Monday, 16 October 2017

The Who: Live/Solo/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part Three 1976-1982

You can now buy 'Gettin' In Tune - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Who' in e-book form by clicking here!

Pete Townshend/Various Artists "With Love"

(Universal, March 1976)

Hail Avatar Mehere Baba/Give It Up/Without Your Love*/His Hands*/Just For A Moment/Baba Blues/Meher*/Contact/Gotta Know Ya/Sleeping Dog*/All God's Mornings/Lantern Cabin*
* = Pete Townshend Performance

"All I can do is love you - so that is what I do"

With The Who again on hold and Pete in need of some spiritual balm after the harrowing sessions for 'Who By Numbers' (though part of this album dates as far back as 1974), the guitarist retreated to the healing bosom of his Meher Baba family with a the third in his trilogy of tribute works. 'With Love' is the weakest of the three, partly because Pete sounds more lost and helpless than spiritual for much of the record but mostly because he barely appears, with old friends Billy Nicholls and Ronnie Lane 9with new pal Ronnie Wood) singing on more of this record between them despite Pete's name on the cover. However there is still much here to recommend - what other album released under the name of one of the leading rock stars of his day would open with 30 seconds of chanting by a Qawwali choir (not even George Harrison did that!) Also the sleepy instrumental 'His Hands' is gorgeous, a rolling folkie lilt that would have gone nicely on the 'Rough Mix' album, which grooves along like a slower 'Amazing Journey-Sparks' with similar peaks and troughs, but with little bits of the riff from 'Pinball Wizard'. 'Sleeping Dog' has its moments too, with the unlikely metaphor of mankind as a sleeping dog in front of a fire, oblivious of how deep and big and scary the 'real' reason we're here is with Baba/God our owner looking over us with the same affection/pity we do with our pets. Unfortunately Pete's third and final solo composition 'Lantern Cabin' isn't up to the other standards though and sounds as if the singer was trying to re-write another Cole Porter song before giving up and writing a new piece for himself (even if the trilling piano chords is very reminiscent of 'Quadrophenia'!) 

Elsewhere Ronnie Lane charms as always with 'Just For A Moment', a sweet song that's folkier than The Faces but rockier than his work with Slim Chance - it was later re-recorded for the film soundtrack 'Mahoney's Last Stand'. Billy's 'Without Your Love' too is a pretty ballad but doesn't really fit with the Baba theme and Staffordshire blues band Medicine Head don't sound as if they understand what is going on at all. As with the other two albums the spoken word passages (occasionally backed by Pete's guitar) are also very of their time and not entirely convincing, more likely to put you off Baba than make you want to enrol. Overall, though, this is another nice album to own and Pete's spirituality shines through - even if you wish it would shine a bit stronger and a bit longer at times. As with the other two Baba sets, the Townshend-only performances were included as bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Who Came First' and the whole Baba trilogy was collected on the double-CD set 'Avatar/Jai Baba' in 2001.

"The Story Of The Who"

(Track Records, October 1986)

Magic Bus/Substitute/Boris The Spider/Run Run Run/I'm A Boy/Heatwave/My Generation/Pictures Of Lily/Happy Jack/The Seeker/I Can See For Miles/Bargain/Squeeze Box//Amazing Journey/Acid Queen/Do You Think It's Alright?/Fiddle About/Pinball Wizard/I'm Free/Tommy's Holiday Camp/We're Not Gonna Take It!/Summertime Blues/Baba O'Riley/Behind Blue Eyes/Slip Kid/Won't Get Fooled Again

"Gather your wits and hold on fast, your mind must dare to roam"

Whilst I love the idea of The Who's catalogue being a 'story', it's probably fair to say that this compilation is lacking many of the most important chapters. There's no 'I Can't Explain' or 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere' for instance (though you can explain that, because the Shel Talmy court-case was still ongoing in 1976 - 'My Generation' appears in unsatisfactory truncated 'Live At Leeds' form), only one track off the most recent 'Who By Numbers' collection, none of the post Who's Next run of singles (so no 'Join Together' or 'Relay' even though they were bigger hits than half the album) and not even a single song from 'Quadrophenia'. That's a little like telling the story of The Beatles with no inclusion of the early songs or 'The White Album' (assuming, for now, that 'Tommy' is a deaf dumb and blind 'Sgt Peppers'). If your interest in The Who peaks with 'Tommy' and 'Who's Next' though then this is still a worthy collection with several songs included from these two records (even 'plot' songs from 'Tommy' that make little sense out of context), plus an otherwise almost complete run of 1960s singles ('Call Me Lightning' and 'Dogs' are the only pair missing - to be fair you aren't missing much). It would be nice if we could hear the 'story' in chronological order, with this track listing even more wildly all over the place than a Keith Moon drum solo, but then I suppose many modern books do like their 'flashback' sequences nowadays. Talking of (acid) flashbacks, the biggest song of interest here for collectors is the 'lengthy' mix of 'Magic Bus', here extended to four-and-a-half-minutes and which had only been released on one other Who compilation before. Ultimately it's great to see The Who covered by two slabs of vinyl at last rather than one which does give this album more scope than in the past, but Track could and should have done a lot more with that space and there are better Who compilations to follow. The album artwork also has to be seen to be believed - a pinball machine in the process of being smashed to smithereens, which does I suppose show the aggression and frustration of The Who but nothing like the depth or subtlety and Tracky's idea is a little tacky. Sometimes you can judge a story by looking at its cover...

Roger Daltrey "One Of The Boys"

(Polydor/MCA, May 1977)

Parade/Single Man's Dilemma/Avenging Annie/The Prisoner/Leon/One Of The Boys/Dizzy//Written On The Wind/Satin and Lace/Doing It All Again/Say It Ain't So, Jo/You Put Something Better Inside Me/Martyrs/Teachery

"The good ol' days have gone!"

Originally Roger was going to respond to punk by recording a 'we did it first!' style rockabilly album and he even approached 1950s legends Leiber and Stoller to produce it. When they declined the singer got cold feet and decided to make a record more in line with 'Daltrey' and 'Rock Horse', but with a bit more of a rocky edge. Roger chose his songs with more care this time and took them from both established names (Including Paul McCartney and The Zombies' Colin Bluntstone) and from up and coming songwriters who he helped break into the industry the same way he had done with Leo Sayer (including Murray Head's gorgeous 'Say It Ain't So Jo' - which The Hollies loved so much they recorded on their next album '5317704'). The result is the most balanced of Daltrey's solo albums, with the best range of what Roger can do and the best evidence of what a great singer he is, even if this album lacks the cohesion of it's predecessors and all too often sounds like a various artists compilation set. Some of the songs too frankly aren't up to much (even the McCartney tune is clearly one he'd buried under the sofa and dusted off rather than a carefully tailored classic) and the result is yet another Daltrey album that makes you miss the rest of The Who. Even with his old bandmates do turn up (or John and Keith do at any rate) you can't really tell with Moon drowned out by the orchestra on 'Jo' and Entwistle lost in a sea of mediocre rock jamming on the title track. Other contributing musicians reads like a Who's Who (or at least The Who's address book) of rock musicians of the day: various members of The Shadows, Wings' Jimmy McCulloch (who always admitted to being more of a Who fan than a Beatles one!), Eric Clapton, Andy Fairweather-Low, a Zombie (the group silly, not a real life zombie - if that's not an oxymoron!) and a member of Ten Years After all appear. So this is a good album? Yes, but only if you keep the skip button very handy. At least the cover is one of Roger's best, a play on a Magritte painting where an artist looks in a mirror and sees what he shouldn't be able to see from his perspective - similarly Roger can only see the back of his head!

The charming 'Parade' is a great song, if not necessarily a great Daltrey song. A Nilsson-style dramatic weepie about a loser figure so shocked at being loved by someone he admires he wants to parade down the street, it is at least quite like what Pete was busy writing in this period.

