Looking back, it’s hard to believe I was so nervous about getting into Pete’s solo work. For the longest time, I was afraid of committing to an album of unfamiliar songs, and preferred to know all or most already from the radio. If I hated it, I’d have wasted my money.
When I queried the ladies on my estrogen Who lists, Chinese Eyes and Empty Glass were unanimously recommended as ideal starting points, and they were right. You can’t go wrong with either.
Pete’s solo work is so intensely personal, saying “This is who, how, what, and why I am, so love me or leave me.” I love how he wears his heart on his musical sleeve, and cares less if people deride him as pretentious or not commercial enough.
“And I Moved” is a quintessential example of why he got so many female and gay male fans as a solo artist! Pete has more guts in his pinky finger than most male artists for choosing to sing a song about a sexual encounter from a female POV after Bette Midler’s handlers rejected it without showing it to her.
Over eighteen years after I first heard that song, it still gives me goosebumps, particularly the lines “And I moved/And his hands felt like ice exciting/As he lay me back just like an empty dress.”
I used to play Empty Glass every single day! That’s how much I adore that album. And after almost two decades, Side Four of Another Scoop never fails to emotionally transport me back to being a heartbroken 22-year-old.
The order in which I got Pete’s solo albums:
All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, 21 November 2001. I later bought a vinyl copy on 24 May 2002.
Empty Glass, bought 1 December 2001, first listen 19 December 2001, after finally getting a record player as an unbirthday present to myself. (Long story about how the Residence Director of the UMass Hillel House totally forgot about my birthday, and I didn’t finally have a party till the Senior Service in May!)
Psychoderelict, 16 February 2002
Who Came First, 2 March 2002
White City, late July/early August 2002. I first listened to it on 3 August after winning it on eBay.
Rough Boy bootleg, 18 September 2002
Iron Man, 23 March 2003
Deep End Live!, 19 May 2003
Scoop 3, about the spring of 2019 (via Spotify)
I’d personally recommend White City after Chinese Eyes and Empty Glass. They’re the classic triumvirate of Pete’s solo style. Scoop and Another Scoop are good choices to round out your first five.
Psychoderelict is awesome, though some people prefer the music-only version and don’t like the radio play version. I personally can’t imagine it without the dialogues tying all the songs together, since they’re an integral part of the story, though others feel much differently.
I’d recommend Who Came First and Rough Mix for about this point in your journey into Pete’s solo work, since they were made before he started recording as a solo artist in earnest. It took awhile for WCF to fully grow on me, and RM is half Ronnie Lane’s album, not just Pete’s. You’re getting two for the price of one, and need to like Ronnie’s music too.
If you like Pete’s music enough to keep going, Scoop 3 might be a good addition at this point. Since many of the songs are instrumentals, of a more experimental nature, and not Who demos, it’s more geared towards serious fans of Pete’s solo career instead of newbies.
Getting certain albums too early can turn one off, even if the music itself is awesome. You need to be at a certain place in your fandom to love and appreciate them.
I was really disappointed by Deep End Live!, and would recommend it for last. It’s not so much bad music, just presented poorly. There were 27 songs at this show, with eighteen on the video, and those were the ten songs chosen for the album?!
Only four of those songs are what I consider standouts. The rest are so disappointing. The entire live show was finally released on CD in 2004, which I’m long overdue to listen to!
The much-derided Iron Man made a better initial impression on me! It’s hardly one of Pete’s greatest records, but it’s intended as a children’s story, not deep, timeless, adult music. You also don’t want to miss John Lee Hooker singing “Over the Top” and “I Eat Heavy Metal.”
For almost twenty years, Pete’s solo albums have meant so much to me, on top of his songs for The Who being one of the predominant soundtracks of my life. They hold up so well, and listening to them for the first time in a very long time last year felt like the first time all over again. (My LPs are in storage 900 miles away, so I have to use Spotify for almost everything!)
I’m so glad I took a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone to discover such a special catalogue.