4.8.20

PETE TOWNSHEND - Who Came First


Here’s another old Who-related review of mine that I found in The Who Article Archive, this one from Melody Maker dated October 14, 1972, my review of Who Came First, Pete Townshend’s first officially released solo LP. At the time it wasn’t generally known that The Who’s modus operandi was for Pete to record demos of his songs, on which he sang and played all the instruments, that were then circulated to Roger, John and Keith to learn from prior to recording.
         Neither was I aware at the time that the LP was recorded as a response to MCA’s belief that the two albums Pete had recorded privately for release only to followers of Meher Baba had been bootlegged. Evidently MCA, The Who's US label, persuaded Pete that the best way to combat these was to record an ‘official’ solo LP, and this explains its copious references to Baba.
         I still have my original vinyl Track LP, no doubt the one I listened to as I made notes 48 years ago. It’s in remarkably good condition too, which suggests I didn’t play it all that much. Oddly, it is credited to ‘Peter Townshend’ on the spine but ‘Pete Townshend’ on the label. A new CD I have, with six additional tracks, is credited to ‘Pete’.

PETER TOWNSHEND. Who Came First (Track). Whatever else one feels about this album, it REALLY is a solo album in the strict sense of the word. When Rod Stewart and a heap of other make solo albums – good though they may be – they seem to collect a huge cluster of musicians to help them, and the more musicians helping the less solo the albums get to be.
         But here Pete Townshend has done virtually everything himself with one or two slight exceptions. Apart from brief appearances by Ronnie Lane, of Faces fame, and Caleb Quaye, of Hookfoot, and occasional assistance in the writing by other followers of Meher Baba, Pete has done everything himself – sung, written, played guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and synthesisers, and engineered, mixed and produced the whole thing. It really IS a solo album.
         While Townshend could doubtless have recruited some of the best rock musicians in the world to help him, he’s decided to do the lot himself – and as a result it sounds a bit thin here and there compared to the guts of The Who. Pete isn’t the best singer in the world, neither is he the best drummer and it’s on these two points that the album loses marks. But it picks up a load of marks on the songs, the simple but effective guitar picking throughout and on the general feeling of the record which is dedicated to Meher Baba, the religious guru who, apparently, changed Pete’s outlook on life so dramatically.
         Highlights are ‘Pure And Easy’, a song that sounds rather like the closing bars of ‘The Song Is Over’ on the Who’s Next LP, and the ever so laid back version of ‘Let’s See Action’ which is far superior to The Who’s single. Ronnie Lane takes the vocal on ‘Evolution’, a Lane composition, which is C&W influenced, and Caleb Quaye is on lead guitar on’ Forever Is No Time At All’, another goodie.
         It’s on side two that the standard seems to falter. It just doesn’t seem right, somehow, to hear Pete Townshend, the gymnast guitarist supreme, singing ‘There’s A Heartache Following Me’, titled here as ‘Heartache’, which was one of Baba’s favourite songs. ‘Sheraton Gibson’ is a pleasant little number, not unlike ‘Going Mobile’. ‘Content’ and ‘Parvardigar’ are really strictly for Baba followers. If it’s Pete’s intention to turn people on to Baba through the album, they are the all-important tracks. They are not unlike psalms with Pete airing them – as he says himself – like Vera Lynn.
         The words to ‘Parvardigar’ are beautiful but it clashes head on with the sleeve photo of Pete in which he resembles a character from A Clockwork Orange in his white boiler suit. I honestly can’t take the album too seriously. The more I play it, however, the more I like it – but is isn’t the Pete Townshend who dominates the stage like no other guitarist in rock.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love that album.