Colin Blunstone's 'Single Man's Dilemma' is an unusual song for both writer and singer - it's a country-rocker complete with pedal steel that sounds more like an Eagles song. Roger sounds quite good though and the song isn't bad.

'Avenging Annie' is enlivened by some natty Entwistle bass work and as a slow-charging song with peaks and troughs it's well suited musically to Roger's emotional vocals. Lyrically, though, this is silly stuff despite being the biggest hit on the album originally (it's still writer Andy Pratt's best known song).

Daltrey co-writes 'The Prisoner' and it's closer to his natural style, a dramatic song about betrayal and wondering is his wife ever loved him. However it lacks the simplicity or directness Townshend would have given the song and just comes off as somebody moping.

'Leon' is the most obscure song on the album, which is a shame because it's one of the best, a reaching helping hand to an old friend who disappeared from the narrator's life after problems. It could be picked because of Roger's feelings for Pete or Keith, who both had their troubles in this period but were actively trying to turn them around, or maybe Roger just liked the song?

Steve Gibbons' 'One Of The Boys' is the only song to come from Roger's original idea and is a punk song featuring as many 1950s, 1960s and 1970s rock luminaries as could fit into one room. It's clearly meant to be the Rock Godfathers showing the young punks how things should be done, but if so it fails by coming off as just a lot of aimless shouting without any of the true spirit of punk. Roger's having fun though.

'Giddy' begins with a siren and cruises to a jazz setting. Few people buying this album would have guessed this noisy slice of nothing was a Paul McCartney song and it sounds much like 'Got To Get You Into My Life' played at slow speed (it's actually based on the am 'Rode All Night' busked during 'Ram' and released on that album's super deluxe box in 2010). Roger sounds good though, mocking his exes' new partner who goes by a giddy new name - Paul may have written it for Gerald Scarfe, then dating his ex Jane Asher.

The haunting 'Say It Ain't So Jo' brings out new layers in Daltrey's voice and is easily a cut above anything else on the record, even if this arrangement is rockier and lumpier than the lush Hollies version. Roger doesn't want to hear about a breakup and would rather stay in his dreamworld where everything is fine, even if the strings' sweeping melancholy proves that he's only in denial. The narrator, you see, knows that if they split both partners are going to 'get burned' and it's going to hurt, causing Roger to plead for a second chance with everything he's got. Superb.

Paul Korda's pretty piano ballad 'Written On The Wind' is another album highlight, continuing the writer's strong showing on 'Ride A Rock Horse'. This is the gentler, more melodic side of Roger's singing but he's rarely sounded so good as a ballad singer than here. Even the strings enhance rather than detract from the song the way they did on 'Daltrey'.

Roger's own 'Satin and Lace' is a little less impressive though, a moody ballad about walking back to an empty house after his lover leaves him. We've heard this sort of thing so many better times before.

The album closes with second Murray Head song 'Doing It All Over Again' and while it isn't as strong as 'Jo' it's another pretty piece about picking yourself up after bad times and trying to find a way to move on. Roger sounds good and amazingly so do the children's choir - so much for the original punk idea, eh?

Overall, 'One Of The Boys' is a bitty frustrating set that reveals both how great Roger can be when he has the right song he can really get into and how ghastly he turns when he's singing the wrong song. This third album has higher highs than the first two LPs but also much lower lows and doesn't quite fulfil its promise as a chance to hear one of the leading rock singers of his day doing something different. If this project had been released as an EP it might have been heralded as one of the best things Roger ever did, but as an LP it's patchy at best and annoying at worst, in the end being exactly the sort of indulgent light ballad work punk was meant to destroy.

"The Kids Are Alright" (Film Soundtrack)

(Polydor, June 1979)

My Generation (Smothers Brothers 1967)/I Can't Explain (Ready Steady Go 1965)/Happy Jack (Live At Leeds 1970)/I Can See For Miles (Smothers Brothers 1967)/Magic Bus (Beat Club 1968)/Long Live Rock (Old Grey Whistle Test 1972)/Anyway Anyhow Anywhere (Ready Steady Go 1965)/Young Man Blues (London Coliseum 1969)/My Wife (Kilburn 1977)/Baba O'Riley (Shepperton Studios 1978)/A Quick One While He's Away (Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus 1968)/Tommy Can You Hear Me? (Beatclub 1969)/ Sparks (Woodstock 1969)/Pinball Wizard (Woodstock 1969)/See Me Feel Me (Woodstock 1969)/Join Together-Road Runner-My Generation Blues (Michigan 1975)/Won't Get Fooled Again (Shepperton Studios 1978)

"You are forgiven!"

In 1977 American Who fan Jeff Stein approached the band about doing a documentary film. He had no previous experience of film-making (and though he'll make a few music videos afterwards he'll never make a second movie) and nothing to commit with except enthusiasm, but as a seventeen year old he'd published a book of Who photographs and impressed the band with his knowledge of their background and career. For a band like The Who, always so keen on looking backwards to their past from 'Quadrophenia' on, it was an invitation that intrigued them. Jeff's enthusiasm for the band came along at just the right time when interest in their own career was beginning to flag. Keith was clearly poorly and struggling, Roger and John were spending more time on their solo careers and Pete was at the peak of his self-critical years. Early sessions for 'Who Are You' were becoming difficult and the band needed someone like Jeff to pull them together and remind them of what they had just achieved - you can feel the glee when the band are back together again for the new footage short for the film (a wonky 'Barbara Ann' rehearsal and glorious definitive performances of 'Baba O'Riley' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' shot before a specially invited audience of 500 Who fans). It is to this album's credit that Keith Moon's last few months on Earth were spent looking at early film rushes of himself in his prime and glowing while giggling in the presence of Ringo Starr. Sadly he died before the film's premiere though not without first giving it his stamp of approval - and an axe if publicity shots of director and band working on it are to be believed! John, meanwhile, supervised all the music remixing just as he did on 'Odds and Sods'.

The film was a big success on first release, partly because of the even bigger phenomenon of 'Quadrophenia' which turned up in cinemas just three months later. There was clearly always going to be a soundtrack album to help sell the film and given that it was pretty much the first of the entire run of the many Who archive sets to be released it was greeted like the holy grail by fans. Understandably the set is less interesting now that you can buy the band's 'Woodstock' and 'Rolling Stones Circus' sets separately complete, while the inclusion of a couple of just-the-singles-but-in-poorer-sound-because-they're-taken-from-the-TV performances (such as a 'Magic Bus' from 'Beat Club' and an 'I Can See For Miles' from the 'Smothers Brothers' show while 'Long Live Rock' as heard over the closing credits is just the studio take from 'Odds and Sods') seemed a curious idea even at the time. It seems odd that there is no appearance of the title track - for which The Who did, after all, film a rarely seen promo video that would have slotted in great. If I had a chance to pick highlights from the entire filmed Who canon I also probably wouldn't have picked the rather grumpy 'Young Man Blues' from the London Coliseum in 1969 or an interminable chugging blues medley of 'Roadrunner' and a slowed down 'My Generation' from 1975. The double album set could easily have been cut down to a single disc without losing anything, while this album's had a slightly unhappy life on CD - the first version was a pricey double album set that only ran a few seconds over the full running time for a single disc, while the second go snips a few seconds of feedback from some of the longer songs (why not just take one of the studio or TV recordings or the 'Live At Leeds' duplicate of 'Happy Jack' away?)

