Pete discusses his first solo record, "Who Came First"
PETE TOWNSHEND’S much talked about first solo album outside the Who is due for release next month. The set is dedicated to Meher Baba, the diving teacher who brought a whole metamorphosis to Townshend – changing his outlook, attitude and concept of life.
Last year a similar collection of tracks were put together by Townshend and given to the followers of Baba. This year Pete was convinced that this kind of work from his agil and dedicated mind should be given a wider audience – hence "Who Came First".
Talking about "Who Came First" he says: "This album is meant to reflect these changes [in me]. Allow them to breathe outside of the confines of the Who and yet also feed back to the Who". Here Pete writes his own description of each track and how they came about…
PURE AND EASY. Originally intended as the pivot piece for a film script I wrote called LIFE HOUSE. This became infamous in this country, (the script) because we did so much talking about it, and so little doing. In the end we abandoned it, along with this number, which though recorded by the WHO, never mad it onto WHO’S NEXT because we wanted a single album rather than a double this time last year. This version is my own; it’s about as good as I can do this time last year. I’ve got to admit I put it first because I like it the best.
EVOLUTION. A seven minute piece on the original "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" album. An album dedicated to Baba on his seventy-fifth birthday. This album was put out with a magazine put together by McInnerny and Co. (of TOMMY sleeve fame), and a couple of thousand were sold to Baba lovers around the world. Before I edited out all the important verses, Ronnie’s song covered all the major stages of consciousness that we go through to reach the glorious state of human-ness. Stone. Metal. Vegetable. Worm. Fish. Animal. Then unfortunately, man.
FOREVER’S NO TIME AT ALL. Written by Billy Nicholls and Katie McInnerny, (Mike McInnerny’s wife) this song is driven along by Caleb Quaye, the guy behind the scenes on guitar on Elton John albums. On this track he also plays drums, bass and does a bit of arranging to boot. I think he’s a genius. I also think the song is one of my all time favourites. This crops up here because it was originally featured on the follow up to "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" which is called "I AM". The plot thickens, right?
LET’S SEE ACTION. Written about a section of the LIFE HOUSE film, it’s about the people who act in a revolution, and the people that sit back. I thought it also said a lot about the way we forget our souls most of the time. The WHO have recorded a fantastic version of this with Nicky Hopkins on piano; it was released in England on Track as a single. It didn’t seem right here (USA) so we shelved it. You can hear it premiered here on this very album.
TIME IS PASSING. Another song from LIFE HOUSE. Pretty simple stuff, country feel. I played this for Maher Baba’s Mandali (disciples), when I travelled to India this year.
HEARTACHE. This is a Jim Reeves tune. Baba heard this song and said that Jim Reeves’ voice was full of spiritual power and love. I listened to him sing this song and had to agree. I enjoyed doing this track tremendously.
SHERATON GIBSON. Included for music value rather than content. I wrote this two years back after a really good barbecue with the James Gang outside Cleveland. I had a good, good day. Next day in Pitts I was not only missing home as usual, but also Cleveland. A strange town to miss, but I still love it – this was the first time I ever used synthesizer. In true Abbey Road Tradition.
CONTENT. The opening track on "HAPPY BIRTHDAY", this track is based on a poem by a lady called Maud Kennedy who loves Baba in a way I wish I could achieve. It’s simply about being content that you have found out about God. Happy to know that whatever goes down, he’s still there, holding the tickets.
PAVARDIGAR. This is Baba’s incredible "Universal Prayer" put to music by yours truly. I think, along with many others, that it is a prayer which Praises the whole of Universal Creation as well as the Messiah.
UNIVERSAL PRAYER. A difficult one to talk about. This is Baba’s ‘UNIVERSL PRAYER" which I altered a little and put to music. This whole thing is the result of one of those unremarkable coincidences that affect the person involved so much, and yet seem so ordinary to others.
I was working on the words one afternoon; trying to make the original prayer scan, make it feel like it could be put to music. The same afternoon, I discovered a really beautiful tuning for six string guitar and somewhere in the back of my head, gave it to Baba. He took it graciously it seems, for later that day I got the hit that maybe the words from the prayer would fit the music. They fit like a glove. If this doesn’t sound completely like me, maybe it ain’t.