All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes

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All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes
Studio album by Pete Townshend
Released 14 June 1982
Recorded 1981 - 1982;
Eel Pie Studios,
A.I.R. Studios, and
Wessex Sound Studios, London
Genre Rock, new wave [1]
Length 41:14
Label Atco (United States)
Producer Chris Thomas
Pete Townshend chronology
Empty Glass
(1980)
All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes
(1982)
Scoop
(1983)

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes is the third official solo album by English rock musician and songwriter Pete Townshend, guitarist for The Who.

It was produced by Chris Thomas (who also produced Empty Glass) and was recorded by Bill Price at Eel Pie, A.I.R. and Wessex studios in London, England.

The album contains some compositions salvaged from later albums by The Who.

Recording and production[edit]

Along with the eleven songs on the album, further songs were also recorded, including "Body Language" (subsequently released in 1983 on Scoop), a track called "Man Watching" (released as the B-side of "Face Dances, Pt. 2"), and "Dance It Away" (which was also performed in various forms live by the band between 1979 and 1981, usually as a coda to "Dancing in the Street"), and which was released as the B-side of "Uniforms". One further song was listed on the initial LP release; called "Vivienne", this, along with "Man Watching" and "Dance It Away", were released as bonus tracks on the 2006 reissue.

Album title[edit]

Pete Townshend explained the meaning of the strange album title at length in an interview with Rolling Stone:

Basically, it's about the fact that you can't hide what you're really like. I just had this image of the average American hero – somebody like a Clint Eastwood or a John Wayne. Somebody with eyes like slits, who was basically capable of anything – you know, any kind of murderous act or whatever to get what was required – to get, let's say, his people to safety. And yet, to those people he's saving, he's a great hero, a knight in shining armor – forget the fact that he cut off fifty people's heads to get them home safely. Then I thought about the Russians and the Chinese and the Arab communities and the South Americans; you've got these different ethnic groups, and each has this central image of every other political or national faction as being, in some way, the evil ones. And I've taken this a little bit further – because I spent so much of my time in society, high society, last year – to comment on stardom and power and drug use and decadence, and how there's a strange parallel, in a way, between the misuse of power and responsibility by inept politicians and the misuse of power and responsibility by people who are heroes. If you're really a good person, you can't hide it by acting bad; and if you're a bad person, you can't hide it by acting good. Also – more to the point, really – that there's no outward, identifiable evil, you know? People spend most of their time looking for evil and identifying evil outside themselves. But the potential for evil is inside you.

—Pete Townshend, Rolling Stone interview, 1982[2]

On the Listening Time promotional LP, Townshend said he should have won a "Stupid Title of the Year" award for the unusual moniker.[3]

Video release[edit]

A companion video was also released, featuring concept videos set to the musical backings of "Prelude", "Face Dances, Pt. 2", "Communication", "Uniforms", "Stardom in Acton", "Exquisitely Bored", and a re-recorded version of "Slit Skirts", with a harmonica performance on the last song, not used on the studio cut.

Chalkie Davis the director (with Carol Starr) of the video said:

"It was 1 pm on a Tuesday in 1982 when the phone rang, 'Hi Chalkie, it's Pete (Townshend), there is this thing starting in America, it's called MTV and they want a 30-minute film of me, if you can get to Bill Curbishley's office by 2:30 pm with a script I reckon I can get you the job.' We got the job, we started filming the following Monday and shot for six days, we had two full days and four afternoons with Pete." [4]

This video has been out of print for years, though Pete Townshend put the videos up on his website in 2000, which were then subsequently uploaded to other video websites on the Internet.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 2/5 stars[6]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[7]
The Village Voice D+[8]

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes was panned by most music critics upon its release.[9] In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau found it "pretentious at an unprecedented level of difficulty" and said that Townshend twisted "such long words into such unlikely rhymes and images and marshal arrangements of such intricate meaninglessness."[8] Stereo Review called it an "ambitious failure" and felt that Townshend tends to indulge in his ideas on rock music and life on his songs.[10] In a positive review for Rolling Stone, Jon Pareles called the album "a mess of contradictions", but an exceptional listen because of Townshend's arrangements, which "surge and subside as gracefully as anything in rock; they're neither static nor jolting."[7]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine called it the type of album that "taunts cynics and critics, being nearly impenetrable in its content even if the production and the music itself aren't all that inaccessible."[5] Stylus Magazine's Justin Cober-Lake said that the album "might at times be convoluted or over-thought," but "remains affecting and compelling" because of Townshend's sincere lyrics.[11]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Pete Townshend, except where noted.

No. Title Length
1. "Stop Hurting People"   3:55
2. "The Sea Refuses No River" (Pete Townshend, Alan Rogan) 5:53
3. "Prelude" (Pete Townshend, Andy Newman) 1:31
4. "Face Dances, Pt. 2"   3:24
5. "Exquisitely Bored"   3:41
6. "Communication"   3:19
7. "Stardom in Acton"   3:42
8. "Uniforms (Corp d'Esprit)"   3:42
9. "North Country Girl" (Traditional) 2:27
10. "Somebody Saved Me" (A version of this performed by the band may also be found on The Who's 1997 re-release of their 1981 album Face Dances) 4:51
11. "Slit Skirts"   4:54
Bonus Tracks (2006 Reissue)
No. Title Length
12. "Vivienne"   3:37
13. "Man Watching"   2:32
14. "Dance It Away"   3:38

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Album
Year Chart Position
1982 Billboard Pop Albums 26
Year Song Chart Position
1982 "Face Dances, Pt. 2" Billboard Pop Singles 105
AOR Rock Tracks 15
"Slit Skirts" AOR Rock Tracks 41
"Stardom in Acton" AOR Rock Tracks 30
"Uniforms (Corp d'Esprit)" UK Singles 48

References[edit]

  1. ^ allMusic - All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
  2. ^ Loder, Kurt (24 June 1982). "The Rolling Stone Interview: Pete Townshend". Rolling Stone (Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.) (372): 18. 
  3. ^ Listening Time Promotional LP ATCO SAM150, 1982.
  4. ^ yoU2b - Pete Townshend - Chinese Eyes documentary 1982 HD
  5. ^ a b Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes". Allmusic. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 3509. ISBN 0857125958. 
  7. ^ a b Pareles, John (5 August 1982). "All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes". Rolling Stone (Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.) (375): 48. 
  8. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (31 August 1982). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "Pete Townshend – Biography". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  10. ^ Stereo Review 47: 108. July 1982. "To his credit, Townshend probably thinks more about the meaning of rock (and life) than anybody else in the business, but he has a tendency to retreat inside his own head." 
  11. ^ Stylus Magazine review