Posts Tagged ‘John “Rabbit” Bundrick’

When Keith Moon died on September 7th, 1978, The Who were left without the driving force of their rhythm section, a larger-than-life drummer whose thunderous approach on the kit defined the band’s sound and changed the course of rock drumming. Even with this blow, guitarist and principal songwriter Pete Townshend announced the next day that the band “is more determined than ever to carry on.” They’d already signed deals for several projects and would soon be under contract to deliver albums to the label, the first of which would be “Face Dances”, featuring new recruits Kenney Jones on drums and John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards.

But The Who’s first project following Moon’s untimely death wasn’t a forward-looking studio effort, but a pair of retrospectives: the Jeff Stein documentary The Kids Are Alright, which served somewhat as a tribute to Moon-era Who; and the film adaptation of Quadrophenia, itself based on an album that looked back on the band’s first decade, produced by bassist John Entwistle. The band was set to promote the projects with large-scale tours and had brought on ex-Faces drummer Jones to replace Moon.

“I thought that the best thing I could do was to play the way I play. That’s being honest,” Jones reflected decades later. “I tried to take the best of Keith Moon—all his great fills, which you have to do in certain songs—and use them selectively. But the style would finally be me. And that’s all I could do. I couldn’t do no more.”

His simpler, more pointed style on the kit nevertheless benefits Townshend, who is restrained in his playing both rhythm and solo guitar. Late bassist John Entwistle (who passed most unexpectedly on the eve of a 2002 tour) is likewise unencumbered by the need for keeping the beat, so his inimitably mobile instrumental work reminds of his crucial, stable presence in the group chemistry. As do his two original songs as both serve the same function his compositions always have on a Who album: to provide pacing.The Quiet One” manifests a light-hearted tone compared to the introspective material of the group’s titular leader, while the savage playing of “You” contrasts its more nuanced surroundings.  

For his part there, and throughout the record, Roger Daltrey completely inhabits the material. His voice and phrasing are particularly forceful on those numbers with which he readily identifies, such as “Daily Records,” and while there’s little if any profundity to be found in  “Another Tricky Day”(or much of trademarked Townshend the angst in a studio outtake titled “I Like Nightmares”), the frontman’s sly delivery suits the tone of that closing tune, indicative of the nuance he can bring to lyrics.

Jones’ first studio recordings with the band were “Get Out and Stay Out,”Quadrophenia outtake resurrected for the soundtrack, and “Joker James,” originally written in 1968. Though it was no easy task, Jones gelled with the band and with nearly constant tour dates stretching from spring of 1979 to summer of 1980—not to mention appearances with the other members of The Who on vocalist Roger Daltrey’s McVicar soundtrack project—he became integrated into a new well-oiled machine: The Who, mk. 2.

In early 1980, Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle, Jones and Bundrick set up at Odyssey Studios in London to begin recording what would become Face Dances. As was typical, Townshend had already recorded multi-layered home demos to present to the group , so it was down to the band to deliver its best performances, and for famed producer Bill Szymczyk to record and mix.

Sessions with Szymczyk—whose credits included Michael Stanley, Eagles and the J. Geils Band—were bumpy, as The Who felt the spark fading with each take. As Entwistle recalled, “He recorded everything in groups of three. I don’t like playing a backing track too many times. We’d get a really good one and he’d say, ‘Give me three more exactly the same.’ I lost a lot of confidence worrying about being brainwashed by the song, so I didn’t play as loosely as I might have.” And any momentum was stalled by more tour dates and Szymczyk’s commitment to mixing Eagles Live. Tracking for Face Dances continued at the end of the year and the band was pleased with what it played.

But final mixing was carried out by Szymczyk in Florida without the full band’s input, which led to unsatisfactory, glossy results. While the band blamed each other for what they felt was sub-par material, the album, released on March 16th, 1981, was nevertheless successful. 

While the magic of the Moon era might be missing in many spots, “Face Dances” still satisfies, with Daltrey delivering some fine interpretations of Townshend’s increasingly personal lyrics. And its sound, which lies somewhere between classic Who power-pop (“Daily Records”), punk (“Cache Cache”) and Police-like rhythms (“Don’t Let Go the Coat,” “Did You Steal My Money”), managed to reach audiences worldwide.

The flirtatious pop gem “You Better You Bet” was an early MTV staple and became the band’s last Top 20 single, featuring Entwistle’s self-referential “The Quiet One” on its B-side. In the U.K., the band appeared on the BBC’s Top of the Pops to promote the single. There, it reached #9. The breezy “Don’t Let Go The Coat,” inspired by Townshend’s spiritual mentor Meher Baba, Meanwhile, “Another Tricky Day” became a live staple for decades.

