A double album full of eclectic goodies

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Released autumn 2001, Scoop 3 is the last of Pete’s double albums in this series, unless he decides to surprise us with a fourth installment after all these years. Owing to its fairly recent vintage, most of the material dates from the late Seventies through 2001 instead of mining the deep vault. Most of the songs are also from Pete’s solo career instead of Who demos or later revisitings of Who songs, and many are instrumentals.

As Pete explains in his liner notes, he wrote fewer songs with lyrics as of 2001, owning to not being under contract for either The Who or his own solo career. Thus, he had complete freedom to pursue a more experimental type of music, and different types of music than he had when he was obligated to produce albums.

He didn’t entirely stop writing lyrical songs, though. He simply chose to keep them unpublished in case he recorded with The Who or as a solo artist again. (To date, I’ve not listened to either of the albums Pete and Roger made after John’s passing, and have no desire to ever do so.)

Pete also started doing a lot more piano and keyboard music because he seriously hurt his wrist in a 1991 bicycle accident, and using those instruments was wonderful physiotherapy.

Amazingly, at least 27 of the 34 tracks were made in my lifetime!

Disc One:

“Can You See the Real Me” (1973)
“Dirty Water” (1979)
“Commonwealth Boys” (1984; later became closing track “Come to Mama” on White City)
“Theme 015” (1987)
“Marty Robbins” (1984)
“I Like It the Way It Is” (1978)
“Theme 016” (1987)
“No Way Out (However Much I Booze)” (1975)
“Collings” (2000)
“Parvardigar” (German version) (1971)
“Sea and Sand” (1972)
“971104 Arpeggio Piano” (1997)
“Theme 017” (probably 1983, given it was intended for the aborted final Who album Siege)
“I Am Afraid” (1990)
“Maxims for Lunch” (1983)
“Wistful” (1991)
“Eminence Front” (1995; obviously not the demo version!)
“Lonely Words” (1985)

Disc Two:

“Prelude 970519” (1997)
“Iron Man Recitative” (1993)
“Tough Boys” (1979; later became “Rough Boys”)
“Did You Steal My Money?” (1980 or 1981) (“The true story behind this doesn’t make anyone look good—especially me. It is not the time to tell it.”)

“Can You Really Dance?” (1988)
“Variations on ‘Dirty Jobs'” (recorded 1997, fully orchestrated 2001)
“All Lovers Are Deranged” (1983)
“Elephants” (1984)
“Wired to the Moon, Pt. 2” (recorded on piano 1997; strings and vocals added in 2001)

“How Can You Do It Alone” (1980) (“I quite liked The Who’s rendering of this song. Roger sang it really well. But it is probably one of those songs that needed my acidic tone to work without awkwardness. Whichever version is your favourite [and you may hate both of them] it’s good to be able to compare.”)

“Poem Disturbed” (1994) (“You can hear my phone ring. I knew who it was: my then girlfriend. These were strange times for me.”)

“Squirm Squirm” (1990)  (“At last, a song with a happy inspiration. One day I was holding my new-born son Joseph and singing him to sleep. It came into my mind that seen from high above we humans must look just like insects, or worms. As he wriggled in my arms I sang to him about the messages we all believe we get sometimes from above. At the time I was gathering material for Psychoderelict, which was—among other things—about the loneliness and collapse of a once famous and beloved rock star. The song seemed to contain and reflect both the peace and safety of this child in my arms, and the chaos and danger that surrounded us out there in the crazy world.”)

“Outlive the Dinosaur” (1990) (“The word dinosaur was of course first used to describe ageing rock stars with vicious irony and I use it here with vicious irony redoubled.”)
“Teresa” (1980; later became opening track “Athena” on It’s Hard)
“Man and Machines” (1985)

“It’s in Ya” (1981) (“Not much to say about this song. A woman I vaguely knew sent me a letter rightly complaining I was getting self-indulgent [after the release of the Who Are You album] and it later sparked this song about what makes the magic of rock ‘n’ roll. It isn’t the musician—it’s the listener.”)

