Sunday, May 5, 2019

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

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.

Something else about “Slit Skirts:” compared to the rest of the album, it’s almost sparse. There aren’t any synths within miles of it — just guitar, bass, drums and piano, with the piano dominating the quieter verses and the guitar dominating the noisier choruses.

I was just thirty-four years old
And I was still wandering in a haze
I was wondering why everyone I met
Seemed like they were lost in a maze
I don’t know why I thought
I should have some kind of
Divine right to the blues
It’s sympathy not tears people need
When they’re the front page sad news

And so the verses build and build with stories and incidents until Pete intones “From all this you’d imagine that there must be something learned” and before you can respond “Not necessarily,” one of Pete’s all time greatest choruses kick in, his guitar burning a chemtrail right in front of you.

Slit skirts, Jeanie never wears those slit skirts
I don’t ever wear no ripped shirts
Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts

Knee pants, Jeanie never wears no knee pants
Have to be so drunk to try a new dance
So afraid of every new romance

Nothing really to parse here: no hidden meanings or anything, just a chorus so beautiful and universal that Pete decides to keep it going, with a modulation to somewhat mitigate the repetition.

Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt

Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt

And going, now adding some backing “ooooooooooooh” vocals to the whole thing.

Romance, romance
Why aren’t we thinking of romance?
Why can’t we drink it up true heart romance
Just need a brief new romance

It’s so amazing and overwhelming that when Pete starts the next verse “Let me tell you some more about myself,” you don’t run away screaming, even though he then proceeds with some pretty serious oversharing to cap an album that could have just been called “Overshare” in the first place.

In the end, after the second round of verses, Pete kicks up a short quick guitar lead just before the fade that I would have liked to heard more of, though maybe that was all he really needed.

“Slit Skirts” was never a single or anything, but when KFSR finally launched, I played the shit out of it, and eventually there was a really super cool “live-in-the-studio” video that added some superfluous harmonica and percussion — maybe to show that it was live? I guess? — but weirdly faded out anyways. Nevertheless, I really loved that video — what a thrill to see him! — and it also got “Slit Skirts” to be one of his more widely known songs.

“Slit Skirts”

“Slit Skirts” official video (muddy sound)

“Slit Skirts” live w/ Phil Collins, 1982

“Slit Skirts” live w/David Gilmour, 1986

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