However there are still many reasons to love this disc, even if just hearing rather than seeing The Who means you lose a slight something compared to the film itself (wind-milling solos, microphone twirling and explosions mainly). The two 1978 recordings ('Barbara Ann', probably mercifully, gets the push) sound wonderful and are the last truly definitive Who recordings every fan should own. The Who's anarchic stage patter and drum-explosives on the opening Smothers Brothers 'My Generation' is the perfect beginning (especially if, like Mickey Rooney backstage at the real event, you can persuade someone to faint into your arms in shock like Bette Davis. Clue: this might not work). A glorious early live performance of 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere' on 'Ready Steady Go' beats the record hands down, with a gloriously unhinged guitar solo caught somewhere between aggressive blues and howling psychedelia. If you don't already have it the 'Woodstock' numbers are phenomenal - though 'Sparks' is more tentative than on 'Live At Leeds' the 'See Me, Feel Me' might be even better, a glorious final hymn from a band that have been 'listening' to the biggest crowd of their life for the past three thrilling hours. If you don't already own it, the Stones Circus version of 'A Quick One' is one of the most brilliant performances offered by any rock band in any era, a tight punchy seven minute tour de force. 'You are all forgiven' indeed! Even fans who were appalled at the state of The Who in 1979 would have forgiven anything after hearing this clip, a microcosm of everything The Who were all about: power, ambition and hope at a happy ending. Despite a few issues, a few repeats and a few curious track choices, taken as a whole The Who have never sounded more mad, bad or dangerous to know. Stein may not have been the world's greatest director, but he was clearly a passionate Who fan who made both film and soundtrack album with care and that is the part that matters. The kid did alright. So did The Who. By and large the band stops here really, with the Kenney Jones albums more of a slightly ragged coda to a great story.

"Quadrophenia" (Film Soundtrack)

(MCA/Polydor, October 1979)

Original LP: I Am The Sea/The Real Me/I'm One/5:15/Love Reign O'er Me//Bell Boy/I've Had Enough/Helpless Dancer/Dr Jimmy//Zoot Suit (as The High Numbers)/Hi Heel Sneakers (The Cross Section)/Get Out and Stay Out/Four Faces/Joker James/The Punk and The Godfather//Night Train (James Brown)/Louie Louie (The Kingsmen)/Green Onions (Booker T and The MGs)/The Rhythm Of The Rain (The Cascades)/He's So Fine (The Chiffons)/Be My Baby (The Ronettes)/Da Doo Ron Ron (The Crystals)

1993 CD: I'm The Face/Zoot Suit/I Am The Sea/The Real Me/I'm One/5.15/Love Reign O'er Me/Bell Boy/I've Had Enough/Helpless Dancer/Dr Jimmy/Get Out and Stay Out/Four Faces/Joker James/The Punk and The Godfather

2000 CD: I Am The Sea/The Real Me/I'm One/5.15/Love Reign O'er Me/Bell Boy/I've Had Enough/Helpless Dancer/Dr Jimmy/Zoot Suit (as The High Numbers)/Hi-Heel Sneakers (The Cross Section)/Get Out and Stay Out/Four Faces/Joker James/The Punk and The Godfather/Night Train (James Brown)/Louie Louie (The Kingsmen)/Green Onions (Booker T and The MGs)/Rhythm Of The Rain (The Cascades)/He's So Fine (The Chiffons)/Be My Baby (The Ronettes)/Da Doo Ron Ron (The Crystals)/I'm The Face (as The High Numbers)

"You tried to walk on the trail we were carving!"

Back in 1973 'Quadrophenia' was viewed with scepticism as nostalgia for a past that couldn't possibly be as exciting as it seemed at the time and most fans wondered why The Who were going backwards when there were so many exciting new sounds to explore. By 1979, though, things were different and enough time had gone by for the Mods v Rockers battles of 1964 to seem genuinely exciting again. In a sense the old battles were repeated again, as new wave bands copied the mods' tastes for smart suits, scooters and guitars they could actually play in contrast to the punks of a couple of years before who seemed more like the rockers. Suddenly 'Quadrophenia' and it's explorations of disenfranchised youth being forced to grow up in Thatcherist Britain made sense again and the 'Quadrophenia' film released in the summer of 1979 did much to boost the reputation of the band and the album, as well as mods in general. The film is a very different beast to 'Tommy' - earthy, often brutal and pulling no punches in the way it tells the story of Jimmy's mental breakdown. What it doesn't do though - what it could never have done - was truly reveal Jimmy's inner mental state as he wrestles with big concepts about having to settle for less and get on with living despite suffering so much pain before contemplating suicide, which is effectively what the original album is all about. Instead the film focuses on Jimmy's search for identity, his struggles to get the girl (played by Leslie Ash in one of her first screen appearances) and his sharp suits and scooter. While Pete's 'Quadrophenia' mainly takes place in Jimmy's head, 'Quadrophenia' is a colourful film mostly filmed on location in London, with honourable mentions of the many 'battle' sequences on the beaches in Brighton. Clearly the projects are saying two very different things so, rather than simply re-issue the original pricey double album (which had only just gone off-catalogue anyway) Polydor decided to release a new soundtrack to go with the new-look all-singing all-dancing all-sharply dressed version of 'Quadrophenia'.

While the 'Tommy' film soundtrack stuck slavishly to what was used in the film, 'Quadrophenia' is in some cases very different indeed. The more intimate, introverted moments are gone (at least on the original vinyl) with only ten of the original seventeen songs included with just important, nay essential songs as 'Quadrophenia' itself 'Cut My Hair' 'The Dirty Jobs' 'Is It In My Head?' 'Sea and Sand' 'Drowned' and 'The Rock' all cut and the ordering is blown to smithereens ('Love Reign O'er Me' is in the middle and 'The Punk And The Godfather' sits alone out of the new tracks on side three, for no apparent reason - unless it's meant to be a 'warning' to all future generations that the characters have 'lived your future out'). Instead this budget double disc album includes another eleven songs to replace them with, including eight original early 60s mod 'n' soul classics heard in the film from James Brown to Otis Redding's backing band Booker T and The MGs, which was a valuable way for aspiring teenage mods to collect a ton of decent singles in their collection but doesn't offer much to The Who community.

Cleverly, though, fans of the band had to buy this set anyway for three 'outtakes' originally intended for 'Quadrophenia' but left unused until being dug out for the film soundtrack and re-recorded by the 1979 model of The Who (ie with Kenney Jones on drums for the first time). All are reviewed at length under our 'Quadrophenia Director's Cut' so we won't go into detail again here. Suffice to say that they were probably all cut from 'Quadrophenia' for a reason without the same class or gravitas, although as extras included for the fans there is something to say about all of them. 'Four Faces' is a comic look at Jimmy's impending breakdown and a 'Substitute' type song where half of his brain wants to do something - and half wants to do something else. 'Joker James' is an odd revival for the film in the sense that 'this' Jimmy isn't like the one we see on screen at all: he's a practical joker, bordering on being a bully, rather than a teenage hoodlum so prepared to fit in he'll do anything to belong to his 'gang'. It's a silly novelty song of the sort The Who were writing in 1968, albeit with a strong punchy chorus. 'Get Out and Stay Out' is the song that most resembles 'incidental music' here as Pete plays Jimmy's 'mum' booting him out the house as he drives off down the road on his scooter, without quite as much pathos and underlying shame and guilt but also worry as the scene actually demands. Cool piano riff though. By far the most interesting songs - at least at the time, when they were as rare as a mod with a crease in his shirt and a button missing from his jacket - were the two featuring The Who when they really were 'mods' as they charge and zoom through two songs written by then-manager Pete Meadon (who died in 1978, with the original version of the soundtrack album was dedicated to him) and which were released under the name The High Numbers. The cocky 'I'm The Face' B-side is the better of the two, sadly only available on the CD versions not the vinyl, though 'Zoot Suit' also captures the 1964 spirit better than anything the modern Who could have come up with.