In all, Face Dances sees every member of The Who pouring all their energy into their music. In the fallout of Moon’s death, they were overwhelmed—not just by the tragedy of losing a friend and core member of the group, but also by a gruelling tour schedule, continuous side projects and a variety of personal issues. Somehow, they were able to direct all this energy into a fine studio effort that explores new and varied styles. It may not have hit the heights of their past glories, with the occasional belaboured performance and a certain studio sheen unusual for The Who, but it was a success and is far from the worst material The Who would scrape together.

As Townshend and Daltrey continue to look back on their albums with in-depth reissue campaigns (the most recent being a super-deluxe edition of 1967’s The Who Sell Out), one wonders what a deep-dive into 1979-1981 might look like and how it might reshape the narrative of Face Dances as a tired album.

On stage, the band was energized, and unreleased gems and jams show they still meshed. Might revealing monitor mixes exist showing an un-futzed-with Face Dances? Or compelling unreleased songs from Townshend’s library? Perhaps The Who will dust off such rarities in time and give the era its due with all the bells and whistles. Maybe it will give fans a new look at this relentlessly creative period. Until then, Face Dances serves as a document of The Who’s somewhat shaky reinvention just before things really crumbled.

It was reissued in expanded form in 1997 around the same time as other items in the iconic British band’s discography, but apart from a handful of the previously-unreleased studio and live tracks, it was hardly presented with the same discerning hindsight the group, in particular its titular leader Pete Townshend, has afforded other titles,  All the more reason, then, to crank up the volume when going back for a retrospective listen to this somewhat forgotten LP and thus at least simulate the accurately visceral punch: then, in a very practical way, it will foreshadow the healthy maturity and adherence to the style that reappeared thirty-eight years later on 2019’s WHO, the 2019 album that, perhaps not coincidentally, sported cover images by the very same graphic artist who commissioned the sixteen paintings on its predecessor. 

Pete Townshend’s “Empty Glass” Turns 40 years old, In 1980, the Who guitarist’s cup overflowed as the finest solo outing of his career. Although a true solo album from The Who’s wunderkind might have been eagerly anticipated at the time, Empty Glass–Pete Townshend’s first fully fleshed out album outside the boundaries of his band–still begs the question of why he didn’t opt to record these songs with the Who.

The album was written and recorded between 1978 and 1980, when activity with the Who had started to pick up again, and Townshend found himself having to write for both his solo project and his band. After all, Face Dances, the album the group released shortly thereafter, was, by all estimations, an inferior effort, widely derided as one of the weakest releases of the Who’s career. Roger Daltrey himself claimed he was disappointed that Townshend denied the group the opportunity to take a shot at Empty Glass and make it a masterpiece the band could claim as its own.

Some could consider the singer’s resentment a matter of professional jealousy. If so, it’s easily dismissed. Where Townshend’s first nominal effort on his own, “Who Came First”, was essentially a grab bag of demos and solo sketches, Empty Glass is a masterpiece even by the Who’s exacting standards.

The album title alludes to Townshend’s eternal search for spiritual salvation, particularly at a time where he was beset by an array of issues that had all but consumed him — among them, alcoholism, substance abuse, marital difficulties, and the death of his friend and bandmate Keith Moon two years before. Symbolically, “Empty Glass” refers to an analogy that compares a bar patron passing a bartender an “empty glass” in hopes it will be filled, and a seeker of spiritual redemption approaching God with an open heart, looking for the solace only the Almighty can provide. Townshend was finding further inspiration in the works of a Persian poet named Hafez, who drew the musician’s interest in the wake of  his fascination with his personal guru, Meher Baba.

Indeed, the songs offered such a sense of reflection and rumination, it’s hard to imagine Empty Glass being delivered from anything other than his personal perspective. The song that emerged as the album’s initial hit, “Rough Boys,” bows to Townshend’s unresolved sexual ambiguity. Although he dedicated it to his children Emma and Minta, it made more sense as a shout-out to the Sex Pistols who, at the time, represented punk’s brooding, blistering upending of traditional rock norms. Years later, Townshend himself alluded to its alleged homosexual references, noting that he knew members of the gay community but was not gay himself. Given that some saw the song as a coming out of sorts a decidedly wrong assumption, Townshend assured them — it would have been an awkward choice for the macho Daltrey to voice. Nevertheless, The Who did eventually include it in their live sets, a wise choice considering that it ranked among their strongest contemporary material at the time. It also hit America in the top ten, the only Townshend solo song ever to achieve that distinction.

