Don't Look Back (Boston song)

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"Don't Look Back"
Single by Boston
from the album Don't Look Back
B-side"The Journey"
ReleasedAugust 2, 1978
GenreHard rock, progressive rock
Length5:58 (Album Version);
4:05 (Radio Edit)
Songwriter(s)Tom Scholz
Producer(s)Tom Scholz
Boston singles chronology
"Peace of Mind"
"Don't Look Back"
"A Man I'll Never Be"

"Don't Look Back" is a song written by Tom Scholz that was first released by Boston in 1978 as the title track to their second album, Don't Look Back. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the band's biggest hits.[1]

Writing and recording[edit]

Although the first song on the album, "Don't Look Back" was its final song to be written and recorded.[2] According to Scholz "It was one of those things where everything clicked. I didn't even record a demo for that song. I came up with chord changes, melody, and the arrangement and put it right on the master tape."[2] Brad Delp sang all the vocals, both lead and backing.[3][4] According to Scholz, Fran Sheehan only played a few bass notes on the song and Barry Goudreau played the solo guitar parts in the intro and outro.[3][4][5] Scholz praised Goudreau's lead guitar playing at the end of the song.[3] Scholz also stated that he made more than 60 edits to Sib Hashian's drum track in order to get the performance he wanted.[3]

Lyrics and music[edit]

Paul Grein of Billboard cited "Don't Look Back" as an example of Boston's skill at changing tempos, stating that it "actually stops midway through and then rebuilds gradually to its peak of intensity."[6] Rolling Stone Magazine critic Tim Emerson described the lyrics as "optimistic about the road that lies ahead."[7] But Emerson also states that some of the optimism in the lyrics is contradicted in other songs, specifically comparing the use of the line "I'm much too strong not to compromise" in this song with the much more pessimistic line "I can't get any stronger" in its follow up single "A Man I'll Never Be."[7] In the liner notes to the 2006 reissue of Don't Look Back, David Wild described the title song as a "beautiful barnburner in the proud tradition of Boston's classic "More Than A Feeling."[8] AXS contributor Bill Craig stated that it contained all the components people expected from Boston: "buzzing guitars, towering vocals, and lyrics that connected with young listeners."[9]


Billboard Magazine rated the song one of the best cuts on Don't Look Back.[10] Greil Marcus rated the song as one of three masterpieces on Don't Look Back, along with "A Man I'll Never Be" and "Used to Bad News."[11][12] Allmusic critic Tim Sendra described its riff as "killer," saying that it was similar to that in "More Than a Feeling."[13][14] The New Rolling Stone Album Guide critic Paul Evans felt that "Don't Look Back" was the one song on its album that could "hold its own" on Boston's first album.[15] Ultimate Classic Rock critic Eduardo Rivadavia similarly stated that it "met every expectation set by Boston’s nearly perfect debut."[16] Ultimate Classic Rock critic Michael Gallucci rated it the band's 4th all time best song.[17] AXS contributor Bill Craig similarly rated it Boston's 3rd greatest song, describing it as an "arena rock style sonic blast."[9] Philip Booth of the Lakeland Ledger called it one "of the most-played-by-garage-band rockers of the '70s."[18] Pete Prown and Harvey P. Newquist praised the "layers of guitar harmonies" as well as Barry Goudreau's slide guitar playing and rideout guitar solo.[19] Ottawa Journal critic Mike Voslin rated the song as a live performance highlight.[20]

CBS Records reported that the "Don't Look Back" single sold more than a million copies in the first two weeks or so following its release.[21] The single peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1978.[22] It also reached the Top 10 in Canada, peaking at #6.[23] It reached #14 in the Netherlands but only reached #43 in the UK.[24][25] "Don't Look Back" was included on Boston's Greatest Hits album in 1997.[26] "Don't Look Back" is the band's second biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100, after 1986's Amanda, which hit No. 1.

Chart history[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The song was used in the pilot episode of the ABC drama series October Road, which aired on March 15, 2007, around a week after the death of Boston's lead singer, Brad Delp.[36][37]

The song was performed by the remaining original members of Boston on August 19, 2007 at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston, Mass. for the tribute concert to Delp. It was the last song of the concert.[38]


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Eighth Edition. Record Research. p. 76.
  2. ^ a b Rosen, Craig (1996). The Billboard Book of Number One Albums. Billboard Books. p. 230. ISBN 0823075869.
  3. ^ a b c d Scholz, Tom (October 29, 2002). "A letter from Tom Scholz to all who have supported BOSTON". Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  4. ^ a b "Liner notes to 2006 re-release of Don't Look Back". 2006. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  5. ^ Stix, John (July 1987). "A Normal Life". Guitar Magazine. Retrieved 2017-05-17.
  6. ^ Grein, P. (September 2, 1978). "Closeup". Billboard. p. 80. Retrieved 2017-05-02.
  7. ^ a b Emerson, Ken (October 5, 1978). "Don't Look Back". Rolling Stone Magazine.
  8. ^ Wild, David (2006). "Look Back in Grandeur". Retrieved 2017-05-02.
  9. ^ a b Craig, Bill (February 18, 2017). "Top 10 best Boston songs". AXS. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  10. ^ "Top Album Picks: Spotlight". Billboard Magazine. August 26, 1978. p. 100. Retrieved 2017-05-02.
  11. ^ Marcus, Greil. New West. 4. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  12. ^ Marcus, Greil. "Real Life Rock 06/04/1979". Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  13. ^ Sendra, T. "Don't Look Back". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  14. ^ Sendra, Tim (2002). Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas, eds. All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul. Hal Leonard. p. 132. ISBN 9780879306533.
  15. ^ Evans, Paul (2004). Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon and Schuster. p. 96. ISBN 9780743201698.
  16. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo (August 2, 2015). "Revisiting Boston's Rushed Second Album, 'Don't Look Back'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  17. ^ Gallucci, Michael. "Top 10 Boston songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2017-05-02.
  18. ^ Booth, P. (October 2, 1987). "Boston Proves a Point". Lakeland Ledger. p. 5C. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  19. ^ Prown, Pete & Newquist, Harvey P. (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. Hal Leonard. p. 108. ISBN 9780793540426.
  20. ^ Voslin, Mike (August 26, 1979). "Boston: No special effects needed, hard-driving music did it all". The Ottawa Journal. p. 38. Retrieved 2017-05-03 – via
  21. ^ "Epic Muscle Pushes Boston's 2nd Album". Billboard Magazine. August 26, 1978. p. 2. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  22. ^ "Boston Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  23. ^ "RPM 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada. October 14, 1978. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  24. ^ "Boston: Ducth Charts". dutchcharts.con. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  25. ^ "Boston singles". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  26. ^ Erlewine, S.T. "Greatest Hits". Allmusic. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  27. ^ "RPM 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada. October 14, 1978. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  28. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Don't Look Back". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  29. ^ "Boston: Ducth Charts". dutchcharts.con. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  30. ^ "Boston singles". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  31. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  32. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, 30, 1978
  33. ^ "Top 200 Singles of '78 – Volume 30, No. 14, December 30 1978". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  34. ^
  35. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 30, 1978
  36. ^ "October Road Pilot Soundtracks". IMDB. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  37. ^ "October Road S1 · E1 · Pilot". TuneFind. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  38. ^ Rodman, Sarah (July 2, 2007). "Brad Delp-Boston Tribute Take Two". Retrieved 2017-05-03.

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