Clearly, then, owning this album isn't that essential if you own the original or the '30 Years Of R and B' box set of 1994 which includes the High Numbers songs. All the songs used from the original 'Quadrophenia' album sound much the same, except that a few of them (such as '5.15') seem to have been sped-up to make The Who sound 'younger' and 'hungrier', one track has been remixed to give it more whallop ('The Real Me' where John's bass is now even louder) and all of the linking sound effects have been trimmed so that songs now have much shorter, more clean-cut endings to them (which must have been an engineer's nightmare to put together). Or at least that's true of the original vinyl: at first The Who were content to just keep their 'proper' version of the album on catalogue when they came to release their material on CD, but an outcry from mods who wanted the other songs on the record and fans who were after the three 'new' ones meant that The Who put this set out on CD anyway in 1993 and 2000. However the two CD versions are around are quite different to the original vinyl version: the earlier disc returns to the running sequence of the original 1973 'Quadrophenia', albeit with'The Punk and The Godfather' still at the end, with the two 'High Numbers' tracks at the start and the outtakes towards the back; the 2000 model is just the original double album vinyl with The High Numbers' 'I'm The Face' added to the very end of the album. Which one you get depends really on how high your mod quota is and how many of these songs you already own!

Various Artists "The Concert For The People Of Kampuchea"

(Atlantic, Recorded December 1979, Released March 1981)

The Who: Baba O'Riley/Sister Disco/Behind Blue Eyes/We're Not Gonna Take It (Listed as 'See Me, Feel Me')

Other acts include The Pretenders/Elvis Costello and the Attractions/Rockpile/Queen/The Clash/Ian Dury and the Blockheads/The Specials/Paul McCartney and Wings

"See me, feel me, touch me, heal me!"

Rather forgotten nowadays, sandwiched between 'Woodstock' and 'The Concert For Bangla Desh' on the one hand and 'Live Aid' on the other, in the late 1970s this multi-starred benefit gig raised money for the victims of Cambodia. Despite being chiefly organised by 'old fogies' like Paul McCartney, it was a rare chance for older music festivals to view the music performed by their youngers (Elvis Costello and The Pretenders were largely unknown when they opened this gig) and for youngsters to appreciate their elders' music too. The Who were an obvious act to invite given that in 1979 they were just about the only group around that appealed to both halves, even if their 'Quadrophenia' film and it's soundtrack released that year (and causing a mini mod explosion all over again) didn't have much to do with the current line-up of the band. The Who were equally eager to participate, using this gig as a chance to road-test the new Kenney Jones era of the band and break a year-long period of silence after Keith Moon's death when it looked as if the band might be finished. The Who play a strong set - one of the best of the night - though due to contractual difficulties only four songs from their originally 25-strong set has been released to date on side one of the original various artists double-vinyl compilation (though in actual fact The Who performed in the middle, closing the first of the two night show). The show has still to be released on CD or indeed DVD, although a video was released in 1988. For Who collectors the real thrill is the chance to own a rare live recording of 'Sister Disco' which is particularly spry on its feet and fits Kenney's new drum sound, while a mournful 'Behind Blue Eyes' is particularly passionate this night and 'See Me Feel Me' is a rousing closer and an apt choice given the plight of the homeless refugees the shows were raising money for. Pete also appears on the 'Rockestra' superstar line-up that ends the gig and the album, performing some oldies and Paul McCartney's weird near-instrumental of the same name. However he was the one member of the line-up to baulk at the idea of wearing matching gold suits and spends most of his time on stage standing behind Paul and giving him the 'evil eye' while windmilling furiously! Hopefully the full Who show will be released one day because it's a good one, with no less than four covers unavailable anywhere else ('Hoochie Coochie Man' 'I Don't Want To Be An Old Man' 'Dancing In The Streets' and 'Dance It Away') and a rare return to the setlist for 'Long Live Rock' and 'The Punk and The Godfather'.

Pete Townshend and Raphael Rudd "The Oceanic Concerts"

(Recorded 1979-1980, Released October 2001)

Raga/Drowned/The Seeker/Magic Grace/Who Is Meher Baba?/The Ferryman/Kitty's Theme/A Little Is Enough/Contact In Solitude/Sleeping Dog/Sound Barrier/Bargain/Looking For The Beloved/Tattoo/Let My Love Open The Door/Awakening/American (Western) Arti/Parvardigar

"Focusing on nowhere, investigating miles"

Moon is dead, The Who are in trouble, Pete's struggling to juggle demands for releases for both band and solo albums and things are going very wrong in his marriage - and yet here, in the eye of the hurricane, is the real Pete playing acoustic re-workings of obscure favourites to a bunch of fellow spiritual Meher Baba fanatics at his own Eel Pie studio. You can almost hear the weight lifting from Pete's shoulders as he forgets about tailoring arrangements to fit John's roar or Roger's screams or the pop market and instead concentrate on bringing out the healing, cerebral end of his talents. Pete performed this gig as a 'double act' with fellow Baba devotee Raphael Rudd, a classical pianist then still in his early twenties (and first contacted to help out with the new arrangements for the 'Quadrophenia' film soundtrack) who brings out the jazzier side of Pete's writing and despite their different backgrounds and ages the pair make for a pretty good double act, pushing each other to new heights of prettiness and poignancy.
There are several fascinating moments amongst this set: premieres of new songs 'Let My Love Open The Door' and 'A Little Is Enough', both Baba-inspired songs that will become more famous as the singles taken from Pete's 'Empty Glass' the following year and which sound mighty good here in gentle, acoustic form; the won't-be-released-till-'Scoop' metaphysical afterlife piece 'The Ferryman' and such relatively rare Who revivals as 'The Seeker' (which is even better suited to folk-rock acoustic strumming than the full electric band performance), 'Bargain' (perhaps the most Baba-inspired song of them all) and, weirdly, 'Tattoo' which has clearly been ret-conned from being a song about a youngster coming of age by a writer who hadn't yet thought about his spiritual side to a Baba-song about identity and the soul being more than the body. Admittedly most Who fans could probably have done without the Rudd interruptions every other track (although even these have a quiet grace and beauty) and the one exclusively exclusive song 'Sleeping Dog' isn't up to much (being a rather empty song of devotion to Baba). However, this show is undeniably special and exactly what Pete should have been doing with his career circa 1979, regardless of what the people around him wanted him to do. Much talked about by those who were lucky enough to be there and later much bootlegged, the shows were finally released in limited form in 2001 and deserved a much wider audience given how much light they throw onto Pete as both composer and performer and a treat to have on the shelves officially at last. Highly recommended. 

Roger Daltrey "McVicar" (Original Soundtrack)

(Polydor, June 1980)

Bitter and Twisted/Just A Dream Away/Escape Part One/White City Lights/Free Me//My Time Is Gonna Come/Waiting For A Friend/Escape Part Two/Without Your Love/McVicar

"A hero or villain is what you become, or you can take the road in-between"

Released hot on the heels of 'Quadrophenia', 'McVicar' was even grittier and more brutal film about an armed robber once declared 'UK public enemy number one'. Daltrey is all too believable as a Londoner with a heart of gold whose ended up with the wrong people and has the wrong set of values - it's not that unbelievable as a reflection of what made have happened to him if Roger had never taken up an interest in music. It's easily his best film role and suits him much better than the arty-farties-dressed-up-in-wigs over directors kept giving him after 'Tommy'. However just because it's Roger's best acting doesn't mean that this soundtrack album features his best singing. perhaps because he's 'playing' a role here, Roger doesn't sing with his normal voice but a lower, grittier vocal without his usual range, character or panache. Too much of the time he sounds like just another punk wannabe than one of the greatest singers of his generation. The songs, too, frankly aren't much good despite the heavy presence of old Who pal and Track Records comrade Billy Nicholls in the writing credits (Roger even sings 'Without Your Love', a track Billy wrote for the third of Pete's Meher Baba records 'With Your Love' in 1976).

