Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pete Townshend 3: Empty Glass

While The Who continued on the road with new drummer Kenney Jones, Pete took the opportunity to sign a solo deal and finally get the first pick of his own songs (in between drinking binges and worse). The immediate result was the excellent Empty Glass, which he considers his first real solo album.
Right out of the gate “Rough Boys” delivers some of the most exciting music he’d played in years. The lyrics would continue to be misinterpreted over the years, but the guitar intro and inexplicable ending stand one’s hair on end. “I Am An Animal” is very subtle and heartbreaking. “And I Moved” is an interesting experiment, a song written from a woman’s point of view, which only fed the fire down the road. “Let My Love Open The Door” was a top 10 single—bigger than any Who hit since “I Can See For Miles”—and still good today. “Jools And Jim” closes the side with an ambiguous, angry rant at the press.
“Keep On Working” has some great vocals and layered harmonies, followed by “Cat’s In The Cupboard”, an excuse for boogie. “A Little Is Enough” is one of his most direct love songs, for his wife as well as Baba. (Listen for that melody between the verses; it’ll come up again.) The title track is a cry for help with some intriguing dynamics, while “Gonna Get Ya” slams it all home with more great vocals, a fantastic midsection and good piano. It’s probably the closest thing to a Who song here.
Even if he was slowly killing himself, Empty Glass proves Pete could still write. He also got support in the studio from a handful of talented players, including the soon-to-be rhythm section for Big Country, along with crisp production by Chris Thomas, who earned his bones with the Beatles and had recent success with the likes of the Pretenders and the Sex Pistols. If the Who wouldn’t ever return to the heights they had with Keith behind the kit, the album at least should have given Pete some confidence that his own career wasn’t finished. And even if Roger couldn’t see himself singing these songs anyway, he had his acting career for the time being. (The album was respected enough to be available on a “gold” CD in the mid-‘90s, while the 2006 reissue added some previously unreleased demos of four of the album’s tracks.)

Pete Townshend Empty Glass (1980)—4
2006 remaster: same as 1980, plus 4 extra tracks


  1. This review just reminded me of how much I've always liked "Let My Love Open the Door," and that I haven't heard it in a long time. I'm gonna go listen to it right now.


  2. i'm eagerly awaiting the review of white city fighting.
    easily one of my favorite albums from my youth.

    townsend almost seemed better without the who behind him. gentler. something.


  3. As will be revealed, I'm more of a Townshend fan than I am a Who fan. Though being a Townshend fan has helped me be a Who fan. Or something.

  4. nice write-up
    and thanx for the up!