After the 1970s, The Who struggled as a band. The death of drummer Keith Moon in 1978 took the wind out of the band’s sails.
Two studio albums would eventually follow before the band went on a long hiatus, releasing only live albums, greatest hits compilations and unreleased tracks, until 2006’s Endless Wire, a studio album of new songs. The period in between was for solo projects and the odd tours. Sadly, bassist John Entwistle died in 2002, on the eve of a major tour.
The two studio albums, Face Dances (1981) and It’s Hard (1982), are lesser known albums in The Who catalog. I own them both on vinyl, not upgrading to CD, or even playing them in many years. Forgotten, at least in my collection.
Neither of these albums are bad, but they lack the energy, whip-smart vibe or the edge of their better work. Having said that, the albums include some decent songs and tell a story of the band, post-Moon. These albums caught the band treading water. All three surviving Who members had launched solo careers in the 1970s and seemed at times more interested in that, rather pursuing new Who music.
What difference did Keith Moon’s death make? That was just one factor in the band’s future. Drugs, egos, solo projects and personal issues were also threads of Who fracture.
Entwistle had released four solo albums in the early 1970s, following those with Too Late the Hero, released in 1981. He wrote all the songs for Too Late the Hero, a collaborative album with Joe Walsh and Joe Vitale. I bought this album and it was a huge disappointment considering all of the talent.
Daltrey had also been releasing solo albums since the early 1970s to a very successful solo career. Daltrey was not much of a writer, so he had to rely on David Courtney, Adam Faith, Leo Sayer, Paul Korda, Russ Ballard, Phillip Goodhand-Tait, Billy Nichol and Jeff Wayne for material. McVicar, the soundtrack to the film, starring Daltrey, is an excellent album and features some of Daltrey’s strongest solo work.
Townshend’s first proper solo album was Empty Glass in 1980s. He had previously released Who Came First (1972), an odd collection of leftovers and tributes to his spiritual leader Meher Baba. It was followed by a collaborative project with Ronnie Lane, Rough Mix (1977). Empty Glass was released to very positive reviews and offered up several charting songs like “A Little is Enough”, “Let My Love Open the Door” and “Rough Boys.” More solo albums, concept projects and stage musicals would keep Townshend busy until he was interested in regrouping with The Who. Having produced Tommy, Quadraphenia, the failed Lifehouse project (resulting in Who’s Next), Townshend was onto projects that were more than riffy, rock songs.
The first album with ex-Faces drummer Kenny Jones. Reviews were mixed for this collection. The band hired a new producer, Bill Szymyck (Eagles, Joe Walsh), and the result does play to the band’s strength.
Roger Daltrey, usually an excellent interpreter of Pete Townshend songs, is out of sync with the low energy material. Townshend, who had also started a very successful solo career, must have given the band a set of songs intended for one of his more thoughtful compositions, the growling stadium anthems of the band’s earlier days. It is John Entwistle who provides the songs that harken back to the “My Generation” days. Nothing against Pete as he was writing more thoughtful, pop-flavored songs, a la Sting.
I keep waiting for the songs to shift into overdrive, but they rarely do. I bring my Who expectations to this album rather just accept the band for where it was at the moment.
A very nice album cover.
“You Better You Bet” – A very commercial song with all the bells and whistles. Never one of my favorites. It’s sounds very artificial for The Who, despite the commercial success.
“Don’t Let Go the Coat” – Another very commercial song. More mod than rocker.
“Cache Cache” – Townshend’s solo version on Scoop is better. The production is a bit too sweet.
“The Quiet One” – A throwback to their early days in energy and style. Rough and satisfying. Written by Entwistle.
“Did You Steal My Money” – Imaginative and fresh sounding. One of the best songs on the album.
“How Can You Do it Alone” – Bouncy, riffy guitar song. Not a classic, but nicely done song.
“Daily Records” – Interesting, but average song. The song is really weak on the choruses, stronger on the verses and the instrumental bridge.
“You” – Riffy song by Entwistle. He’s the rocker in the band. Another tough, pulsating song. Thankfully sung by Daltrey.
“Another Tricky Day” – Another commercial song by Townshend. Decent.
A year later, more Who-like songs, and a different producer, but a familiar face. Glyn Johns had worked on Who’s Next, Quadraphenia, Who By Numbers and Who Are You. The art design is terrible, an unimaginative album cover.
“Athena” – A smooth pop song, with riffy guitars, and a top 10 hit. Daltrey handles lead vocals with Townshend on the chorus and bridge.
“Cooks County” – A rougher, heavier song. This would be a leftover track from a decade earlier, it has that early 1970s sound.
“It’s Hard” – Innocuous, song. Filler.
“Dangerous” – A more serious composition. It would have fit the Who Are You album.
“Eminence Front” – One of my favorite Who songs, even with the cheesy synth programming. It rocks.
“I’ve Known No War” – The song has more muscle than The Who usually offers up during this period. More riffy guitars and synthesizer fills.
“One Life’s Enough” – Great vocals by Daltrey. Soft, theatrical song. Not exactly a ballad, more like opera.
“One at a Time” – An Entwistle song. Heavy, growling song.
“What Did I Fall For That” – Another very good song, with an imaginative guitar melody. Close to a Who classic, but not quite.
“A Man is a Man” – There’s something here, although it’s hard to tell from this performance. The introspective Pete Townshend.
“Cry If You Want” – An angry song, the style which The Who excel. Great Daltrey vocals.