Roger's pals from The Who all appear (including Kenney Jones before he'd been heard on record as a member of the band), but you wouldn't know what tracks they were on unless you checked the album sleeve - like the 'Tommy' film, this is more the work of a musical director and musicians under him doing what they're told (in this case Jeff Wayne - and it's an odd fit, this being more a dust-up in Durham prison than a 'War of the Worlds', without a synthesiser or an 'ullah!' in sight). The result is not without worth: the reflective 'Just A Dream Away' is a pretty ballad as good as any in the similar style used on 'Daltrey', the Jethro Tull-style flute-based prog rock of 'escape' is new ground for Roger and the Entwistle guest appearance on 'Waiting For A Friend' makes that track the most Who-like track here. The album was the most successful of all of Roger's solo albums to date with a US peak of #22, which was almost up to what The Who were achieving as a band at the time. It deserves its success, being a shade better than everything else Roger will work on under his own name across the 1980s, but in truth it's a little less appealing and a lot less consistent than his previous solo work from the 1970s. 


(Polydor, May 1981)

Disc One: The Who Sings My Generation

Disc Two: A Quick One While He's Away

Disc Three: The Who Sell Out

Discs Four and Five: Tommy

Disc Six: Live At Leeds

Disc Seven: Who's Next

Discs Eight and Nine: Quadrophenia

Disc Ten: Who By Numbers

Disc Eleven: Who Are You?

"Like the tide and the waves growing slowly in range crushing mountains as old as the Earth..."

Now here's an interesting debate for you: did The Who end the cold war? Is it a coincidence that Polydor hired a pressing plant in West Germany to create an impressive eleven disc box of every Who album released up until that point (even the debut, miraculously, after a lot of intense negotiations with Shel Talmy's lawyer). This was a big event in most of the world with The Who's albums generally unavailable (except for beaten up copies in second-hand shops or prized possessions purloined from your elder siblings) - Germany must have felt honoured. Little did anyone involved in this creation know, of course, that the Berlin Wall was about to fall only eight years later with The Who's songs of love and peace (hidden behind that wall of aggression) clearly doing their work slowly over that time - or that the compact disc was about to be invented so fans would have to buy all these sodding albums all over again anyway in a few years. But that's the future - at the time the intriguingly titled 'Phases' filled in the hole where the next Keith Moon-era might have been quite nicely and enabled The Who to dump their past while ploughing on in the present. The cover was nice too, picking up from the 'Quadrophenia' film where Jimmy had a collage of all his mod favourites on his bedroom wall, only these are all blue-tinted photos of The Who in action, plus guitars and mod shirts. A fine, comprehensive collection which reminded people just how good The Who were and a worthy introduction for many fans who hadn't heard of the band until Keith died and their mates started riding scooters and wearing smart jackets and talking about this great band they'd just discovered.


(MCA Records, September 1981)

I Can't Explain/I Can See For Miles/Pinball Wizard/Let's See Action/Summertime Blues/Relay//Baba O'Riley/Behind Blue Eyes/Bargain/The Song Is Over//Join Together/Squeeze Box/Slip Kid/The Real Me/5.15//Drowned/Had Enough/Sister Disco/Who Are You?

"Goodbye sister disco, I go where the music fits my soul"

What a bunch of 'Ooligans this is! Barely anything from the 1960s, no sign of 'My Generation' anywhere and more songs from 1978's 'Who Are You' than any other album! At the time the album was worth forking out extra money for, if only to get hold of the rare flop singles 'Join Together'  'Let's See Action' and 'Relay' (here re-named 'The Relay' for some reason: that's what gets of having your work proofread by a 'Ooligan' maybe? The track also fades early, about twenty seconds before the single mix), but now all three are more widely available on CD the need to own this set has vanished. You certainly wouldn't want to own it for its cover, which must be the daftest in this book: an ugly picture of the mess outside a factory, one that had no connection with The Who at all! (MCA were probably going for a 'Meaty Beaty' look but couldn't afford the child stars!) Still this album was strong enough to just miss out on a top fifty placing in America so somebody liked it and the set deserves a few half-marks for the brilliant title alone, even if ironically this set is more fixated on The Who's 'grown up' and softer material.

John Entwistle "Too Late The Hero"

(WEA/Atco, November 1981)

Try Me/Talk Dirty/Lovebird/Sleeping Man/I'm Coming Back//Dancing Master/Fallen Angel/Love Is A Heart Attack/Too Late The Hero

CD Bonus Track: Too Late The Hero (Single Edit)

"You aim high but you hit low, you live fast - better spend slow"

What was John's fanbase waiting for on solo album number five? Probably not a collection of synthesiser-filled drippy ballads if I'm honest, with Entwistle in morose reflective mood again across most of this album. To be fair most of John's most recent songs with The Who have been most successful in this style: '905' and the soon-to-be-released 'Dangerous'. But 'Too Late The Hero' lacks the sense of play and character of those songs and instead just sounds like The Who with no power whatsoever. Needing the money, John's clearly gone for a more middle of the road sound here and he's even tightened his vocals up with this easily his best album as a vocalist (with his voice full of husky smoke rather than a drug-fuelled croak). In other positives John's latest band is one of his best: 1960s shoulda-been-a-star Billy Nicholls adds some nice backing vocals (though never in place of John's lead), Joe Walsh (better known for being in Ringo's All-Starr Band, alongside John for a time) is a star on guitar (though without getting in the way of John's bass) and CSN drummer Joe Vitale plays hard and heavy in the Moon tradition without trying to be a poor man's Keith. The cover artwork is rather good too, with John dressed up as a whole range of caped crusader heroes and soldiers (it's a little like the way he's dressed in the 1974 tour booklet where The Who are all comic-book creations - it's re-used on the CD picture on 'Odds and Sods'). In terms of pure listening this is perhaps the easiest listen of John's career - but you badly miss John's quirky style across this album and the end result is an album that anybody vaguely tuneful could have delivered in 1981, which is perhaps the biggest insult you could ever give an Entwistle album. To be fair John was by now a family man and reported later that this album was more 'normal' because it was written in between middle-of-the night feeds for his new-born son Christopher and John didn't want to start writing dark-humoured songs about death or good-humoured songs about sex around his little one. However John doesn't seem to have gone the other way and written about his new feelings for his family either: instead this is just your average kind of a nothing album. Given the six year gap between records and the increasing role John had been playing on the post-Keith Who albums, this album is a big disappointment.

'Try Me' is a bass-heavy ballad about wanting to get closer to someone who still treats him like a long-distance friend when he's trying hard to get close. Though the lyrics are unusual ('Qualade shuffle up to my table') they lack the originality of John's old work, while the music does too good a job of sounding like a dispirited plod.

'Talk Dirty' was the album's (relative) hit single and one of the best things here despite being one of the most 1980s-filled. Once again John  wants a sexy, sultry conversation with his missus away from the baby talk and the weather ('and Godspell and go to hell'). In a hilarious second verse he says that his wife discusses everything with him about music ('Chopin - too square, heavy metal - too loud!, top twenty - who cares?!?') but never talks about them as a couple once. In fact Chopin's name crops up a lot, getting John out of trouble in his long list of rhymes and 'isms'. This would have made a fine Who B-side.

'Lovebird' is a better than average song too, one of the prettier ballads about a couple naturally drifting apart and how they both know it's the end but neither one will say anything. John gets a 'dear John' letter instead, a mere 'note which says 'thanks for the ride'. An unusually direct song from Entwistle but a good one all the same.

'Sleeping Man' is clearly the song of a newly-made daddy, with John singing in the third person about his new-found ability to sleep anywhere at the drop of a hat. Switching to the first person on the chorus, John pleads with the 'Sandman' to 'gimme a break!' and let him stay awake enough to at least 'answer the phone'. Proof that this song is autobiographical comes near the end when John complains 'he doesn't even hear the noise of the band - though his head is full of ideas, his eyes are filled with sand!' For all the fun lyrics, though, the slightly silly oompah-heavy metal backing is not one of John's better ideas.