I only listened to this album for the first time in 2019, on Spotify, despite how long it’d been out. I personally would recommend the first two Scoop albums to a new fan first, since a lot of these songs seem more geared to longtime, serious fans.

While I’ve not listened to Scoop 3 nearly enough to be familiar with all the songs, I’d count “Lonely Words,” “I Like It the Way It Is,” and the German “Parvardigar” among my favorite tracks.

A has-been in search of a comeback

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Released 15 June 1993, Psychoderelict is, to date, Pete’s final studio solo album. Though he’s since released a number of other albums, they’re all compilations and live shows instead of new material. Most critics hated this album, though loyal fans have always held it as a criminally underrated masterpiece.

Many casual listeners also hated the radio play structure, with dialogues placed between songs and linking them together. To placate these whiners, Pete released a music-only version. That still wasn’t good enough for the unwashed masses, and sales continued to be poor.

Psychoderelict tells the story of washed-up Sixties rocker Raymond Highsmith (Ray High), who hasn’t had a hit in ages and is now an alcoholic recluse running out of money. His manager Rastus Knight is on his tail to produce something, anything, new, but Ray is convinced the public will hate it.

Ruth Streeting, a radio music critic whom Ray hates, comes up with a very dangerous plan to lure Ray out of retirement and into making new music. Rastus is delighted to hear this, and says they could shift millions if Ruth is successful. He’ll also cut her in on the deal.

Ray receives a letter from 14-year-old aspiring singer Rosalind Nathan, along with a naked photo of her on her mother’s grave. That definitely piques his interest, and he begins a penpal correspondence with her. Ray feels Rosalind is a kindred spirit, since “we both share complicated problems.”

He promises to tell her the secrets of stardom, so long as Rosalind doesn’t tell anyone what he says in his letters. In addition to very personal letters, Ray also sends her a tape of “Flame,” a song he wrote for his secret Gridlife project, telling Rosalind to prove her singing skills by recording it.

Scandal erupts when Ruth airs “the porno penpal story” and excoriates Ray as a nasty slimeball who took advantage of a trusting young girl who opened her heart to him and trusted him. She accuses Ray of soliciting the naked photo and using Rosalind “to test out his weird theories.”

However, the public isn’t that morally outraged, since Ray’s record sales immediately begin surging upon his catalogue’s rerelease. Rosalind’s début album, produced by Ruth, also becomes a huge hit.

Instead of being thrilled at his replenished fortune and being “back in calculator country,” Ray is outraged at Ruth for her role in the situation. When he goes to confront her, he discovers she’s having an affair with Rastus.

Will there be a happy ending to this story? And will Rosalind ever make an appearance?

Track listing (with dialogues running between all songs):

“English Boy”
“Meher Baba M3”
“Let’s Get Pretentious”
“Meher Baba M4 (Signal Box)”
“Early Morning Dreams”
“I Want That Thing”
Dialogue introduction to “Outlive the Dinosaur”
“Outlive the Dinosaur”
“Flame” (demo version)
“Now and Then”
“I Am Afraid”
“Don’t Try to Make Me Real”
Dialogue introduction to “Predictable”
“Predictable”
“Flame” (written by Pete’s baby brother Simon, a talented musician in his own right)
“Meher Baba M5 (Vivaldi)”
“Fake It”
Dialogue introduction to “Now and Then (Reprise)”
“Baba O’Riley” (demo)
“English Boy (Reprise)”

In 2006, the album was reissued with bonus tracks “Psychomontage,” “English Boy” (long intro), “Early Morning Dreams” (demo; alternate vocal), “Uneasy Street,” and “There Is No Message in a Broken Heart.”

I’ve loved this album since I first listened to it in February 2002. I was so excited to see it in the used CD section of Mystery Train Records! My fave tracks are “Now and Then,” “English Boy,” “Predictable,” “Don’t Try to Make Me Real,” and “Fake It.”

The dialogues have so many awesome lines, like:

“Rumour has it the sad old lush can’t do it anymore. I mean make records.”

