The Home Key #12

Every Good Song Pete Townshend Wrote After Quadrophenia, An Annotation


Rick Moody


Adam Braver

“Slip Kid” (The Who By Numbers, 1975)1
“However Much I Booze” (The Who By Numbers, 1975)
“Squeeze Box” (Who By Numbers, 1975)2
“Street In the City,” (Rough Mix, 1977)
“Misunderstood” (Rough Mix, 1977)3
“Who Are You?” (Who Are You?, 1978)4
“You Better You Bet” (Face Dances, 1981)5
“Rough Boys” (Empty Glass, 1980)
“Let My Love Open the Door” (Empty Glass, 1980)6
“And I Moved” (Empty Glass, 1980)
“Empty Glass” (Empty Glass, 1980)7
“The Sea Refuses No River” (All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, 1982)
“Slit Skirts” (All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, 1982)8
“Face the Face” (White City, 1985)
“A Friend Is a Friend” (The Iron Man, 1989)9
“English Boy,” (Psychoderelict, 1993)
“Real Good Looking Boy” (Then and Now, 2004)10
“Cry if You Want” (It’s Hard, 1982)11
“It’s Your Turn” (It’s Hard, 1982)
“Eminence Front” (It’s Hard, 1982)
“Tea and Sympathy” (Endless Wire, 2006)
“All This Music Must Fade” (Who, 2020)12
“Ball and Chain” (Who, 2020)
“Beads on One String” (Who, 2020)13
  1. My family moved around quite a bit between 1970 and 1975, and for part of the time I’d been enjoined from seeing my father. I was sort of hard up for stalwart male figures, guys who took an interest. My sister, who been expelled from boarding school, was back at home with my mom, in Pelham, NY, where she became close with a fellow called Paul, who was very engaged with music. Eventually, Paul and I became close, because he liked to go to the record store, and I had an infinite capacity to go to the record store. We started going together. Paul was sort of responsible for getting me interested in The Who. I mean, partly I got interested because of Elton John’s recording of “Pinball Wizard,” from the Tommy movie, but then Paul came along, and he talked about The Who a lot. I can still remember a vivid and elongated spiel about the original recording of “Pinball Wizard,” in which he acted out the bass part, or maybe all of the parts. Thus, The Who By Numbers, was the first album by The Who that I purchased at the time of its release. I got it at Pitchfork Records in Concord, New Hampshire, which was where I went to high school. I bought many, many LPs at Pitchfork Records, spending all my allowance, until I had no money for anything else, like notebooks or pads or pens. Everything about “Slip Kid” seemed perfect to me, especially the count-in, which I think is by Pete Townshend and not Keith Moon, and the weird, surprising relationship between the percussion and the chording on the guitar (possibly the reason it was only very rarely performed live). I love the feedback guitar solo, and also the words. There are only a very few lyrics by Pete Townshend that I think are good now, but this might be one of them. Later on, when my sister broke up with Paul, the record-shopping guy, I still used to go to the store with him sometimes. –RM
  2. “Squeeze Box” is a song that apparently should not have been written by the anointed artiste version of Pete Townshend, the composer of operas and musicals, the one who wrote Tommy and Quadrophenia. This little ditty, by comparison, is garish, full of almost Chaucerian sexual double-entendres, and has a banjo solo. It’s about an accordion, when it’s not about sex, and yet it has no accordion on it. It’s barely long enough to be a pop song, and it mentions love, instead of politics or religion or social movements. So if you came on board for The Who during the slightly menacing, overblown, classic rock period, this was not a song for you. However, what it was, and is, is exactly like the stuff The Who wrote before the operas and musicals, namely something funny, unpretentious, ribald, and frank, like “Pictures of Lily,” or “I’m a Boy.” Or the pair of songs from The Who Sell Out period entitled “Dogs.” This is a songwriting mood that hardcore fans of The Who really love, and with good reason. As with some of the stranger songs from the Kinks in the same period, Townshend’s tragicomic and ribald songs somehow pack more emotional punch by trying less hard, they are more complex, more psychically various, than when he tries to be grandiose. And the same might be said of the next song on this list: “Blue, Red and Gray” –RM
  3. For reasons that I don’t recall, by the time I came to it, the album Rough Mix was impossible to get. As with Elvis Costello’s Live at the El Mocambo, it was a record that somehow had slipped into the “rare” category before I’d had my chance, legendary among the old hands at my Tower Records, but only to be found through the monthly mailings of rare records catalogs. I was in high school at the time, and I’d heard the LP once at a party, but, other than that, I only knew the song “Street in the City,” occasionally played on K108. When finally I bought Rough Mix via Rather Ripped in Berkeley, it felt like something of an achievement, a commitment, and, in a way, a relief. And while it would be so easy to devote all this space to Rough Mix for the joy and near transformative experience in which it lifted me out of my world in the Sacramento valley and up into a stateless sphere, it was the song “Misunderstood” that most deeply affected me.