'I'm Coming Back' is the closest thing this album has to a rocker, although it's more a slow-burning 'Trick Of The Light' than a killer 'Quiet One'. A sweet harmony-drenched chorus makes this one of John's more palatable numbers although the lyrics about returning home after a tour ain't much cop ('California, I got to warn-ee-ah!...Shangri-La it ain't too far!')

'Dancing Master' finds John as a puppeteer, pulling the strings as an impresario winning young girls over to his cause. Though Simon Cowell would no doubt like this song (it's his theme tune, plus it's as cheesy as, well, cheese) it's all a bit too 1980s pop for most fans' digestion.

'Fallen Angel' is a more Entwistle-like song about 'the prince of darkness' retiring and turning into a bored family man, which wasn't too far from the truth. Nobody stares or cares when John walks into a bar anymore, they just murmur to each other 'didn't he used to be a star?' The falling sales are clearly getting to John by this time. The bass work is as great as ever, but this song sounds as bored and passionless as the subject matter.

'Love Is A Heart Attack' is a riff-heavy heavy metal song full of shouting, but again at an oddly slow tempo. John's been warned by his doctor to slow down or his heart's going 'break' and 'you're not gonna make it' (sung in just the same way The Who once sang 'we're not gonna take it'!) Though the doctor's warnings won't come true for another twenty-year one years, in retrospect this song is spookily close to the truth of what did happen when John suffered his fatal heart attack after a night out with a prostitute at the Rock and Roll Hotel. It seems like John heard the warning, but went out and did what he wanted anyway.

The album ends on the treacly synth-heavy ballad 'Too Late The Hero' where John moans about only being as great as he wants to be in his 'imagination' and how everything always seems to go wrong. The song features some nice singing and is perhaps as commercial as John ever got, but truly it's the sort of drippy ballad lesser acts were writing in this period (it sounds like a bad Duran Duran song - and yes that does include most of them, I know) and not what John should be spending his last album for over a decade doing.

The result is an album that has moments of splendour, a fine and fun hit single and a number of things going for it but somehow ultimately ends up a bit pointless. There's no passion here, little humour and no real expressions of the soul while John suffers even more than The Who in this period from forgetting how to rock. perhaps the most middle-aged album any of the permanently youthful Who ever made, it tries hard to be grown-up but ends up being just another childish pop album after all. A shame because, as the highlights of this and his many other records demonstrate, John wasn't just an occasional B-side writer, but a composer of real scope and talent and a voice that the world deserved to hear a bit more of. Sadly John will spend the rest of the 1980s, after The Who's split a few months after this album's release, in something of a cloud falling deeper into debt and writing few if any new songs. You can hear the fire going out here already, sadly and it's not always a pretty sight/sound.  

Roger Daltrey "The Best Bits" aka "The Best Of Roger Daltrey"

(MCA, March 1982)

 Martyrs and Madmen/Say It Ain't So Jo/Oceans Away/Treachery/Free Me/Without Your Love//Hard Life/Giving It All Away/Avenging Annie/Proud/You Put Something Better Inside Me

"Years don't mean a thing"

The first solo best-of for Roger was released to cash in on the drama surrounding The Who's split. Given that Daltrey had only released three albums and a film soundtrack up to this point it's not a bad set, featuring many of his best songs such as 'Say It Ain't So Jo' and 'Giving It All Away'. However it's slightly out of date nowadays and you're probably best off with 'Moonlighting' in the modern CD age. I'm not sure it would ever convert you into becoming a fan but as a sampler of arguably the best three Daltrey records it does its job. The reason this album has two names by the way is that it came out with different titles and packaging in America ('The Best Bits', with a front cover of a tuxedod Roger holding 'bits' and a drill, which seems like rather a desperate pun to me) and in Europe (where this album became the much more straighrforward 'The Best Of Roger Daltrey' which features a 'Tommy' film era shot of Roger in a stripey jumper with his arms behind his head).

Pete Townshend "All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes"

(Atco, June 1982)

Stop Hurting People/The Sea Refuses No River/Prelude/Face Dances Part Two/Exquisitely Bored/Communication//Stardom In Acton/Uniforms (Corp D'esprit)/North Country Girl/Somebody Saved Me/Slit Skirts

CD Bonus Tracks: Vivienne/Man Watching/Dance It Away

"Watching the storms and tangled wires and rivers that meet on the corner"

Released just three months before final Who album 'It's Hard' , many fans considered that Pete was saving his best songs for himself with his second 'proper' solo album definitely patchier but in places just as strong as his first. To be fair Pete was probably enjoying the freedom that writing for himself as untried and untested artist allowed him more than working for a band he'd been writing for across the past seventeen years, with 'Chinese Eyes' a weirder, stranger album than 'It's Hard' from the title on down. In some ways it's a concept album, one that deals even more directly than usual about identity, with songs about first impressions and the deeper, often uglier character that lies underneath the surface. Now that the 1980s is really in full flow and more image conscious than any time since the mod movement, Pete is inspired to comment on how we're shaped by our background, the uniform we wear to work and our dress code. With 'fashion' a peculiarly human concept, Pete wonders aloud too about our more animal instincts hidden away inside, following up 'I Am An Animal' with more songs about our darker sides of which 'The Sea Refuses No River' is an especially strong confessional, a weepy guilt-ridden song more in the vein of 'Who By Numbers' and 'Somebody Daved Me' looking sideways at the basic need for love and affection. Unlike some Townshend half-concepts, both sides are tied up together at the end too, with 'Slit Skirts' a pop song about fashion 'interrupted' by Pete the songwriter admitting what he's really thinking as he mopes around at home trying to come up with the perfect song. An under-rated, more complex LP than it's usually given credit for, it's just a shame that Pete's inspiration doesn't quite last the course with 'Uniforms' 'Stardom In Acton' and 'Face Dances' amongst the lesser, sillier side of Pete's period writing as heard on, erm, 'Face Dances' (and yes it makes sense the song was originally intended for The Who album it was named after). Still, those who'd heard 'Face Dances' and were about to hear 'It's Hard' would have been impressed at just how much depth and poignancy there is on around two-thirds of this album and 'Cowboys' is still a far less bumpy musical ride than the post-Moon Who albums.

In case you're wondering about the weird title, most fans are too. Pete tried to explain it once in a period interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, saying that it referred to 'the fact that you can never hide what you're truly like' and that even a slit-eyed John Wayne character, appreciated as a pure hero, had his dark sides and moods too and the character he played in films often had to kill hordes of people to deliver hordes more to safety. More interesting are his comments that every nationality has set ideas of each other and each seems to have a different natural enemy. After multiple paragraphs it all boiled down to this: 'If you're a good person you can't hide that you're good even if you do bad things; equally if you're a bad person you can't hide that you're bad even if you do the odd good thing'. It's all part of a fascination with identity and how we recognise other people which has stretched back to the very beginning and the debates of Tommy and Jimmy The Mod's characters and whether they're 'good' or not, perhaps best heard in the unreleased cynical demo 'Politician' in 1967. Pete also confessed later he partly named the record in the hope of winning the 'silly album title' award handed out every year run by NME (they 'missed' it that year but later named it as #15 on their '50 worst album titles ev-uh' run down in 2004).

'Stop Hurting People!' seems like an odd plea for the least hippiest band of the 1960s, but there's always been a bleeding heart beating underneath the violence and aggression of many Who recordings and it's good to hear Pete in pure 'charity' mode now he's a solo star. Like 'Theresa' released a few months later the song also longs to be with a mysterious girl despite the fact Pete is still married and in love with his life, feeling that he can only find out who he is by seeing how other people see him (the song even has an 'I know the match is bad' refrain repeated from 'A Little Is Enough'). What's less appealing is the very 1980s trappings and the fact that Pete intones the opening verse like some bad B-movie, with the whole track sounding more like Duran Duran than The Who.

