Peter Townshend Billy Altman - Essay

Billy Altman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Rough Mix is a rather startling album because, as a writer who most of the time hides himself behind narratives, allegories and personaes, one is totally unprepared for the nakedness which Townshend shows here…. [Pete's] contributions here amount to some of the best songs he's written since—well, in retrospect I'd have to go back to The Who Sell Out as far as songs that hit the heart rather than the gut.

Townshend is looking back here, not at the Who, as in the Quadrophenia disaster, but at himself, and the closeness one feels between the singer and the song on his compositions here is truly affecting. "Heart To Hang Onto" is a haunting track about loneliness…. Each verse tells of someone who's defending himself against the world through different means. There's a drunkard, a fat woman and finally, in the last verse, a guitarist who finds that "his whole life is just another try."…

It's interesting that Townshend's alienation, as expressed on Rough Mix, is no longer the alienation of the young but the alienation of the near middle-aged. Being older and wiser, it seems, is just as confusing as being younger and more reckless. Whether Townshend will ever work out his jigsaw puzzle is as unknown as exactly why these songs wound up on this record. Nevertheless, Rough Mix is a rather softly intense album, and certainly one of this year's best.

Billy Altman, "Townshend/Lane Sing the Almost Middle-Aged Blues," in Creem (© copyright 1977 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), Vol. 9, No. 7, December, 1977, p. 64.