“Only four nipples? Poor underprivileged kid.”

“That’s all it was, my life on the road, prostitution.”

“That cow wrote that I’m ugly.”
“Well, you are ugly.”

“If you must be introspective, at least do it in public.”

“Remember, you don’t have to bury the past or the pain. You can use it.”

“It’s her job to hate your guts. She’s a journalist.”

“Insecurity is the principle driving force we performers share.”

“Her disgust is the most powerful motivator of the artist in me.”

“Although Ray High’s albums have been rereleased this week, decent, normal people will be more interested in young Rosalind.”

“I can’t wait to see Ray’s face.”
“Well, I can’t wait to see Rosalind’s fucking face.”

“Careful what you’ll say, I’ll print it.”
“I don’t give a smorgasbord about that load of old bollocks you churn out.”

Longtime fans will recognise a lot of Pete’s own life in the story of Ray High, including the parallels between his magnum opus Lifehouse and Ray’s Gridlife. Eerily, there also ended up being parallels with “the porno penpal story” when Pete (along with thousands of other innocent people) was falsely accused of the unthinkable during the severely mishandled Operation Ore in 2003.

Since this album bombed so badly, Pete decided not to make any new albums. Ironically, many people have since pestered him for something new besides compilations. What did they expect would happen after panning so many of his solo albums as pretentious and not commercial enough!

Read more in Pete’s own words

A double album of gourmet chocolate and fine wine

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Released 8 July 1987, Another Scoop is the second of Pete’s three double-albums of demos, outtakes, and unreleased songs, both for The Who and his own solo career. I bought it the same day I bought Scoop, in late January 2002, on the $2 wall at Mystery Train Records in Amherst.

Though I love both albums, I’ve always slightly preferred Another Scoop. Whereas the songs on Scoop have a really fun, cute feel, like candy and soda pop, Another Scoop feels more mature and polished, like fine wine and gourmet chocolate.

As with the first installment, Pete wrote liner notes for each song, some very funny. Unlike the first album, Another Scoop provides dates for every song. Ten of the 25 tracks were recorded in my lifetime.

Pete dedicated this album to the memory of his dad, jazz musician Cliff Townshend (28 January 1916–29 June 1986).

Track listing:

LP One:

“You Better You Bet” (1980)
“Girl in a Suitcase” (1975; a rejected Who by Numbers track)
“Brooklyn Kids” (1978)

“Pinball Wizard” (1969; infamously written and recorded only to butter up music critic Nik Cohn. Mr. Cohn, a huge pinball fan, had panned a sneak preview of Tommy, and Pete wanted to ensure a much better review upon its official release.)

“Football Fugue” (1978)
“Happy Jack” (1966)

“Substitute” (1966) (“Interesting that in eulogizing two of my most important influences [and ripping off a few ideas] I should end up with one of the most succinct songs of my career.”)

“Long Live Rock” (1972) (“At one point I had a whole concept album planned called LONG LIVE ROCK, UGH. This is an innocent, bouncy little demo that contains enough cynicism to make it bearable.”)

“Call Me Lightning” (1964) (“The song is a very clear example of how difficult it was for me to reconcile what I took to be Roger’s need for macho, chauvinist lyrics and Keith Moon’s appetite for surf music and fantasy sports car love affairs.”)

“Holly Like Ivy” (1982) (“Written and recorded in Dallas after a post-show party at some restaurant at which a girl called Holly shook hands with me. I received a very large shock of static electricity at the same time. I think I stood on her hair.”)

“Begin the Beguine” (1969; written by Cole Porter)
“Vicious Interlude” (Pete warns one of his daughters not to put something on the wall and says she has a mischievous look in her eyes)
“La-La-La-Lies” (1965)
“Cat Snatch” (1982–83; instrumental; planned for the aborted last Who album, Siege)

LP Two:

“Prelude #556” (1982; instrumental) (“This short prelude was written, recorded and mixed in Florida while the other guys in the band were playing hockey with a load of schoolgirls. I felt superior at the time. After all, I was writing a prelude. This should really be described as a fanfare:
‘… for the entry of Roger Daltrey in a gym-slip!'”)