      Pete has been a curiosity to me, in that there are these various personas that he’s adopted over his career. It’s sometimes hard to tell if they are genuine, reactionary, or, as the one who defined the idea of the rock opera, merely a series of characters. While he has never felt as deliberate about inhabiting others’ skins in the ways of, say, John Prine or Randy Newman, at times the disparities of what he projects can feel just as varied and disparate. I happen to think that what comes across from Pete is generally honest (at least to the moment of time in which he is writing): his anger at punk rockers who’d portrayed him as the musically wearied; his search for spiritualism; fears of aging, etc. And in “Misunderstood” we see the insecurity of the skinny, mussed-haired man who spends much of his days in a room with tape recorders and instruments contrasted against the image of the anthemic, windmilling, guitar smashing performer of The Who. We hear Pete’s psyche, somewhat cheekily, sharing that at heart he is a somewhat conventional person in an unconventional world (“such an ordinary star”) who wants to be perceived by the world as someone different than who he is: our awkward Pete wants to be seen as a “moody man,” “feared in my neighborhood,” and who will “leave open mouths when I speak.”
      Ah, what a gift to an adolescent! Insecurities voiced. Validated. Named. And even honored. Perfect for a boy who wished he were darker than he actually was, more circumspect than he might have been, more liked than he imagined, and on and on and on. And while I am less inclined to the song’s explanatory bridge (lest one does not fully see the point of the song), this simple, almost cheerful song, one that chugs along with hard-picked quarter notes on the lower register of the acoustic, in many ways, for me, also opened doors for a life that trended toward questions of consciousness, particularly the blurred lines between what it means to see and be seen, and to be understood while being misunderstood. It would be nice to think I am only looking at back at a single moment of my youth when my personal confusion was being articulated through the song of a 32-year-old man. And yet. –AB
  4. This record looks like a bit of a disaster, in retrospect. The main problem (as noted below) is that Keith Moon’s alcoholism had brought about a significant decline in his ability to drum. At least one song, “Music Must Change,” was in a time signature he could no longer hazard and so the song has no percussion except for some cymbal crashes. There’s some filler throughout Who Are You?, as on every Who album thereafter (and, you know, on The Who Sell Out, and some of the other records, too), but then just when you think a bunch of songs about how hard it is to write songs is too depressing to contemplate there is this song. And suddenly everything works the way it’s supposed to work, which is how, exactly? The question at the heart of the song is what identity is, or at least that’s my hunch. Apparently, the lyrics commemorate a meeting of Townshend with some punks at a club, and features alcoholism and a meeting with the constabulary. The verses are in the first person, and the chorus is in the second, but it’s more the second-person-masquerading-as-first, more that than the accusatory second person, though perhaps it is both. But if it’s both it’s permeable, both things at once, a self that is a self and the other at the same time, submissive in the last verse (“I only feel right on my knees”), but pretty cocky in its sound and when sung by Roger Daltrey, in a voice that typifies how masculinity thought about itself in retrospect. The lyrics are all self, self, self, except when they’re about doubt about the self, on this record made and released in the last months before the drummer died. I’d say more about this, about the record, but in the midst of thinking about it, I went back and watched some of the last Keith Moon performances, including the last performance at Shepperton studios, for the documentary about the band, The Kids Are Alright, released after Moon’s death. The thing about Moon’s drumming is the joy, really, expressed as unpredictability, and it’s all there, the uncertainty about what’s he’s going to do. The joy, plus the camaraderie of the band, despite all the shit-talking and gossip, is on display in the promotional video for “Who Are You,” which features a different performance, an approximation, of the band in the studio. It’s incredible that just four people could do all of this. Is Keith Moon mugging for the camera? He makes incredible faces, and as Roger Daltrey has asserted, the drum fills seem to the follow lead vocals. –RM
