specific times and memories but no longer able to perform their magic in real time.
Thus, it was with some trepidation that I revisited “No More Looking Back.” To my relief, I still found it a superb song. I can still hold it to my heart. Yes, it did conjure up memories in my personal history, of that first breakup and especially of a divorce in 1993. I’m reminded how emotionally unpredictable and treacherous post-breakups can be, and how the song brought hope and encouragement to move forward when I was feeling hurt and empty and aching and ruminative and regretful and angry.
But beyond that, apart from my memories and personal associations, I found it to be a well-written piece by someone who knows these feelings well. “And just when I thought you were out of my head…” indeed. With a little time after a heartbreak, we can be doing fine, mostly, at least on the surface, going about our business of daily living without minute-to-minute obsession.
But out of the blue, a memory surfaces, unrequested and undesired, or an unexpected encounter with an emotional landmine from the past – a record she played or a book that she read - blows us out of commission. And suddenly we can’t help but immerse ourselves in it. We lie there helplessly for a while, unable to get up or to do anything but endure the pounding from blow after blow of memories and aches that reopen our wounds and leave us disconsolate.
Then, eventually, maybe because of the encouragement of a special song, we manage to pick ourselves up. Gotta be strong, we tell ourselves. We resume crawling, then walking, ever slowly, up the hill toward the light, clinging to the hope (if not belief) that things will get better, and we mustn’t look down over the edge of the emotional cliff we are carefully treading along. No more looking back, we tell ourselves. We know it’s gonna be hard, but forward we go nonetheless.
Most of us have been there to some extent. It could also be applied to the loss of any loved one, not just a romantic relationship.
Musically, I won’t dissect it, but I like everything about it, particularly the different sections reflecting sudden mood shifts (“Is it something playing tricks with my eyes?” “But lately, I’ve been going through…”). The song picks up energy on the coda, and Ray sings the title more emphatically, as the determination to move forward grows. From the vantage point of 2022, its production sounds very mid-70s, even yacht rock-ish, but that’s not a problem for me.
There’s no question I still have a large slab of personal history and sentiment mixed in, but it’s easily in my Kinks Top 15. Rating: 5/5
“Finale” – Not much to say, really. I suppose Ray wanted to end the album on a high note. Too short and inconsequential for a rating.
I will comment on the album later.
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