The Sunday Dozen: Pete Townshend

This week’s post was inevitable after last week’s Who Dozen in which I discussed how they were the soundtrack of my misspent youth. Pete Townshend’s solo albums were the soundtrack of my young adulthood. I went through a lot and got through it because of Pete’s music.

There came a certain point at which I preferred that The Who not regroup because I liked Pete’s solo stuff so much. That phase passed but they didn’t record again until the 21st Century. Pete kept grinding through 1993’s Psychoderelict but he was busy with other projects both theatrical and literary. I wish he’d made more records, but his creativity never stopped flowing.

Upon getting into The Who, I immediately identified with Townshend because we share a first name and a bad attitude. He was then and remains to this day one of the biggest influences on my world view. I suspect that I’m one of the few who would list Townshend and Gore Vidal as their major influences. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was alone in that regard. It doesn’t bother me a bit.

A name point: I’ve always been called Peter. My favorite uncle was the Pete in the family. I was just repeat. I stopped correcting people who call me Pete years ago. Hell, I wrote about one of them: Jay McCreary DBA Coach Jay. He was special so I granted him special dispensation.

Thanks Church Lady. Back to the subject at hand: Pete Townshend.

Pete was always a thrilling performer: the leaps, the windmills, the unpredictability of it all. More importantly, he’s a brilliant songwriter who’s proud of his craftsmanship.

As always, the list reflects my personal taste. Even with only seven albums of original material to choose from, I started off with over twenty tunes. Editing made me identify with the bad man, the sad man although I don’t have blue eyes. Can you get behind that?

We begin with Pete’s first solo album, which posed the eternal question: Who Came First?

Pure and Easy was also recorded by The Who, but I prefer Pete’s vocal to Roger’s. Sorry, man.

The road song is one of Pete’s specialties. Sheraton Gibson is one of the best of that genre. It was purportedly written in a hotel in Cleveland. I guess that’s why it rocks.

Misunderstood comes from the terrific record Pete made with Small Faces/Faces bassist Ronnie Lane, Rough Mix. I was lucky enough to meet Ronnie long ago and far away. We had mutual friends. I spent several nights hanging out with Ronnie in his local pub. What a lovely chap. He did, however, chide me for preferring cold beer.

I’ve always loved the cover art for Rough Mix so much so that it was featured on Album Cover Art Wednesday in 2018.

Empty Glass is the title track of an album that came out when my life was indeed a mess. I took Pete’s advice and waited for it to pass. Of course, he was an even bigger mess than I was at that point as we learned from his next solo record.

I can’t help it. I prefer The Deep End Live version of A Little Is Enough. I love the blast of the horns at the top of the song. The Empty Glass version is good, but this is the definitive one. Get ready to rock.

All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes is Pete’s most personal and reflective album. The Sea Refuses No River is my favorite song from that LP. It has haunting lyrics and a gorgeous melody.

Somebody Saved Me is a painful and introspective song that The Who recorded during the Face Dances sessions, but all agreed that it belonged on a Townshend solo album.

I listened obsessively to White City: A Novel after the death of my first wife of cancer. It was the most upbeat Townshend project in years, and it helped me muddle through my daily morass.

Give Blood is the opening track of White City, but I dig this live version which is dominated by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour’s brilliant guitar work.

I was a recluse in 1985 after the funeral. I faced an uncertain future so as the song goes, “Hiding out. I am safe hidden here.”

I figured if Pete could say goodbye to the Brilliant Blues, I could too. Thanks, man.

I was in a much better place when The Iron Man came out. It’s something of a mixed bag but as with most Townshend projects it starts off with a bang:

Dr. A did not like the Psychoderelict album. Who could blame her? I played it to death after its release. So, I had to sneak in a dose of English Boy when she wasn’t around.

It’s lagniappe time. We begin with a Townshend-Lane cover of a country song: Till The Rivers All Run Dry by Don Williams.

In a sign of how much better Townshend and Daltrey got along after the first Who breakup, Pete wrote this song for Roger. It was a hit.

Here’s a swell cover of one of Pete’s biggest solo hits. It’s a song that’s very meaningful to our old friend Athenae.

I’m inspired by yesterday’s half dozen movie lists as well as an online conversation with longtime reader and Who fanatic Dan F to tip my toe into the John Entwistle pond. I was also inspired to write that long sentence.

I’m not super familiar with John Entwistle’s solo output but I love his contributions to The Who. I covered Heaven and Hell last week, so let’s get to it.

The OX With The Who Half Dozen

Boris The Spider has been played to death, especially after Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. BUT I still love it as well as how Roger Daltrey was known to introduce it in concert: “A very odd song in an odd time signature written by a very odd man.”

My life would be in jeopardy if I didn’t include this classic song from Who’s Next:

Entwistle’s songwriting output increased in the final years of The Who; so much so that Roger sang lead on several of his songs including Had Enough.

905 is a sardonic sci-fi opus about test tubes and whatnot.

The Quiet One became The Ox’s personal theme song.

Finally, It’s Your Turn is an anthem from the It’s Hard album sung by Roger. Lyrically, it’s something of a passing of the torch from the British Invaders to the new kids on the rock.

That’s it for this week. Cheers to Pete and John for all the great music. They get the last word.

2 thoughts on “The Sunday Dozen: Pete Townshend

  1. “If I had her for just an hour, I’d have wanted her forever

    But somebody saved me.”

    Those solo albums (up to White City) were the soundtrack to my teen years and no one else in my peer group understood it.

    Thanks for the article.

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