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In celebration of the one and only Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend turning 75 this month, I’m devoting May’s posts to reviewing his solo albums which I haven’t previously reviewed. Let’s kick things off with Who Came First, his first official solo album, released October 1972. The review I originally wrote for my old Angelfire site around 2002 is in bold. My edits are fairly minimal.
This is a very spiritual album that reflects a large influence by Meher Baba. Unfortunately, soon after I got this album, my backup record player temporarily went to pot (the sound got worse than usual; it was a child’s Cabbage Patch player, after all, and a real waste of money), and I wasn’t able to play any of my records for another month or so.
Even then, it still took quite a number of listens to kick in, really kick in, and I was able to start enjoying all of it, not just some of it. People who aren’t into spiritual music probably won’t like it that much. That said, once it grew on me, I really liked the songs, esp. the spiritual ones.
I sound like a broken record, but Pete’s version of “Let’s See Action” is worlds better than The Who’s. Different lyrics, it’s longer, and it’s softer and slower. He never should’ve surrendered that song to them or changed the lyrics!
“Pure and Easy” is also slightly different from the band’s version, softer and slower, with some changed lyrics. They both sound way more spiritual here.
There’s also his version of “Time Is Passing,” which for many years was the only version available. The Who’s version was on a badly damaged tape that (as of 1995) was too corrupt to operate on so it might be included as a bonus track on the remastered Who’s Next. It was saved, however, and in 1997 was issued as one of many bonus tracks on the remastered Odds and Sods.
It all depends on your outlook. If you like underrated and spiritual stuff, you might like to bring this into your collection early on. This was my seventh solo album of his, and even then I was a slight bit nervous about acquiring it, as I hadn’t heard much about it, either good or bad.
It’s not well-known like Empty Glass or Psychoderelict, but it has a lovely spiritual dimension you won’t find in any boygroup monkey’s “solo career.” And because of the underrated nature of this album, coupled with the fact that it was just done on the side in a recording interim, most people don’t feel Pete’s solo career began with this album, but rather with Empty Glass in 1980, eight years later.
Prior to WCF, Pete released solo work on collaborative albums Happy Birthday (February 1970) and I Am (1972), both of which were tributes to Meher Baba. Due to poor-quality bootlegs of the limited-run, privately-distributed LPs, Decca asked Pete for permission to publicly release them.
Always one to beat to his own drum, Pete instead significantly overhauled the track listings and transformed those two albums into his first real solo album. Also on WCF were Lifehouse demo tracks and some new songs.
Pete recorded the songs in his home studio, which was one of England’s most advanced at the time. One dollar from each sale went to charity.
“Pure and Easy”
“Evolution” (written and sung by Ronnie Lane of The Small Faces)
“Forever’s No Time at All” (written by Billy Nicholls and Kate McInnerny; sung by Mr. Nicholls)
“Nothing Is Everything (Let’s See Action)”
“Time Is Passing”
“There’s a Heartache Following Me” (written by Ray Baker)
“Content” (co-written with Maud Kennedy)
“Parvardigar” (Meher Baba’s beautiful Universal Prayer)
2006 bonus tracks:
“Day of Silence”
“The Love Man”
“I Always Say”
“Begin the Beguine” (written by Cole Porter)
2017 bonus tracks:
“Day of Silence”
“Mary Jane” (Stage A, alternative take)
“I Always Say”
“Begin the Beguine”
“Baba O’Riley” (instrumental)
“The Love Man” (Stage C)
“Content” (Stage A)
“Day of Silence” (alternative version)
“Parvardigar” (alternative take)
“Nothing Is Everything” (earlier take)
“There’s a Fortune in Those Hills”
“Meher Baba in Italy” (instrumental)
“Drowned” (live in India)
“Evolution (Stone)” (live at Ronnie Lane Memorial, Royal Albert Hall, 8 April 2004)
My favorite tracks are “Content” (so ethereally gorgeous!), “There’s a Heartache Following Me,” “Let’s See Action,” and “Parvardigar.” I used to have the words of “Parvardigar” taped up on my dorm doors.