White City: A Novel

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White City: A Novel
White City A Novel.jpg
Studio album by
Released11 November 1985 (1985-11-11)
RecordedNovember 1984 – July 1985
LabelAtco (US)
ProducerChris Thomas
Pete Townshend chronology
White City: A Novel
Deep End Live!
Singles from White City: A Novel
  1. "Face the Face"
    Released: 1985
  2. "Give Blood"
    Released: 1985
  3. "Secondhand Love"
    Released: 1986
Professional ratings
Review scores
Rolling Stone(positive)[2]

White City: A Novel is the fourth solo studio album by English rock musician Pete Townshend, released on 11 November 1985 by Atco Records.[3] The album was produced by Chris Thomas (who had also produced Townshend's previous two albums, Empty Glass and All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes) and it was recorded by Bill Price at three separate recording studios in London, England: both of the Eel Pie studios, and A.I.R.

The album peaked at No. 70 on the UK Albums Chart, and at No. 26 on the US Billboard 200. The album also reached the Top 20 in five other countries, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland.


A loose concept album, its title refers to a story (called a "novel" in the album title) that accompanies the album, which takes place in a low-income housing estate in the West London district of White City, near where Townshend had grown up. The story tells of cultural conflict, racial tension and youthful hopes and dreams in the 1960s – a world of "prostituted children", "roads leading to darkness, leading home" and despairing residents living in "cells" with views of "dustbins and a Ford Cortina". The song "White City Fighting", which features Pink Floyd's David Gilmour on guitar,[3] tells listeners that the White City was "a black, violent place" where "battles were won, and battles were blown, at the height of the White City fighting".

The album opens with crashing guitar chords (also played by Gilmour[4]) that capture a feeling of urban chaos, leading into "Give Blood", a song with Townshend's moral lyrics demanding listeners to "give blood, but you may find that blood is not enough".[5]


The disc also mentions a film based on the album, directed and "adapted for longform video" by Richard Lowenstein. The 60-minute video, entitled White City: The Music Movie, was released by Vestron Music Video in 1985 and stars Pete Townshend, Andrew Wilde and Frances Barber. The videotape also features exclusive footage of Townshend discussing the album and film, and the premiere performance of "Night School". That song, in a different form, would be included on Hip-O's 2006 reissue as a bonus track.

Album contents[edit]

The track "White City Fighting" originated as a composition written by David Gilmour for his 1984 solo album About Face.[3] He asked Townshend to supply lyrics, but felt that he couldn't relate to them, so Townshend used the song instead with Gilmour playing guitar.[3] Gilmour sent the same tune to Roy Harper, whose lyrics had the same effect as Townshend's on Gilmour.[3] Harper used the result, "Hope", which has a markedly slower tempo, on his 1985 album Whatever Happened to Jugula? with Harper's son Nick on guitar.[3]

Cash Box said that "Secondhand Love" "continues Townshend’s penchant for brilliant songwriting and tough, hard-hitting performance."[6] Billboard said it's "delivered with [Townshend's] customary intensity."[7]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Pete Townshend, except where noted.

Side one
1."Give Blood"5:44
2."Brilliant Blues"3:06
3."Face the Face"5:51
4."Hiding Out"3:00
5."Secondhand Love"4:12
Side two
6."Crashing by Design" 3:14
7."I Am Secure" 4:00
8."White City Fighting"
9."Come to Mama" 4:40
Total length:38:27
2006 Hip-O bonus tracks
10."Night School" 3:23
11."Save It for Later"4:58
12."Hiding Out (12" mix)" (Previously released on 12" single) 5:50
2006 Imperial bonus tracks
10."Secondhand Love" (Live in Brixton) 
11."Face the Face" (Live in Brixton) 

Non-album tracks[edit]

  1. "Face the Face" (Vocal long version) – 6:08 (Available on 12" US Atco and European Singles)
  2. "Hiding Out" (Instrumental version) – 3:00 (Available on 12" Atco Germany single of "Hiding Out")
  3. "Night School" – 3:03 (Video version)
  4. "Face the Face" (Single edit) – 4:23 (Available on 7" US single)
  5. "Face the Face" (Edit version) – 3:59 (Available on 12" US promo single)


Credits are adapted from the White City: A Novel liner notes.[8]


Chart Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[11] 16
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[12] 26
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[13] 31
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[14] 15
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[15] 20
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[16] 17
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[17] 11
UK Albums (OCC)[18] 70
US Billboard 200[19] 26


Organization Level Date
RIAA – U.S. Gold 22 January 1986 (1986-01-22)[20]


  1. ^ White City: A Novel at AllMusic
  2. ^ "Pete Townshend: White City (A Novel) : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". www.rollingstone.com. Archived from the original on 15 April 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Miles, Barry; Andy Mabbett (1994). Pink Floyd the visual documentary ([Updated ed.] ed.). London: Omnibus. ISBN 0-7119-4109-2.
  4. ^ "Coolwalkingsmoothtalking Liner Notes". The Hypertext Who – Bill's Pete Townshend Pages. 1 August 2008. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Give Blood Lyrics". Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Single Releases" (PDF). Cash Box. 22 March 1986. p. 9. Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  7. ^ "Reviews". Billboard. 22 March 1986. p. 79. Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  8. ^ White City: A Novel (CD booklet). Pete Townshend. Atco Records. 1985.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  9. ^ "INTERVIEW: 1985-??: CLEM BURKE TALKS ABOUT EURYTHMICS TO MODERN DRUMMER". 21 April 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2022 – via Modern Drummer.
  10. ^ "Pete Townshend Night School". Retrieved 16 October 2012 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ "Australiancharts.com – Pete Townshend – White City: A Novel". Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  12. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Pete Townshend – White City: A Novel" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  13. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Pete Townshend – White City: A Novel" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Pete Townshend – White City: A Novel" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  15. ^ "Charts.nz – Pete Townshend – White City: A Novel". Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  16. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Pete Townshend – White City: A Novel". Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  17. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Pete Townshend – White City: A Novel". Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  18. ^ "Pete Townshend | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  19. ^ "White City: A Novel Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  20. ^ "RIAA Gold and Platinum". Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on 26 June 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2008.

External links[edit]