  5. 1981. Face Dances. The initiation of the post Keith Moon era of The Who. A recalibration that in many respects hewed them closer to solo Pete than what we associate with the mid-70s glory days of the band (Listen: Empty Glass). “You Better You Bet,” leads off the album, clearly conscious of its role in re-introducing The Who. As the song starts, perhaps it calms the nerves of the diehard fan to hear the familiar Townshend-ian synth loops so sonically integral to albums such as Who’s Next and Quadrophenia and even Who Are You. There is an unmistakable jangle of Pete’s guitar and his doubletracked vocals repeating the refrain, compressed and flanged. Again, a little different, but still our Who. But just a few bars in, after new drummer Kenney Jones cracks open the song with a mannered snare intro—a very deliberate attempt at not imitating Keith Moon—the song soars into a very controlled and crafted pop arrangement. (Again, listen: Empty Glass.) “You Better You Bet” announces a new era for the band, a removal of the thrill of potential chaos that Moon could use to threaten the near perfection of Pete’s demo-ed arrangements. And though initially hard to swallow at first, it becomes apparent that not only is this a song that is so spirted and alive, it’s also a logical step forward for a band reconstituted without a key member, having been caught in a space between expectation and exploration. Speaking of the demos, the Who version has an added line not in Pete’s home sketch. At the end of the first verse, Roger (who brings out an added dimension and pathos to the song not at all present in the demo—a rarity for this listener) sings that he “drunk himself blind to the sound of old T-Rex.” And next comes the addition, sung a little quieter, as though an uttered acknowledgment, “Oh, and Who’s Next.” –AB
  6. When it comes to “Let My Love Open the Door” — arguably Pete’s most popular solo song for the general listenership—I find myself much more drawn to the solo acoustic version that he played during a surprise performance at the 1987 Bridge Benefit concert. Even conceding that the original recording is catchy, and that it is remarkably disciplined in structure and arrangement, I still was never too fond it. Sometimes I wondered if my reaction stemmed from a knee-jerk reaction to dismiss anything that became popular, not a trait of which I’ve ever been particularly proud or willing to defend. But then again, with a production and arrangement seemingly designed for wide success, maybe that validated some of my reaction? In other words, to my ears this was not an accidental song that happened to catch on. It all seemed a little too purposeful. As if there was a goal. But on the live acoustic version, you clearly hear the opening riff that is nearly identical to that of “Substitute.” And over the top of it comes Pete’s voice, sailing slightly above the riff as though they are two distinct natural phenomena in unexpected complement. I’ve always loved Pete’s voice, its slight strain, the way it wails and reaches as though in search of something, while at the same time deceptively strong and commanding. At this stage of my telling, the forthcoming narrative should be that by Pete taking this song and stripping it down, that we’ll discover that this little-known live version reveals a pathos hidden in the original arrangement, and out of that we’ll conclude it is in fact a plaintive song. (As a bonus to that narrative, we’d have the insider’s superiority of being able to correct people by explaining that the song is not what they think it is.) However, hearing the live acoustic version affirms that “Let My Love Open the Door” is just what we think it is. Here, the romantic vision of the lonesome nature of a man and his guitar does not live up to its storied reputation, nor in this instance does it reveal the true nature of the song being about tragedy or loss. Instead, relieved of the jaunty Top Forty arrangement and replaced with the confidence of the strumming and the careless pride in Pete’s vocals, it only affirms itself as a celebration of joy and belief. One not to be so quickly dismissed. –AB
  7. Empty Glass, Townshend’s major label solo debut, was sort of death blow for The Who, and if you cared about The Who, it was hard not to see the album as such, because, well, Townshend simply didn’t write that many songs after a certain point, and on this album, he kept all the really good ones for himself. It’s pretty obvious how much better this album is than the Who albums from the same era. I suppose the hit was “Rough Boys,” which is alleged to be about the Sex Pistols, but there’s also “Let My Love Open the Door,” see above, and then “And I Moved,” which is, some people think, about Pete’s bisexuality, which these days he seems to kind of disavow. There’s great guitar playing on the album, Who-ish in certain spots, and a lot of Pete’s really lovely synthesizer parts, which were still as original as they were in the seventies. Some of the record sounds kind of forced, like a lot of Face Dances sounded forced, at this remove, like “Cat’s in the Cupboard,” or “Jules and Jim,” which are songs where there’s about half an idea. But this is not one of those songs. It’s so good that it sounds like a Who song, and in fact it was, having been recorded the first time with The Who for Who Are You? a few years prior, in demo form. In that setting it has the kind cynicism and self-hatred that Who songs had in the mid-seventies, and more drum rolls. But what makes this song especially good, from my point of view is the chorus, which rises up out of a noisy and barely coherent verse, in a quiet, slower, meditative, and