Friday, May 5, 2017

Certain Songs #870: The Kinks – “No More Looking Back” | Medialoper

Album: Schoolboys in Disgrace
Year: 1975


For me, the concept albums that immediately followed Muswell HillbilliesEverybody’s in Showbiz, Preservation Act 1, Preservation Act 2, A Soap Opera — were all duds.

I’m sure there are gems on every one of them (I know there are on A Soap Opera, of all things) — including the one classic song from that period that some of you might be worried I’m skipping (which I’m not) — but my collective impression of them is that they’re overcluttered and shrill.

That said, I’ve always had a soft spot for 1975’s clearly transitional Schoolboys in Disgrace, which was one last concept album, but with a pared down sound that prefigured what they were going to do for the rest of the decade. And along with The Kinks Greatest Hits and Low Budget, I think it was one of the very first Kinks albums I ever bought, and I’m not really sure why.

My memory tells me that I bought it because of a good review in Circus magazine, which makes no damn sense, as it came out in 1975, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have bought it until 1978 or 1979. Anyways, despite the shitty album cover, Schoolboys in Disgrace told the story of — aw, who cares?

The important thing was the 50’s pastiches of “Jack the Idiot Dunce” and “The First Time We Fall in Love” (and the dynamic bridge of that song), the long epic “Education,” and the actual power chords of “I’m in Disgrace” and “The Hard Way,” and the album’s capper, “No More Looking Back,” which didn’t really exist within the boarding school universe of the rest of the record.

Instead, with an unexpected twin-guitar lead from Dave Davies, Ray is singing from the perspective of a much older person, er, looking back.

And just when I think you’re out of my head
I hear a song that you sang
Or see a book that you read
Then you’re in every bar
You’re in every cafe
You’re driving every car
I see you everyday
But you’re not really there
‘Cos you belong to yesterday

And while everything about “No More Looking Back” screams mid-1970s from the faux-jazzy drumbeats and electric piano that start it, to the thinnish lead guitar, there’s also real power in how Ray seems to get more and more animated as the song moves on.

No more looking back
No more living in the past
Yesterday’s gone, that’s a fact
Now there’s no more looking back
No more looking back
No more living in the past
Yesterday’s gone, that’s a fact
Now there’s no more looking back

By the final time Ray sings that, he’s doing it with such unironic conviction that you’re ready to believe that this guy who has spent most of his career looking back — at village greens, at the British Empire, at his own career — is ready to give all that up and move forward. Maybe even find himself penning another hit record or two.

Which, as it turns out, is exactly what happened.

“No More Looking Back”

“No More Looking Back” performed live

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