Pete Townshend opened the doors and offered up his heart to be immersed in tears of truth with this rough and ready overdose of love. His first two albums without The Who had been 1972's homespun collection of demos 'Who Came First' and 1977's collaboration with Faces bassist Ronnie Lane 'Rough Mix'; but it was in the aftermath of Keith Moon's death in 1978, a deadly rush of fans at a Who concert in Cincinnati in 1979, and the scorn of punk rockers that Townshend was driven to create his first proper solo album.
He co-produced 'Empty Glass' with Chris Thomas in London at Eel Pie Studios and A.I.R. Studios. The sessions featured Pete Townshend on vocals, guitars, and synths; John "Rabbit" Bundrick on "straight" keyboards; and Tony Butler on bass guitar; with Simon Phillips, James Asher, Kenney Jones, and Mark Brzezicki on drums. Raphael Rudd did the brass arrangements on "Rough Boys" and Peter Hope-Evans played harmonica on "Cat's in the Cupboard".
Townshend would reveal: "In a way, I've got the punk explosion to thank for making that decision. It freed me. It allowed me to be myself. It dignified me, in a way, to be cast to one side. I felt uneasy with the way the Who were inevitably on the road to mega-stardom. . . . [It] was the most important thing I've ever done for me — to allow me to have a new beginning, to actually grow ... Before Keith died, I decided that practically all the personal problems I had – whatever they were, whether it was boozing, or difficulty at home with my family – was because of the Who on the road. When we came off the road, I spent two and a half years not touring – under great pressure from the band to tour, but I resisted, and said, "No, I want to try it and see what happens." I got to the end of that period, and all my problems were still there. Some of them were worse. But what was strange about that time was that it somehow opened me up: I was able to put a slightly different slant on the qualities that I look for, or that other people look for, in life. With a song like "A Little Is Enough," what was interesting to me was that I was able to very easily put into words something that had actually happened to me when I was a thirty-four-year-old. It wasn't self-conscious; it wasn't a song written from a stance. It wasn't objective. It was purely personal: instant, and purely transparent. It's very emotional, but it's also very straightforward and clear. Just the fact that you can't fucking have the world. If you're lucky enough to get a tiny piece of it, then – fine. When that's applied to something as immense and intangible as love – whether it's spiritual love or human love...I suppose I wrote the song about a mixture of things: I wrote it a little bit about God's love. But mainly about the feeling that I had for my wife – and the fact that I don't see enough of her, and that when we are together there're lots of times when things aren't good, because of the period of adjustment you require after a long tour: stuff like that. She would always want a deeper, more sustained relationship than I would–but in the end I suppose we're lucky that we do love one another at all. Because love, by its very nature, is an infinite quality, an infinite emotion – just to experience it once in a lifetime is enough. Because a lot of people don't – don't ever experience it. A lot of the songs on the album – well, "Let My Love Open the Door" is just a ditty – but particularly "A Little Is Enough" and a couple of the others – "I Am an Animal." I think – are getting close to what I feel I want to be writing: in terms of somebody who's thirty-five writing a rock song, but one which isn't in the George Jones – Willie Nelson tradition – 'I'm a smashed-up fucker standing at the bar...' "Empty Glass" is a direct jump from Persian Sufi poetry. Hafiz – he was a poet in the fourteenth century – used to talk about God's love being wine, and that we learn to be intoxicated, and that the heart is like an empty cup. You hold up the heart, and hope that God's grace will fill your cup with his wine. You stand in the tavern, a useless soul waiting for the barman to give you a drink – the barman being God. It's also Meher Baba talking about the fact that the heart is like a glass, and that God can't fill it up with his love – if it's already filled with love for yourself. I used those images deliberately. It was quite weird going to Germany and talking to people over there about it: 'This 'Empty Glass' – is that about you becoming an alcoholic?'"
"Let My Love Open The Door" went to number forty-six in the UK, ten in Canada, and nine in the US.
"Rough Boys" hit eighty-nine in the US and thirty-nine in the UK. It was dedicated to his children Emma and Minta and to the Sex Pistols. Townshend would reflect: "A lot of gays and a lot of bisexuals wrote to me congratulating me on this so-called coming out. I think in both cases the images are very angry, aren't they? In 'Rough Boys,' the line 'Come over here, I want to bite and kiss you' is about 'I can scare you! I can frighten you! I can hurt all you macho individuals simply by coming up and pretending to be gay!' And that's what I really meant in that song, I think."
"Keep On Working"
All songs written and composed by Pete Townshend.
1.) 00:00 Rough Boys
2.) 04:02 I Am An Animal
3.) 07:50 And I Moved
4.) 11:15 Let My Love Open The Door
5.) 14:00 Jools And Jim
1.) 16:35 Keep On Working
2.) 20:00 Cat's In The Cupboard
3.) 23:35 A Little Is Enough
4.) 28:18 Empty Glass
5.) 33:42 Gonna Get Ya