based, it is said, on Arabic poetry: “I stand here at the bar, I hold an empty glass.” In part, it’s about alcoholism, sure, or, alcoholics always find bar metaphors interesting, but at the same time Townshend said at one point it was about waiting for God to fill you spiritually, your are the vessel and God is the thing that fills you, and in the context of the mostly incoherent song, the chorus has a particular impact, an unignorable impact, “My life’s a mess, I wait for you to pass, I stand here at the bar, I hold an empty glass.” The demo by The Who is great, because it’s a train wreck. Keith Moon, in his barely competent period, loses the beat entirely at one point, and elsewhere he just drops out. Townshend is pitchy on the chorus at the end. The song seems to document exactly what it’s about, and thus it documents the high cost of rock and roll in the period, that empty, desperate gestures that coexist with a deep desire. –RM
  8. All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, an unfortunate title, even acknowledged by Pete, was met with frightening reviews when released in 1982. Lyrically, it was viewed as pretentious and overwrought, as though a conscious attempt at being literary. (That Pete Townshend would publish a short story collection three years later might support the idea that that was where his head was at during this era.) Musically, some complained that our reliable rock star had capitulated too much to the “new wave” stylings of the era, suggesting a premediated effort to counter charges of being a relic from a past age. And whether or not that makes the album bad or good, perhaps it does clarify why on the album’s closer, “Slit Skirts,” that the man who at 20 wrote “I hope I die before I get old,” by age 34 already would be lamenting, “Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts.” While hardly “new wave,” in many respects, “Slit Skirts” does feel like an anti-Who song. There are not the characteristics of the demos with their sonic familiarities that reliably suggest The Who. It’s almost impossible to imagine Roger’s vocals on it, or Entwistle’s crawling bass lines. The song sounds like a break. And one that Pete truly is enjoying. Almost theatrically, “Slit Skirts” starts with the classically trained Virginia Astley’s piano as the focal point, running little appoggiaturas and grace notes in a space hovering just above the rest of band, while, Pete, almost talking, introduces us to the narrative context (“I was just 34, and wandering through a haze”). As the tempo picks up, so does the storyline, arguably taking on masculinity v. vulnerability as much as it does the fear of aging. Before you know it, the song almost thrillingly bursts into its chorus, the real heart of “Slit Skirts,” an exciting and confusing moment where melody and arrangement explode into a top-down, wind-in-your-hair joy, all the while employing winsome resignation in its lyrics. In a recent interview, Pete Townshend reminisced about a realization that one of the main duties of music is to “help us understand what’s going on inside of us” – that it’s rarely there for fun. Perhaps that is the admiration for “Slit Skirts.” It kind of does both. It explores. And it’s pretty fun. –AB
  9. The Iron Man is sort of a bad album, really, in a period of pretty bad records. It’s from a stretch of projects by Townshend (see Psychoderelict, below) in which he appears to try to rekindle his reputation as an artist who makes conceptual albums, or, if you like, musicals. I never felt like this interest of Townshend’s was especially relevant to making good or important music. Also, I don’t care about Ted Hughes very much (I always believed in Sylvia Plath). Relying on Hughes for the story in the case of The Iron Man seems like pandering to a supposed high-art crowd by a guy who has otherwise argued passionately for popular culture. I got the The Iron Man album in 1989 because it had two tracks on it that contained performances by The Who. I wanted to hear these tracks, and in those days you couldn’t stream the minor tracks in order to hear them. You bought the album. In fact, the Who tracks on The Iron Man are insignificant. “Fire,” which Townshend didn’t write, has some period eighties drum recording, and it mixes John Entwistle into oblivion, and “Dig” favors Townshend’s fancy voicings from the period, e.g., lots of jazz chords. Neither of these songs sounds like The Who at all. They sound like solo music by Pete Townshend. Still, though, there is this single, “A Friend Is a Friend,” which is straightforward and childlike, and very much serves as an allegory about relations among the band members. It’s reconciliatory. If you think Townshend’s solo album Who Came First is one of the great Who-era releases (as I do), if you like his spiritual desperation (see “Empty Glass,” above), which appears frequently in the early seventies, and then here again in his period of early sobriety, then you will recognize that style of “A Friend Is a Friend.” It’s meditative, spiritual, gentle. It has a nice melody. It relies on acoustic guitar. It tells a tale that anyone can feel. –RM
