Tuesday, May 7, 2019

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

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:

Side One
01. You Better You Bet
02. The Sea Refuses No River
03. The Quiet One
04. Stardom in Acton
05. I’ve Known No War

Side Two
06. Dance It Away
07. Somebody Saved Me
08. Cry If You Want
09. Another Tricky Day
10. Slit Skirts

Thinking about it now, I’m kinda surprised I never made a tape like this, though at the time I know that I treated Pete’s solo career and The Who as two totally separate things, but now I think it’s all much more complicated than that, as things usually are.

And obviously, there’s a surfeit of Pete-sung songs on this, so figure that Roger would sing on “The Sea Refuses No River” and “Somebody Saved Me” instead of Pete. And no “Eminence Front,” because never “Eminence Front.”

Of course, it didn’t happen that way, and after taking a couple of years off, Pete Townshend put out 1985’s White City: A Novel, which backed way way down from the overstuffed arrangements of All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, which was good, but didn’t really bring the tunes, which was bad.

And in fact, the two best songs on the album actually had help from a ringer: Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, who co-wrote “White City Fighting,” and played all of the guitar on the opening track, “Give Blood.” The Who and Pink Floyd went all the way back to the late 1960s, so it wasn’t totally surprising Gilmour & Townshend worked together for a skosh. In fact, Townshend has said that he just stuck Gilmour, bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Simon Phillips in a room, and told Gilmour “Do one of those kind of ricky-ticky-ricky-ticky things, and I’ll shout ‘Give Blood!’ in the microphone every five minutes and let’s see what happens.”

Give blood
But you may find that blood is enough
Give blood
And there are some who’ll say it’s not enough
Give blood
But don’t expect too ever see reward
Give blood
You can give it all but still asked for more

We will get to my love of Gilmour’s guitar playing in a few weeks or so, but while the riff he came up with was pretty cool, but like the rest of “Give Blood,” it sounds extremely mid-1980s: all of that echo on the guitar, the showoff runs on the bass, and especially that gated boomy snare drum all over the place. But “Give Blood” also has a nice galumphing momentum, and a couple of times — especially at the end — it pushes its way though the clouds into proto-anthem territory as Townshend exhorts:

So give love and keep blood between brothers
Give love and keep blood between brothers
Give love and keep blood between brothers
Give love and keep blood between brothers

It was an incredibly promising beginning to an album: not quite “Rough Boys,” or even “You Better You Bet,” but most certainly better than the dread “Stop Hurting People,” but unfortunately, the rest of White City: A Novel didn’t really live up to that opening — maybe it should have been a full-album collaboration between Townshend & Gilmour — and after that I lost interest in whatever Townshend did next for a long long time. That’s on me, of course: he had a lifetime pass before he put out Empty Glass, and I’ll put the 15-year run from “I Can’t Explain” to “Gonna Get Ya” up against anybody’s output ever.

See ya at The Who!

“Give Blood”

“Give Blood” live in 1986 (w/ David Gilmour)

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