The album highlight is 'The Sea Refuses No River', a mournful and oh-so-sad song about all the things Pete regrets and thinks he's got wrong: his pride, his drug-taking simply because his peers were taking it and his fears that he's lost control of his own mind and body. Water is a big thing on Who albums, mainly thanks to Meher Baba - usually it's a chance for re-birth but occasionally it's so overwhelming in size that characters drown in it. Here things are slightly different: Pete's creative spirit accepts everything that comes to it, every impulse and every bad experience and every drug, even when he knows he should refuse them - they all add up to experiences for his writing, good and bad.Like 'Empty Glass' this song sounds slightly 'wrong', as if Pete knows he's heading down to a dark and dingy path he knows he shouldn't be taking but still feels compelled to take, with a guitar solo that's his most atonal and out-of-tune with the rest of the song as he ever recorded. Together with a pretty tune that seems to 'tut-tut' throughout the song and a glorious strong but shame-faced vocal, this is a candidate for the best Townshend song of the 1980s.

The ninety second piano ballad 'Prelude' was co-written with Andy Newman and sounds much like the 'observational' songs of 'White City' to come. Pete sings prettily over a lovely melody about the 'lovers and losers' he sees from his window, but with such a short running time this sweet song never really gets going.

'Face Dances' is  a song that the 1981-style Who would have performed rather well and it's a shame they didn't record it after all as originally intended as it would have gone well with that record's changing-faces cover. perhaps Pete felt it fitted this album's concept too well, with the narrator 'reading' people's true identified as their faces change expression and 'dance' in front of him. Though this is an impressive song, it's a shame it has to be quite so 1980s with the artificial period technology getting in the way of the emotion of the piece.

'Exquisitely Bored' is a 10cc-ish song about fakery and flippancy with a reggae middle-eight (the only reggae passage on any Who-related album, probably mercifully). Pete is bored on a holiday in California, bored of watching people pretend to be something other than themselves and fearing that their 'disease' is rubbing off as he himself feels 'hardly here...just like all the rest'. Pete sings in his best Southern American accent on an unusual song that would sound even better with a stronger 'hook' to it, although the fact that the song doesn't make the most of its powerful melodies and ideas is also rather fitting in context.

'Communication' is this album's 'Jools and Jim', a fast-paced drum-heavy song that's surely a tribute of sorts to Moon. Pete is back to his favourite lyrical theme - how humans speak to each other - with a lyric that takes in several different languages and another 'monologue' vocal about how different species communicate too where he sounds like David Attenborough. The song is a little bit silly, but saved in part by a glorious Paul Weller-style guitar solo and a singalong 'never never hesitate to communicate' chorus that's kinda catchy. This would have livened 'It's Hard' up no end.
Accidentally titled 'Stardom In Action' on many websites and reviews, actually the start of side two is the more home-bound 'Stardom In Acton', another 'White City' prequel about the dreams and desires for the future of a bunch of no-hopers from Pete's London borough. Dreams are 'all they've got' sings Pete, as he sings with amazement that of all his talented friends he was 'the first to get hooked' and remembering walking about town in a gang, 'wanting my bag, my stash, my omnipotence!' It's another catchy song, perhaps a little too catchy for its own good as the song goes for clever rhymes and melody over depth and poignancy. It's hard to know who Pete is 'angry' at in the middle eight for 'interrupting his dream' - is it Keith, for prematurely ending The Who or some earlier figure (perhaps a teacher who told Pete he'd never amount to anything?) A truly fascinating song.

'Uniforms' is sub-titled 'Spirit D'es Corps' - the spirit of the corporation, a very Townshend oxymoron. A rigid synth-based marching song with silly and impenetrable lyrics, Pete's marching soldier only discovers his real self when he dives in a 'river' (presumably, given past references, the love of Meher Baba and life). Pete complains that people 'dress alike to prove their identities' and how wearing the same as someone else makes us feel a part of something, even though it kills off individual spirit. This once well-dressed mod is clearly taking a cue from fellow Baba fan Ronnie Lane, who swapped his mod suits in this period for simple country attire with a middle eight that says that we were all naked when we were born anyway. He's still got a bit of Jimmy inside him though as he wails 'heaven knows, I need new clothes!', though this time it's more about identity and finding a life away from The Who (maybe anyway - probably only Pete knows what one of his weirdest lyrics is all about and maybe not even then!)

'North Country Girl' is a rather timid cover of an over-covered folk song already heard on albums by Bob Dylan and Stephen Stills. A simple Thomas Hardy-style song about love among the 'peasants', it's unusual for Pete in that it expresses love through purely physical means - usually his love songs are deeper and more character driven than this. The cover sounded nice in concert in this era, as a folky interruption of more band-driven songs, but here on record it's all too technologically-driven once again.

The beautiful ''Somebody Saved Me' was first tried out the year before by The Who, even though it's clearly a 'Townshend' song. Pete is in denial and does his best to 'pretend' that he's better off alone, 'saved' from love that is surely going to hurt him in the long run away, although his pained ending (in which he's never sounded sadder or more in need of a hug) suggests otherwise. 'If I'd have had her for just an hour, I'd have wanted her for ever' he sighs on another 'Theresa' style song about wanting to run away with a mysterious girl. A later verse has Pete's pal nurse him back from a drug overdose and end up dead himself - is this his old art college room-mate, who looked after Pete in his early days and was much 'straighter' in his drug and booze-use but died young in a car crash? Or Keith, whose premature death must have shaken a similarly out-of-control Townshend. A charging middle eight admits that 'I don't know about guardian angels - all I know about is staying alive' and feeling guilty that 'I've been making it' even though 'there are times I didn't deserve to!', Pete still driven by his 'My Generation' promise to always stay 'real' or 'die young trying'. A tremendous song although this re-recording lacks a little of the softness and honesty of the Who outtake (heard as a bonus track on 'Face Dances') which is clearly the version to own if you have a choice.

The album ends with 'Slit Skirts', another remarkable song presumably written in 1979 (Pete says he's '34 years old' at the start of the song). Pete is feeling sorry for himself and trying to get out of his depression because he knows people listen to his songs to feel 'better'. However he can't do it: all he sees around him in the modern world is misery too, girls missing the babies they never had through contraception and men running away from marriages to work on oil rigs. There are so many reasons to feel miserable and Pete knows he should have 'learnt' something about the pain and pressures of being in love he can pass down to 'us' - but he can't bring himself to tell us that he doesn't know anything. So instead we get a sudden 'Quadrophenia' song about 'appearances' and 'fashion' in which his girl has bought a new slit skirt that looks good, tagging on a final line about how all of us are always 'afraid of every new romance' because we fear, deep down, that it's always going to go wrong. A second verse has Pete branching out, telling us that his worry is that whoever falls in love with him only love the 'surface' him they know from Who recordings and that he can never live up to it as he slumps, depressed, in front of the 'late night' shows on TV. A remarkable song full of the schizophrenia of old as Pete both offers us a glimpse of the darkness he feels inside his soul and makes us feel better with a power-pop chorus anyway.

The CD adds three unreleased bonus tracks - none of them all that special and probably best left unreleased. 'Vivienne' has some church-bell sound effects to go along with the piano and another lyric about wanting to run away with a new girl Pete's only just met. However the song isn't that memorable and jumps around between tunes too often. 'Man Watching' is the most 1980s Pete Townshend recording of all, with an 'Eminence Front' style synth riff and a boring lyric about a man up to something he shouldn't be. Though set in a disco, I have an awful feeling the 'man' is 'Meher Baba', 'born in the future and arriving here sometime soon'. 'Dance It Away', meanwhile, is a 'Theresa' style song about nothing more than dancing, which began life as an improvisation The Who tacked onto the end of their cover of 'Dancing In The Streets'. Only Pete's aggressive guitar catches the ear.

