Empty Glass

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Empty Glass
Studio album by
Released21 April 1980 (1980-04-21)
RecordedNovember 1979 – February 1980[1]
ProducerChris Thomas
Pete Townshend chronology
Rough Mix
Empty Glass
All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes
Singles from Empty Glass
  1. "Rough Boys"
    Released: March 1980
  2. "Let My Love Open the Door"
    Released: June 1980
  3. "A Little Is Enough"
    Released: September 1980
  4. "Keep on Working"
    Released: 1980

Empty Glass is the second solo studio album by English rock musician Pete Townshend, and his first composed of original material, released on 21 April 1980 by Atco Records.

The album deals with issues that Townshend was struggling with at the time, including alcoholism, drug abuse, marital problems and deceased friends, particularly Keith Moon, the Who's former drummer, who died in 1978. Empty Glass also contained the devotional love song, "Let My Love Open the Door", which became a Top 10 hit (#9) in the US, and the modestly successful singles "Rough Boys" (#89) and "A Little Is Enough" (#72).

The album was rated No. 57 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest of the 1980s. A Gibson poll rated it at No. 5 among "the greatest albums released by an artist who was previously in a successful band".


In an interview with Murray Lerner on the film The Who: Live at the Isle of Wight, Townshend explained the album's title:

I called it Empty Glass, 'cause of this idea that when you go to the tavern – which is to God, you know – and you ask for His love – He's the bartender, you know – and He gives you a drink, and what you have to give Him is an empty glass. You know there's no point giving Him your heart if it's full already; there's no point going to God if your heart's full of Doris.

This concept was derived from the work [3] of the Persian lyric poet Hafez, which Townshend became interested in from his involvement with Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master who claimed he was an Avatar — God in human form.[4]

The album was written and recorded between 1978 and 1980, when activity with the Who had started to pick up again, and Townshend found himself having to write for both his solo project and his band. As a result, Empty Glass was considered superior to the Who's subsequent studio album Face Dances (1981), with critics calling it a Who album that never was.

The Who's lead vocalist Roger Daltrey later commented that he felt let down by Townshend, and that many of the songs from the album would have worked well for the Who, among them "Rough Boys" and "Empty Glass". Townshend countered by saying that "Rough Boys" was the one song Daltrey would have wanted clarified (in terms of the song's homoerotic subtext) and toned down were he to sing it, thus defeating its message, while "Empty Glass" had been recorded during sessions for Who Are You in 1978; a version featuring Keith Moon on drums and John Entwistle on bass appeared on the 1996 reissue of that album. This version is notable for suicidal undertones in the lyrics that were changed for Empty Glass: the line "Killing each other, then we jump off the ledge" became "Killing each other by driving a wedge".

The album was produced by Chris Thomas, whose credits included Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon and the Pretenders' debut studio album. "For a long time," Townshend said, "I wanted to work with Todd Rundgren, and I asked him to produce my solo album which he agreed to do. And then I suddenly realised it probably wasn't a good idea because we're so alike in a lot of ways. I would like to work with him. I think he's a better guitar player than me and a better singer but I think what really worried me about the prospect of him producing my solo album was that I'm influenced by him enough as it is. Do you understand? And I like the way I'm influenced by him at the moment."[5]

Writing and recording[edit]

Townshend began writing the songs and recording demos for Empty Glass in his 24-track home studio around late 1978, but recording sessions for the album would only begin in November 1979 at Wessex Studios in North London, with producer Chris Thomas at the helm, and Bill Price as the engineer. Additional recording was done at AIR Studios in Oxford Street and Townshend's Eel Pie Studios from then until March 1980. Townshend performed all the guitar and synthesizer parts on the album, and brought in various musicians to lay down additional instrumentation. The album's line-up included Who touring keyboardist John Bundrick on piano and organ, Tony Butler on bass, Simon Phillips, Kenney Jones, Mark Brzezicki, and James Asher on drums, Peter Hope-Evans on harmonica, and Raphael Rudd, who arranged the horn parts on "Rough Boys".[6]

Cover artwork[edit]

The sleeve was designed by British-Irish photographer Bob Carlos Clarke.[7] The album's title is an allusion to a poem by the Sufi lyric poet Hafez, and at one point the album had the working title of "Sacred Animal".[3]

