[Review] Pete Townshend: Empty Glass (1980)

While the world waited to see what would happen to The Who, Townshend channeled his muse into a legitimate solo album that filled the gap nicely.

Kronomyth 3.0: The Who does he think he is?

The songs that Pete Townshend wrote in the wake of Keith Moon’s death didn’t appear on any album by The Who; rather, they were released on Pete’s first “serious” solo album, Empty Glass. Fans and radio stations were hungry for some musical statement from the spokesman of his generation in the post-Moon landscape, and what they got sounded very much like The Who.

While the album has its share of quieter confessional songs that recall The Who By Numbers, the record also featured a number of rockers that mixed Pete’s patented fire with a more contemporary sound. It was these that captured listeners’ limited imaginations: “Rough Boys,” “Gonna Get Ya” and “Let My Love Open the Door.” (In fairness, “A Little Is Enough,” which is one of Pete’s prettiest songs, did break the US Top 100.)

The rest of the record is intelligent filler, although it has since come to light from various interviews that some of these songs allude to the artist’s own confused sexual identity, which pretty much sucks the fun right out of them. Elsewhere, the title track and “I Am An Animal” join a long line of self-deprecating songs that strip away the gloss from the singer’s star image. The backing band may lack the fire of The Who in their heyday, but they’re not far removed from the post-Moon incarnation of the band; in fact, drummer Kenney Jones even plays on one track (“Rough Boys”).

Unfortunately, Townshend’s solo career has since been bogged down by big ideas, and his songwriting has generally suffered for it. Empty Glass remains the best bet from his solo catalog to please fans of The Who, though there are some who still can’t reconcile that band’s spirit of invincibility with Pete’s own vulnerabilities.

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Original LP Version

A1. Rough Boys (3:59)
A2. I Am An Animal (3:46)
A3. And I Moved (3:22)
A4. Let My Love Open The Door (2:42)
A5. Jools And Jim (2:35)
B1. Keep On Working (3:22)
B2. Cat’s In The Cupboard (3:32)
B3. A Little Is Enough (4:39)
B4. Empty Glass (5:20)
B5. Gonna Get Ya (6:22)

All songs written by Pete Townshend.

The Players

Pete Townshend (guitars, synths and vocals), “Rabbit” Bundrick (“straight” keyboards), Tony Butler (bass), Pete Hope-Evans (harmonica), Simon Phillips (drums) with James Asher (drums), Mark Brzezicki (drums on B3), Kenney Jones (drums on A1), Raphael Rudd (horn arrangement on A1). Produced by Chris Thomas; engineered by Bill Price; additional engineering by Steve Nye.

The Pictures

Graphics by Richard Evans. Sleeve design by Bob Carlos Clarke.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on April 21, 1980 in the UK (Atco, K50699), the US (Atco, SD/CS/TP 32-100), Canada (Atco, XSD 32-100), Germany (Atco, ATC 50699) and Yugoslavia (Atco, 450699) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #11 on the UK charts and #5 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record). 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1984 in the US (Atco, SD 32-100).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1994 (Atlantic, 82544).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in October 1995 in the US (Atlantic, 82811).
  4. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee on March 21, 2007 in Japan (Imperial, TECI-33009).
  5. Re-released on 180g clear vinyl elpee in 2017 in Europe (UMC, 4780143).

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