  10. When this song came out it was fifteen years since the most recent composition for The Who by Pete Townshend. The song bears comparing with some of the solo material that came to exist in the intervening years, because, well, it’s different. On the solo albums, even when Townshend engaged in what he calls “yaggerdang,” a certain kind of riffing that has often been his responsibility in The Who, it’s different, and it’s not only different because, for example, Keith Moon is not playing on it, or John Entwistle is not playing on it. Neither of them is playing on this recording, although Zak Starkey, the latter day Who drummer, can do a very passable imitation of Moon’s rolls, having learned them, it is said, from the source. And yet there’s still something different here, something important and urgent. What makes “Real Good Looking Boy” one of the very greatest of Who tracks from the post-Moon and post-Entwistle period is the combination of painful vulnerability and the rage that sometimes goes with it, and spiritual longing (in verse three!). The opening concerns Townshend’s own feelings about his appearance, these in the context of an Elvis Presley quote that is reiterated throughout the song, The lyrics don’t quite scan, there are slant rhymes, and spots where the lyrics don’t rhyme at all, when the lines are nothing like a lyric, but more like confessional lamentation. “Son, you know, you’re an ugly boy …” in verse two, it’s sad and pathetic and arresting. It’s so antithetical to the promise of rock and roll of beauty, desire, and transcendence. It’s a recognition of failure and not measuring up in the context of the origin of rock and roll in Elvis’s beauty, it’s a recognition of what the rest of us deal with. But it’s the third verse that’s the killer here. “And now I’m here with you little darling/and you say: ‘You’re beautiful as you are.’” The ache of recognition cuts through all the classic rock nonsense and we see the writer of these lines clearly, in his very human incompleteness. Also, this is the beginning of the period in which it becomes possible to say something that I never thought I’d say: that Roger Daltrey is a great singer. Daltrey’s interpretation of adolescent and adult disgust, and the vulnerability of these awarenesses makes the song go (as with his brief Elvis imitation in the bridge). The drumming is great too, the best drumming on a song by the Who since the seventies. –RM
  11. I started using the word “brash” a lot. For me, the word was a placeholder for a still forming concept of some space between aggression and grace. “Brash” had entered my daily lexicon via the opening lines of “Cry if You Want,” in which Pete’s song begins with a look backward, questioning if one has been confusing innocence with “brash ideas and insolence.” (I’m pretty sure “insolence” also became part of the patois, but in no measure at all to the reflexive “brash.”) Around that time, my friend Scott Busby and I started a band called the Rude Mechanicals, born partly out of philosophical and intellectual musings (such as they were), and partly, after seeing the Clash at the Memorial Auditorium on J Street, from the declaration that we were the types who wanted to “do,” not “observe.” Scott and I then spent a lot of time plotting out what we wanted our group to be and stand for, with my regular and predictable contribution of “brash” never offering any further definition nor tangible action.
      At the time, with It’s Hard newly released, I’d found myself again interested in The Who, previously having allocated the better percentage of my Who attention to the recent wealth of Pete Townshend demos that he’d been officially releasing. I’m a sucker for such things. I like the sketches. The intimacy. And they had made me not like The Who so much, making me see the band as though it was a ringer meant to commercialize Pete’s intimate writings and performances. In relistening to It’s Hard, it is difficult to defend that album as being important or, at best, anything other than an album of its time. But there are songs that are worthy and lasting. And “Cry if You Want” is among those few in which there is a sense of Demo-Pete forging with the rest of the band to create something that only the four of them could make. Lyrically, we see the familiar themes of the time—late 30’s Pete in a reflective bend, hyperaware of crossing toward middle-age; while musically, in opposition, The Who charge forward in a willing forcefulness that seems intent on defying the very idea of aging (and the imputation of being old farts). Just days before the Clash concert, Scott and I saw The Who play at a Day on the Green at the Oakland Coliseum. (In fact, along with T-Bone Burnett, the Clash had opened that show.) And if I had to push myself, I’d say that was when “brash” moved from being a clumsy descriptor to an understanding of a way of being. Who could not be glued to Pete prancing across the stage with the grace of a forest nymph, but landing each time with the force of an exclamation point? Listen to the live version of “Cry if You Want” on a later reissue of It’s Hard. You hear the drums slightly rearranged into a near processional march. Roger’s voice glides in with the opening line almost funereally but with a hint of defiance. You can visualize Pete in joint mourning as his lightly strummed chords lilt over the snare. But then the song takes off and comes fully to life in its unmasking of nostalgia, building and building and building, each refrain ending with a snarling Roger telling us that we can cry if we want. Hearing it might help understand how, for me, the concept of brashness became embedded, the word itself hardly mattering anymore. –AB