The sleeve of the vinyl album (SD 32–100) includes this dedication:

This album is dedicated to my wife Karen.
"Rough Boys" is dedicated to my children Emma and Minta and to the Sex Pistols.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideB−[9]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[10]
Record Collector[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[14]
Smash Hits7/10[15]

Billboard described Empty Glass as "impressive album that showcases perhaps above all, Townshend's incredible versatility on guitar with each riveting riff rising to the forefront." The reviewer conclude that "the production, along with Townshend's impeccable timing, delivery and rhythmic sense gives the album an urgent and contemporary flavor, and an indication of what rock'n'roll should be."[16]

In a review of a remastered release for PopMatters, John Bergstrom said that it had "dated poorly" in terms of arrangement and production but "ultimately, Townshend's songwriting makes the best of Empty Glass more than worthwhile."[17]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Pete Townshend

Side one
1."Rough Boys"4:02
2."I Am an Animal"3:51
3."And I Moved"3:21
4."Let My Love Open the Door"2:44
5."Jools and Jim"2:36
Side two
6."Keep on Working"3:23
7."Cat's in the Cupboard"3:34
8."A Little Is Enough"4:42
9."Empty Glass"5:25
10."Gonna Get Ya"6:25
Total length:39:46
Bonus tracks (Included only on the 2006 Hip-O US and Imperial Japan CD Release)
11."I Am an Animal" (Demo alternate vocal version)3:48
12."Keep on Working" (Demo alternate vocal version)3:32
13."And I Moved" (Demo alternate vocal version)3:06
14."I'm Gonna Get Ya" (Work in progress long version)11:24

Non-album tracks[edit]

Song Single Notes
"Greyhound Girl" "Let My Love Open the Door" song originally written for Lifehouse


Credits are adapted from the Empty Glass liner notes.[18]






Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[28] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[29] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Empty Glass". Pete Townshend. 21 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Pete Townshend: Empty Glass". PopMatters. 12 December 2006.
  3. ^ a b Giles, Jeff (21 April 2015). "The History of Pete Townshend's First Proper Solo Album, 'Empty Glass'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  4. ^ Kalchuri (1986) p. 2324
  5. ^ Sound International, April 1980
  6. ^ "Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Empty Glass". Pete Townshend. 21 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Album Cover Art – Pete Townshend – Empty Glass". Tralfaz-archives.com. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Empty Glass – Pete Townshend". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert (1990). "Peter Townshend: Empty Glass". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-73015-X. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  10. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  11. ^ "Pete Townshend: Empty Glass". Mojo: 111. The songs are so hard and strong they made the band jealous and Townshend's singing lets rip the harsh energy Roger Daltrey gave voice to in The Who.
  12. ^ Bergstrom, John (12 December 2006). "Pete Townshend: Empty Glass". PopMatters. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  13. ^ Davenport, Rich (25 December 2016). "Pete Townshend – Empty Glass (Remastered)". Record Collector (461). Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  14. ^ "Pete Townshend: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 5 February 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  15. ^ Starr, Red (1–14 May 1980). "Pete Townshend: Empty Glass". Smash Hits: 29.
  16. ^ "Top Album Picks. Review: Pete Townshend — Empty Glass" (PDF). Billboard Magazine. 3 May 1980. p. 55. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  17. ^ "Pete Townshend: Empty Glass, PopMatters". 12 December 2006.
  18. ^ Empty Glass (CD booklet). Pete Townshend. Atco Records. 1980.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  19. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 312. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  20. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 7805a". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 10, 2023.
  21. ^ "Charts.nz – Pete Townshend – Empty Glass". Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  22. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Pete Townshend – Empty Glass". Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  23. ^ "Pete Townshend | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  24. ^ "Pete Townshend Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  25. ^ "Album Airplay/40" (PDF). Radio & Records. 20 June 1980. p. 46. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  26. ^ "Top Selling Albums of 1980 — The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Recorded Music New Zealand. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  27. ^ "Top Billboard 200 Albums - Year-End". Billboard. Archived from the original on 21 February 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  28. ^ "British album certifications – Peter Townsend – Empty Glass". British Phonographic Industry.
  29. ^ "American album certifications – Pete Townshend – Empty Glass". Recording Industry Association of America.

External links[edit]