Certain Songs #1532: Pete Yorn – “Life on a Chain”

Album: musicforthemorningafter
Year: 2001

No one remembers this now, but there was a shitton of hype around Pete Yorn when his debut album, musicforthemorningafter came out in early 2001. With the nation still reeling around the contested Presidential Election of 2000, musicforthemorningafter was what brought us all together.

OK, that’s not what really happened: at least partially because his brother was — and still is — a major talent manager, a lot of folks automatically dismissed him, and others weren’t interested because his musicforthemorningafter came out on Columbia and not some hip indie label.

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Certain Songs #1531: Pete Townshend – “Give Blood”

Album: White City: A Novel
Year: 1985

Before I leave Mr. Townshend for a couple of years (or so), I wanted to discuss something that struck me last night: he could have made one helluva Who album from the best songs on Face Dances, All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes and It’s Hard instead of the three non-helluva albums that were released.

(This obviously ignores Empty Glass, which stands up on its own and White City: A Novel, which is a few years later.)

So call it Face Dances, because that’s easily the best title of the three, put it out in 1982, and have the following track listing:

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Certain Songs #1530: Pete Townshend – “Dance It Away”

B-Side, 1982

In 1979, The Who toured for the first time since Keith Moon’s death. It was mostly Europe, and East Coast cities, with the centerpiece being five nights at Madison Square Garden, which was before the tragedy that befell in Cincinnati, where 11 people were killed in a stampede.

The week after Cincinnati, Time magazine put The Who on the cover with the caption “Rock’s Outer Limits,” which was both ironic describing a band that was was trying to rebuild after a key member’s death, and weirdly apropos given what had just happened in Cincy. If I’m not mistaken, the cover story had been planned prior to the tragedy, given that in 1979, The Who were very much in the spotlight, with the tour plus The Kids Are Alright plus the film of Quadrophenia.

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Certain Songs #1529: Pete Townshend – “Slit Skirts”

Album: All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes
Year: 1982

Of course, the real reason I played All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes as many times as I did was so I could get to “Slit Skirts,” which wasn’t just my favorite song on the album, but probably my favorite of all of his solo songs.

And while just like many of the songs on All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, “Slit Skirts” had too damn many words, somehow his meditation on growing older resonated with me, who was pushing the ripe old age of 20. Of course, while I couldn’t relate to the actual experiences he was describing, the overall theme of coping with the changes that growing older inevitably caused was something I could relate to: not only was KSFR was finally going on the air, I was also working towards the first real adult romantic relationship in my life. Terrifying.

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Certain Songs #1528: Pete Townshend – “Stardom in Acton”

Album: All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes
Year: 1982

To call Pete Townshend’s 1982 album All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, difficult is to undersell the concept of difficult. It laughed at difficult. It stuck a secret knife in difficult’s gut. For the longest time, I couldn’t make heads or tails out of most of it. Songs like “Face Dances Pt 2,” “Uniforms” and “Exquisitely Bored” tried to be exquisite, but ended up being boring. And it still amazes me today how he could cover “Girl From The North Country” and completely ignore one the most gorgeous melodies in human history.

That said, I thought “The Sea Refuses No River,” “Somebody Saved Me” and even the dread “Stop Hurting People” (OK, if you say so, Pete) were good songs that were overthought, overlong — or both — but somehow got across because of his singing, which I’d come to love even more than Roger Daltrey’s. I mean, the dread “Stop Hurting People” is just plaine silly for the longest time, but god help me, when he sings “may I be matched with you again?” and his guitar shines like the sun out of a cloudbank of synths, it gets me every time.

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