  12. It is difficult to make a substantive argument that “All This Music Must Fade” from The Who’s surprisingly interesting and at times moving 2020 release is a critical addition to the Pete Townshend canon. However, I could argue that it is an important song to the larger song cycle of Pete’s writing arc. It is so fascinating and intriguing to hear how this man, who in his mid-thirties had been so focused on his fears of getting old, finds himself now in his mid-seventies facing what he’d once dreaded almost obsessively. And while it’s sort of classic Pete to deliver lyrical defiance couched in a cheekily ironic concession to losing his edge (I don’t care / I know you’re going to hate this song … All this music will fade / Just like the edge of a blade), the real fascination is the balance between celebrating nostalgia and the drive for maintaining relevance. While this idea, as noted, comes across in the lyrics, it is most present in the music and arrangements. Unlike the immediate transition of the post Keith Moon era, in which the band and its songs seemed intent on proving that not only were they still here but that their sound kept pace with the contemporary scene, “All This Music Must Fade,” in turn, presents a comfort and satisfaction (not resignation) in being The Who of old. There are traces of several eras (including the introductory chorus that recalls the opening of “Who Are You”), but to this listener, the most prominent are those that harken back to arrangements and vibe from Quadrophenia. It is most deliberate in the penultimate verse, which begins with I don’t mind/other guys ripping off my song, sung by Roger in tone and melody that pays homage to 1965’s “The Kids Are Alright” (I don’t mind/ Other guys dancing with my girl). Fans of Quadrophenia will instantly recall how that same song was faded into the end of “Helpless Dancer” as a somber and nostalgic nod to a lost era of youth. And yet here, in “All This Music Must Fade,” we now have nostalgia twice removed, so much so that it sheds all notions of winsomeness and becomes a type of posture—one that despite the cleverness of the lyrics ends with the same Pete we’ve known all along: What’s mine is mine, and what’s mine is yours / Who gives a fuck? –AB
  13. See notes, above, on “Empty Glass,” and “A Friend Is a Friend,” and the alternate version of “Pavardigar,” from the deluxe version of Who Came First (2018). “Beads On One String” comes from the Townshend who makes evident how important the spiritual longing of his Meher Baba period was for him artistically, no matter how irritating to Roger Daltrey, and how necessary, however out of phase with the cynical, brittle, rageful guy who powers the more rock and roll portion of The Who output, through sheer will and contrariness. That the two things coexist in Townshend is what makes the good songs really good, and what makes the good albums good. When one overpowers the other, in this tug of war that is the person named Pete Townshend, the results feel lopsided, simplistic, insufficiently powerful. “Beads On One String,” it bears mentioning, is available in two versions, as if indicating what I’m talking about, the bifurcation of Townshend, the split-infinitives of Townshend, the mixed metaphors, the contrary motion. The second version, remixed by Townshend himself, seems to be closer to the original demo, which took, as I understand, a synthesizer line by Josh Hunsacker, and built a song around it. Townshend also makes the argument that the vocal, by Roger Daltrey, is even better on the remixed version, though that’s saying something, because one of the truly arresting feature of Who, the album in question, is the remarkable and urgent singing by Daltrey, not noted, in many of his high-classic-rock performances, for his interpretive subtleties. But both versions have truly exceptional singing, and it’s Daltrey, and Townshend’s own massed backing vocals, that bring out the humanism of this lovely song, with its celebration of separateness, and togetherness, the counterculture investment in overcoming war and conflict, the transcending thereof. The tremendous divisions between the two remaining members of The Who, their apparent difficulties, and their remarkable ability to make music together nonetheless. No matter how often Townshend says he hates playing in public, hates playing with Daltrey, resists the whole business, there is that sense, in the frequent tenderness of the songs, or in the combination of aggressiveness and tenderness, that merged set of purposes, that belief, over the course of nearly sixty years, that art can still made even in conflict, or especially in conflict. Let’s get it together, indeed. –RM