Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Artist: PETE TOWNSHEND
Album: DEEP END LIVE!
For many fans like myself, Pete Townshend’s solo career is almost as thrilling & fascinating as his work with The Who. Although he had released a few albums in the ‘70s, many people from my generation first discovered his solo work via 1980’s brilliant Empty Glass, which we assumed was his debut. By the time he released his first live album he was concentrating on his own music following The Who’s 1982 breakup, with one Platinum & two Gold albums under his belt. Deep End Live! was recorded at London’s Brixton Academy in November 1985, with a band that consisted of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, brilliant drummer Simon Phillips (who would later play with The Who), long-time Who keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick, percussionist Jody Linscott as well as backing vocalists, a horn section and a harmonica player. With so many people on stage this could have been billed as “The Pete Townshend Revue.” The full concert was edited down to a 10-song album that clocks in at less than 40 minutes and features four Who songs, two solo tracks, a few covers & a song recorded earlier that year by his Who compadre Roger Daltrey. The VHS video release featured an additional eight tracks, including three from his most recent solo album, White City: A Novel, so that’s my preferred way to hear this material but, much like The Who’s classic Live At Leeds, he probably thought a shorter album would have more impact.
Album opener “Barefootin’” is an infectious uptempo horn-drenched blues tune originally by Robert Parker. Other covers include Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ oft-recorded “I Put A Spell On You” (which features a dynamic arrangement with passionate vocals & searing lead guitar), “Eyesight To The Blind” (a traditional blues shuffle take on the Sonny Boy Williamson song that The Who previously recorded…with the subtitle “The Hawker”…on Tommy) and the more contemporary “Save It For Later” (released three years earlier by The Beat, aka The English Beat). The Who is also represented by a solid version of “Behind Blue Eyes,” a powerful solo performance of the key Quadrophenia track “I’m One” and Townshend’s obligatory…but never unwelcome…performance of “Pinball Wizard.” Both “A Little Is Enough” and “Stop Hurting People” were standout tracks on his first two ‘80s solo records. The versions here are similar to their studio counterparts, with the horn section complementing the songs instead of overwhelming them. “After The Fire” was written by Townshend for The Who to perform at the Live Aid concert in ‘85, but when that didn’t happen he gave it to Daltrey for his Under A Raging Moon album. I really enjoy Townshend’s version, with its loping rhythm, Linscott’s tasteful percussion accents and that smooth, melodic guitar solo. Deep End Live! may not appear on many best-live-albums lists, but it’s a noteworthy document of one of the greatest singers/songwriters/guitarists of the last 50 years (and counting) still in his prime more than 20 years into his career. The full concert video is even more enjoyable, and somewhere I have a cassette I recorded from that VHS tape, but that doesn’t diminish the strength of this more concise album.