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Daily Record 1/8/11: Face Dances-The Who (1981)

In 1980s, 1981, record collecting, records, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock on January 9, 2011 at 12:57 am

I had a friend many, many, many years ago who was into Air Supply. “Lost in Love.” “All Out of Love.” “The One That You Love.” My friend knew them all and he didn’t particularly care for rock music. The words and music of Air Supply said it all for my friend.

Then one day, the relationship my friend was in exploded all over the place. The next day, my friend ditched Air Supply and discovered The Who.

Such was the way of teenage love in the early 1980s.

When it came to The Who, my friend fell hard, way harder than the puppy love he had for Air Supply. In fact, my friend was so enamoured of The Who that he made me a mix tape to convince me of their greatness, as my new wave sensibilities were making me somewhat allergic to the emerging genre known as “classic rock” by that time. The mix tape indicated the measure of my friend’s Who-love, in that it contained solo tracks by both Pete Townshend and John Entwistle.

The mix tape my friend made me (with liner notes and everything!) is long gone now, but it surely contained at least a few tracks from Face Dances, The Who’s 1981 album, and their first since the death of drummer Keith Moon. The mix had to have contained the album’s most popular track, “You Better You Bet,” but my friend probably reached for something less obvious as well. Because pop tunes like “You Better You Bet” were fine, but weren’t to be taken all that seriously.

 Now, I am no Who scholar, but Face Dances strikes me as a Pete Townshend solo album in disguise. It does sound like The Who, at least a poppy version of The Who, but the lyrics often come across as a chronicle of an oncoming midlife crisis for Pete Townshend, which leaves the impression that maybe Townshend, rather than Who lead vocalist Roger Daltrey, ought to be singing the songs. Except “The Quiet One” and “You,” which were written and sung by John Entwistle, and might have sounded just as good on the album where my friend picked up those aforementioned Entwistle solo songs.

[And on the subject of Townshend solo albums, Face Dances was sandwiched between two of them: Empty Glass and All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. My friend owned them both on LP and asked me to tape them for him, which I did. He never took his albums back and I still have them. The two or three times I’ve seen Friend in the last couple decades have been so thoroughly weird and awkward that we never got around to talking about the fact that I still have his Townshend LPs.]

Don’t get me wrong: Face Dances is a pretty cool album. In the post-Moon Who album sweepstakes, Face Dances seems to capture more Who-fan love than 1982’s It’s Hard or that Endless Wire album that was released a few years ago.

I should also note the following:

Face Dances contains a song called “Daily Records,” that could be the theme song for this blog. That is, if the song was about listening to records, which apparently it’s not. It’s about making records. And about having a Pete Townshend midlife crisis. 

Finally, like my friend, I had a huge Who period as well, though it was not precipitated by a romantic calamity. There was about one year in the mid-1980s in which I probably listened to The Who’s classic Quadrophenia about once a week. Which, of course, is way more than I ever listened to Face Dances.

However, I never really had an Air Supply period.

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