Forget the bonus tracks though - the main 'Chinese Eyes' album is a largely impressive collection of heartfelt ballads, guilty autobiography and a fascinating concept about how we never quite present our full true selves to the world (did we mention Pete was an INFJ?) Though the album lacks the general consistency of 'Empty Glass' and the cohesion of 'White City' it contains many songs that are amongst Pete's finest solo work and though the 1980s production gets in the way that fits better than on Pete's other solo albums too, with tales of darkness pretending to be light and surface pop songs masking deeper thoughts. Pete is on strong voice throughout too, although it's a shame that his guitar so often takes back-seat to a synthesiser across this record. Certainly compared to 'It's Hard' most fans would probably take this record, although in truth they're a pretty good match for each other as that album too deals with darkness and worry and big life-changes hidden behind similarly daft singalong tunes. Another excellent album then but it's also the last of a great run of creativity and prolificness that stretches back to 1969, with Pete's next release three whole years away and with only two solo and one band records to go in the thirty-five years that follow this one. 

"Who's Last"

(MCA, Recorded October-December 1982, Released November 1984)

My Generation/I Can't Explain/Substitute/Behind Blue Eyes/Baba O'Riley//Boris The Spider/Who Are You?/Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me-Listening To You//Love Reign O'er Me/Long Live Rock/Long Live Rock (Reprise)/Won't Get Fooled Again//Dr Jimmy/Magic Bus/Summertime Blues/Twist and Shout

"Tell me who are you? Because I really want to know!"

So it ends, not with a bang but very much with a whimper. I'll defend the post-Moon studio Who to any fan (Kenney Jones really is the perfect replacement, Pete Townshend is still writing great material - if not great Who material - and when they want to The Who can still sound like the band of old, it's just that after Keith's death they've moved on to sound like a band that's new), but defending the live Who of the period is, well, to quote the album they're meant to be plugging, it's hard. The Who don't want to be on stage anymore, their audience don't want them to sound like this, the band have admitted defeat and played very few new songs on this tour (while none of them made this album three can be heard on the 'It's Hard' CD re-issue) and as farewell parties go it's all a bit of a shambles. Heard back to back with 'Live At Leeds' this era of The Who don't even sound good enough to be a tribute band. Unlike the DVD that's out which really was the last live show (in Toronto), this CD is mainly taken from the band's final US show in Cleveland a few weeks before - the fact that the differences between the two are virtually nil, right down to the inter-song stage patter, says everything you need to know about what The Who have become. Which, basically, is an arena-stadium act, playing with big gestures but barely looking at each other on stage anymore or connecting with the applauding fans - more than perhaps any other band The Who relied on their audience for feedback ('listening to you I get the music!') and the relationship is no longer two-way.

However there are, as always with The Who, occasional moments of light: 'My Generation' now ends with a cracking extended bass solo, followed by an equally cracking guitar solo with the song sounding almost as good as it ever did; there's a brave stab at 'Behind Blue Eyes' where the harmonies are pretty darn good even if the sudden crash into the main song is poorly handled; the live debut of 'Long Live Rock' is just a manic excuse for a party but at least the song sounds good in concert (we really don't need the 90 second reprise though - most fans sounded relieved the song was over the first time...) and of all the songs to revive from 'Quadrophenia' the plot-heavy 'Dr Jimmy' was no one's first choice but, pilled up to the gunnals, it's tricky key and chord changes are handled surprisingly well. Most of it, though, is just noise - and not seat-of-your-pants, how-good-is-this-and-what-will-happen-next????' noise as per 'Live At Leeds' or indeed any prior Who tour, but a 'what song is this again?' noise. Maybe, just maybe, The Who did leave it too long before calling it a day. The artwork of the original LP says it all: on the front is the band's trademark Union Jack flag 'on fire' (though not in a safe, controlled, this-band-is-really-on-it way but a drab smoke-filled mess) while the back features a clearly exhausted band in matching gold lame suits that a band like The Who should never ev-uh have agreed to wear, with Pete so tired that John is visibly propping him up. Released as an afterthought, two years after the actual shows, this is a needless souvenir of a moment in time no Who fan really wants to remember. Worryingly, it's still superior to 1989 reunion souvenir 'Join Together'...Oh and if you really need to own this album the Toronto show (which is basically the same thing) was re-issued complete in 2006 with the missing songs from 'Face Dances' and 'It's Hard' re-instated and a few other oddities thrown in too. This is clearly the better way to own the album if you really feel the need to have it...

"Live From Toronto"

(Immortal, Recorded December 1982 Released April 2006)

My Generation/I Can't Explain/Dangerous/Sister Disco/The Quiet One/It's Hard/Eminence Front/Baba O'Riley/Boris The Spider/Drowned/Love Ain't For Keeping/Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me-Listening To You/Who Are You?/5.15/Love Reign O'er Me/Long Live Rock/Long Live Rock (Reprise)/Won't Get Fooled Again/Naked Eye/Squeeze Box/Young Man Blues/Twist and Shout

"We tried but you were yawning, look again - rock is dead, long live rock!"

Though not many fans were asking for it, The Who returned to the live tapes of their farewell tour in 1982 some twenty-four years later and decided to have another go that featured the recordings made on their very final gig from Toronto which was broadcast around the world, rather than a compendium of their final American shows which 'Who's Last' had been taken from. The result is better, mainly because The Who were on form that day, played a slightly stronger set and there's much more of a 'loving' atmosphere in the arena as many fans realise this really is the last time they'll see their heroes. The longer setlist (played at the 'Who's Last' shows as well but cut and messed around for the CD) also makes more sense and hangs together better, starting with an arch, postmodernist take on 'My Generation' now the band are all in their late thirties, moving on to some rarities like 'Sister Disco' 'Squeeze Box' and 'Love Ain't For Keeping' that weren't often played live and were cut from 'Who's Last', that famous finale of 'Twist and Shout' released as the final Who single in 1984 and four songs from the recent 'It's Hard' record which sounded far better than the tracks ever did in concert (these had already been released though, as bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of that album). The Who still don't sound particularly good and are delivering at a vastly lower level than they were in their 'Live At Leeds' heyday and the show still isn't recommended for anyone but The Who completist. However we completists have our feelings too and the good news is that you won't get quite as upset at the depressing state of the world's greatest rock and roll band on this album as you would on 'Who's Last', with this album beating it in every way. 

In case you were wondering where it was our old review for Pete Townshend's 'Empty Glass' album (1980) is here:

A complete collection of Who reviews:

'The Who Sing My Generation' (1965)

'Sell Out' (1967)

‘Tommy’ (1969)

'Live At Leeds' (1970)

'Lifehouse' (As It Might Have Been) (1971)

'Who's Next' ('Lifehouse' As It Became) (1971)

'Quadrophenia' (1973)

'The Who By Numbers' (1975)

'Who Are You' (1978)

'Face Dances' (1979)

'Empty Glass' (Townshend solo 1980)

'It's Hard' (1982)

Surviving Who TV Clips 1965-2015

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1964-1967

Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1968-2014

Pete Townshend “Scoop” 1-3

The Best Unreleased Who Recordings

Live/Solo/Rarities/Competition Albums Part One 1965-1972

Live/Solo/Rarities/Competition Albums Part Two 1972-1975

Live/Solo/Rarities/Compilation Albums Part Three 1976-1982

Live/Solo/Rarities/Compilation Albums Part Four 1983-1990

Live/Solo/Rarities/Compilation Albums Part Five 1991-2000

Essay: Who Are You And Who Am I?:

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