The rest of the album is similarly introspective. “Let My Love Open the Door,” the second single from the album, made its way up the charts, although both Townshend and his management allegedly expressed some misgivings about the song. A third single, the similarly philosophical “A Little Is Enough,” which Townshend acknowledged was his bow to the Kinks’ Ray Davies, failed to make any impact at all, although Townshend considered it a better bid for chart success than the aforementioned “Let My Love Open the Door.”

While several songs could have been compelling candidates for inclusion on a new Who album — “And I Moved,” “Empty Glass,” “Gonna Get Ya,” “A Little Is Enough,” and “I Am an Animal” would have been fine fits for Daltrey’s vocals — Townshend surrounded himself with an able support cast. Producer Chris Thomas, best known for his work with the Pretenders, Procol Harum, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Pink Floyd, helped manage his client’s blend of pomp and poignancy, while four different drummers — recent Who recruit Kenney Jones, all-star session man Simon Phillips, Big Country’s Mark Brezicki and James Asher — as well as the Who’s erstwhile keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick, Medicine Head’s Peter Hope-Evans on harp, and another Big Country stalwart, bassist Tony Butler provided the instrumental underpinnings.

Townshend once claimed he wanted Todd Rundgren to oversee the proceedings, but changed his mind, fearing Rundgren’s abilities as a singer and guitarist would steal the album’s focus.

Regardless, Empty Glass still ranks as the best individual effort of Townshend’s career and a worthy companion piece to his Who resume. In this case, the glass was more than half full.

Image result for the who in 1979

Following Keith Moon’s death in September 1978, The Who decided to continue as band, recruiting former Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones; keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick was also added to the line-up for live performances, adding another element to the band’s sound.  A horn section was introduced to the band’s act for the first time around this time. It would be retained through 1980. The horn section also allowed numbers like “5:15” and “Drowned” (now sung by Townshend) to be reintroduced to the act. Meanwhile, 1979 shows are known among Who fans for new material that Townshend introduced on some nights during jams,  The tour supported their 1978 album “Who Are You”,

The Who performed at the Chicago Amphitheater in Chicago, Illinois on December. 8th, 1979,
The version of “How Can You Do It Alone” from the Face Dances reissue also comes from the Chicago show.
“5:15”, “My Wife”, “Music Must Change”, and “Pinball Wizard” from the Thirty Years of Maximum R&B Live video and DVD come from the same Chicago show.

The concert was broadcast live to several local movie theaters. The general consensus was that this show was the
best on the 1979 tour. The show was visually stunning. Many times Pete Townshend or Roger Daltrey would move to the front of the stage and direct the cameraman to focus in close, then unleash a mic twirl or scissors kick for the hungry crowd.

Backstage Roger asks us if we liked the show with a devious smile, knowing full well how great it was for the band
and crowd alike”. ~ The Who Concert File book/Joe McMichaels;Jack Lyons.

The Chicago Tribune wrote: “… it is the spirit The Who brings to its performance that makes it so special. Like the title of its current movie, “The Kids Are Alright,” The Who is alright and more; and though no longer “kids” in terms of the calendar, Daltrey and Townshend in particular reflect a genuine love for rock and roll, with a kid like enthusiasm which has nothing to do with age. Twirling the microphone on its cord, running in place to the beat, Daltrey throws himself into the proceedings with a joy that’s not only convincing, but catching; Townshend, meanwhile, lopes and lur-ches around the stage, his windmilIng arm crashing out heavy rock chords. The Who’s own energy output is just as devastating on a more human level.

Daltrey and Townshend come across like cheerleaders for rock and roll. If the act is, when It comes to the seeming affection for the music and the transcendent moments that rock at its best can offer, just that – an act- really doesn’t matter”.

The three-disc version of The Who biographical film “Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who” includes the majority of the band’s show of 8th December at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago.

Roger Daltrey: Harmonica, Vocals, John Entwistle: Vocals, Bass, Kenney Jones: Drums, Pete Townshend: Vocals, Guitar
John Bundrick: Keyboards,Reg Brooks: Trombone, Howie Casey: Saxofone, Dave Caswell: Brass Section

Setlist:
Substitute,I Can’t Explain,Baba O’Riley,The Punk And The Godfather,My Wife,Sister Disco,Behind Blue Eyes,Music Must Change,Drowned,Who Are You,5.15,Pinball Wizard,See Me Feel Me,Long Live Rock,My Generation,I Can See For Miles,Sparks,Won’t Get Fooled Again

Encore:
The Real Me, Dancing In The Streets, Dance It Away, Young Man Blues, Roadrunner, Big Boss Man, How Can You Do It Alone