“Baroque Ippanese” (1982; instrumental)
“Praying the Game” (1978)
“Driftin’ Blues” (1981; always been my least-fave track; written by Charles Brown, Eddie Williams, and Johnny Moore)
“Christmas” (1968)
“Pictures of Lily” (1967)
“Don’t Let Go the Coat” (1980)
“The Kids Are Alright” (1965)
“Prelude: The Right to Write” (1983; instrumental)
“Never Ask Me” (1977; intended as an alternative ballad for Who Are You)
“Ask Yourself” (1982–83; planned for Siege)
“The Ferryman” (1978; written for an amateur production of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha)
“The Shout” (1984)

Side Four, which begins with “Prelude: The Right to Write,” took on great emotional evocation for me after my third love Jason broke my heart in October 2002. From that first haunting, insistent, pounding piano note, I’m gripped by an aching, yawning heartache that lasts through the last song, as though I’m back in Massachusetts and a heartbroken 22-year-old again. Every single time for almost eighteen years.

Pete’s music is that powerful, truly a soundtrack of my life.

My fave tracks are “Girl in a Suitcase,” “Brooklyn Kids,” “Football Fugue,” “Holly Like Ivy,” “Praying the Game,” and the abovementioned Side Four.

Pete turns 75 tomorrow, 19 May. May he have many more happy returns and continue blessing us with such wonderful music!

“Without your match, there is no flame”

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Released 14 June 1982, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes was the first of Pete’s solo albums I bought (on 21 November 2001), after exhausting The Who’s studio output. It’s amazing to think back on how nervous I was about dipping my toe into his solo catalogue!

Pete has been my favorite bandmember since February 1994, long before I became a serious fan, because I felt a soul connection to him from the first time I read about him. All these years, he’s remained my fave rave, unlike how I’ve had three different favorite Beatles. But solo work was uncharted territory, as much as I adored his voice and everything else about him.

What if I hated it or just couldn’t get into it? I had to start with an album I’d heard overwhelmingly positive things about on my estrogen Who lists instead of something only completists or hardcore fans would want.

For a long time, I was extremely conservative re: my musical tastes, preferring a small group of favorite artists over a huge, constantly-changing list. If I weren’t familiar with an artist, I’d be so nervous about committing to an entire album beyond greatest hits or songs I already knew from the radio.

And then I listened to Chinese Eyes, and was so impressed I proceeded to buy Pete’s entire solo catalogue within about a year and a half. The one album I couldn’t find in used record stores, White City, I got on eBay.

Chinese Eyes reached #17 in New Zealand, #26 in the U.S., #32 in the U.K., #33 in Norway, and #41 in Australia. Always one for brutal honesty, Pete later said he should’ve won a Stupid Title of the Year Award for this album. I can only imagine the baying mob coming to cancel him if he released it today!

Pete also released a companion video, featuring music videos of seven of the eleven songs. Unlike the record, the video was out of print for years. Pete put the videos up on his website in 2000, and they’re now available all over the Web.

Some of the themes in these songs crop up in Horse’s Neck, a rather strange short story collection Pete published in 1985.

Most critics excoriated this album, calling it pretentious, overthought, intricately meaningless, “an ambitious failure,” overindulgent, “a mess of contradictions,” convoluted, “nearly impenetrable,” and a whole host of other negative appellations.

Committed fans, however, have always loved it. I chose this as my first of Pete’s solo albums because it was so highly recommended by other ladies in the fan community. And speaking of ladies…

When Pete officially started his solo career in 1980, with Empty Glass, he was quite surprised to pick up a huge amount of two new kinds of fans—women and gay men. While he never stopped doing more traditional hard rock songs, going solo gave him free range to do a lot more songs channelling his sensitive, gender-atypical side.

