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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”
“Face Dances, Pt. #2” (#15 and #105 on two different U.S. Billboard charts)
“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)
“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!