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

Album: Schoolboys in Disgrace
Year: 1975

FOUR YEARS LATER

For me, the albums that followed Muswell HillbilliesEverybody’s in Showbiz, Preservation Act 1, Preservation Act 2, A Soap Opera — were all duds. For whatever reason, Ray Davies had distanced himself from his songs, either via writing strictly for characters or piling instrument after instrument between himself and his listeners.

It’s all signified by the cover of Preservation Act 1: The Kinks had tripled in size while losing 2/3 of their focus.

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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3 Responses to “Certain Songs #870: The Kinks – “No More Looking Back””

  1. Ira Brooker says:

    You know my history with Soap Opera, and I’ll admit that my opinion is skewed by my personal relationship with that album, but dang it, as many times as I listen to it, I just can not hear it as anything but an excellent record. I’ll go so far as to say I prefer both Soap Opera and Schoolboys to Muswell Hillbillies or, blasphemy though it may be, Arthur.

    I fully admit that this position is indefensible.

  2. Jim Connelly says:

    May God have mercy on your soul, Ira.

  3. Ira Brooker says:

    I will, of course, acknowledge that Schoolboys has one of the worst album covers any album ever had.

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