Posts Tagged ‘John “Rabbit” Bundrick’

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