After the critical acclaim of the discs “Who Came First” and “Rough Mix” and the state The Who was in following the death of Keith Moon, the way was paved for Pete to launch his solo career in earnest. He was to finally do so in 1980, with an album for which he saved the first ten good songs he had written (instead of keeping them for The Who as he would have done before). The record was to receive excellent reviews and sell in good enough numbers as to prove that the brain of The Who also had a lot of muscle.
The one hit of the record was “Let My Love Open The Door”, yet another “love” song that was actually inspired by Meher Baba and his teachings. There were many musicians throughout history renowned for being Baba lovers, but Pete might as well be the most popular to the public at large. It was the same love that inspired the whole “Tommy” album, and on “Empty Glass” it also resulted in the sardonic “Keep On Working”. Pete has always had an eye for touching what he loves from another angle without actually tarnishing it. He knows how to throw shadows at something without hiding it all from sight, but rather emphasizing the bits that remain uncovered until they also tell you about what was darkened. In other words: Pete knows how to suggest and insinuate a lot.
Well, mostly. The songs “And I Moved” and “Rough Boys” insinuated too much to some, and they were to eventually result in tabloid headlines reading “I am a woman” and “My Gay Secret”. Later on, Pete was to explain that those two songs were actually: A) A take on macho culture where the character realizes how to frighten said individuals by pretending to be gay (“Rough Boys”), and B) A song written for a woman, in which he was to left the gender unchanged when he sang it (“And I Moved”).
The other great song on the album is “A Little Is Enough”. It has a great synthesizer part, and Pete never conveyed how much the sea and the water mean to him so graciously before or after. Not even in the whole “White City” movie did he transmit that so accurately, and the movie is bursting with water shots from back to front.
Elsewhere, “I Am An Animal” is an interesting take on evolution (His? Artists? Everybody?) and “Jools & Jim” finds him in full combative mode, as he lashes at some journalists that said the world was better off without Keith Moon. They went as far as to compare The Who’s unique drummer with Sid Vicious. They were looking for trouble, if you ask me.
On a personal note, the two tracks that I don’t enjoy are “Cat’s In The Cupboard” (far too repetitive) and “Gonna Get You”, also a repetitive number yet sporadically contagious in its call-and-response lyrics. But only sporadically.
So, Pete career had started for good. Even when the album was successful (because it truly was), everybody noticed that he was playing by his own set of rules. The Who were The Who. Pete was Pete, and he proved he could reach out to fans and non-fans at the same time. This debut is the most accessible solo disc he was to ever release, and also the purest. I like the second one best (“All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes”, 1982) but I couldn’t recommend that one over “Empty Glass” to anybody. Both are indispensable, though. Just pick them up in order to have a smoother time.