Can you really picture Roger belting out a song like “And I Moved,” “Somebody Saved Me,” “Stop Hurting People,” or “Was There Life”? Even in The Who, Pete tended to sing the more tender, sensitive songs like “Sunrise,” “Blue, Red, and Grey,” “Our Love Was,” and “Cut My Hair.”

Pete had to do these songs solo instead of giving them to the band. They’re so deeply personal, only he could’ve done them justice. Despite priding myself on being so gender-defiant, I’m with the majority of female fans (both of The Who and Pete’s solo career) who adore songs guy fans typically trash.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks on the 2006 reissue:

“Stop Hurting People”
“The Sea Refuses No River”
“Prelude”
“Face Dances, Pt. #2” (#15 and #105 on two different U.S. Billboard charts)
“Exquisitely Bored”
“Communication”
“Stardom in Acton”
“Uniforms (Corps d’Esprit)”
“North Country Girl” (written by Bob Dylan)
“Somebody Saved Me” (also a bonus track on the reissue of Face Dances, as a live Who performance)
“Slit Skirts” (probably the best-known song)
“Vivienne”*
“Man Watching”*
“Dance It Away”*

My favorite songs are “Stop Hurting People,” Uniforms,” “Somebody Saved Me,” and “North Country Girl.” Unusually for my collection, this album was made in my lifetime!

An underrated collaboration

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Released 16 September 1977, Rough Mix reached #44 in the U.K. and #45 in the U.S. It was recorded during a hiatus for The Who, and after Ronnie Lane’s band The Faces (who evolved from The Small Faces) split up. Ronnie originally wanted Pete to produce his next solo album, seeing as how Pete’s home studio was one of England’s most advanced at the time. He also wanted to co-write songs with Pete, but that idea was met with disinterest.

Ronnie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during the making of the album, which he didn’t publicly reveal. Since Pete had no idea what was going on with his mate’s health, he thought Ronnie was coming to the studio drunk, and really chewed him out about it. They also once had a fight related to Ronnie’s emotional issues regarding MS. When Pete discovered the truth, he felt really bad about how he’d treated poor Ronnie.

Sadly, both of Ronnie’s brothers and his mother also had MS. As a child, doctors assured him it wasn’t hereditary, but when he was diagnosed at 31, the doctor allowed that it tends to cluster in families. Ronnie passed away at only 51, in 1997.

The eleven songs sound neither like The Who nor The Faces, but British folk rock. In addition to Pete and Ronnie, Rough Mix also features John Entwistle, Charlie Watts, Ian Stewart, and Ronnie’s band Slim Chance. Pete’s then-father-in-law Edwin Astley also did some of the orchestral arrangements.

Though the album only had modest chart success, critics generally rated it positively. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice praised some of the songs as Pete’s “keenest in years.”

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“My Baby Gives It Away” (Pete)
“Nowhere to Run” (Ronnie)
“Rough Mix” (co-written instrumental, one of the rare times Pete co-wrote anything)
“Annie” (Ronnie)
“Keep Me Turning” (Pete)
“Catmelody” (Ronnie)
“Misunderstood” (Pete)
“April Fool” (Ronnie)
“Street in the City” (Pete)
“Heart to Hang Onto” (sung by both)
“Till All the Rivers Run Dry” (written by Don Williams and Wayland Holyfield; sung by Pete)
“Only You”* (originally released on Ronnie’s final solo album, 1979’s See Me)
“Good Question”* (instrumental; also found on Pete’s 1983 double album Scoop as “Brr”)
“Silly Little Man”* (originally released on Ronnie’s third solo album, 1976’s One for the Road)

A 1996 collection of Pete’s greatest solo hits takes its title from a line in “Misunderstood,” coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking. (Yes, that’s supposed to be all one word.) “Street in the City” is also, hauntingly, famous as one of three songs Pete wrote in this era with lines about jumping or falling off of a ledge (the others being “Love Is Coming Down” and The Who’s version of “Empty Glass”).

My favorite tracks are “Annie,” “Keep Me Turning,” “Street in the City,” and “Heart to Hang Onto.”