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Liner Notes › It's Hard
All studio tracks recorded June 1982 at Turn-Up-Down Studios (Glyn Johns' home studio) in Surrey, England.
Produced and Engineered by Glyn
It's Hard was originally released as Polydor WHOD 5066 on September 4, 1982. It reached #11 in the U.K. In the U.S. it was released as Warner Brothers WB 23731 also on September 4, 1982 and made #8 in the Billboard charts; the last Who record to date to reach the U.S. Top Ten. It was also the first Who album to be released as a compact disc, shortly after its LP release, as Polydor 800 106-2, pressed in West Germany as they had the only CD pressing plant at the time and it was the last Who album to come out as an 8-track. The album was awarded gold record status by the RIAA November 3, 1982.
Liner notes by Brian Cady [with research help from Jim Jackson]
...a welter of
cliché and listener-friendly FM rock sludge...
vital and coherent album since Who's Next...
It's difficult to
get away from the notion that The Who's final album was recorded purely because
they owed it to their American record company who'd paid them a substantial
advance which might have had to be returned if no album was forthcoming.
The album that
the Who are working on now is probably the most self-conscious and probably the
most dangerous record we've ever set out on.
I hated it. I
still hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it!
Welcome to The Who's last studio album (to date) and certainly their most controversial. It's Hard received some rave reviews when it came out but quickly became their most reviled studio release and one of the biggest reasons why The Who didn't record another for 24 years. Before it was released, however, Pete Townshend didn't just promote the album, he was enthused about it as a revitalization of the band and there are Who fans (and I'll admit I'm one of them) who find this album very under-appreciated. It's Hard began under curious circumstances and it is impossible to properly approach the album without knowledge of both what was then happening in The Who and in the world at large.
Face Dances, The Who's previous album, had been commercially successful but was very disappointing for the group. Both Roger and Pete talked of the band being disengaged from the material and Pete was determined that it wouldn't happen with the next album. However, he had problems of his own to solve first. By the end of 1981 he was not only drinking heavily, but was also addicted to Ativan and sleeping pills and was freebasing cocaine mixed with heroin. When he went to his parents' home for Christmas holidays, he looked so close to death that they begged him to get help. Reuniting with his wife Karen, from whom he had been separated for the last two years, Pete flew to California to a clinic run by Meg Patterson. Here he underwent the same NeuroElectric Therapy that had helped Eric Clapton overcome his drug addiction. While he was there he sent word back to The Who that he wanted to return to work. Pete: "I managed to convince the guys in the band that I would stay alive if they allowed me to work with them again. After the Rainbow fiasco [the 1981 concert where Pete drank four bottles of brandy and got in a backstage fight with Roger], I had difficulty proving to Roger in particular that I was going to enjoy working with the Who, and that it was important to me that the band end properly, rather than end because of my fucking mental demise."
When Pete returned from California in February, The Who were ready for him, having been rehearsing at producer Glyn Johns' house. "The band was working, they were active, they were writing. Roger was playing the guitar. If I had said right then and there, 'Listen chaps, I don't feel like making the record,' they looked as if they would have gone on and done something without me. And they weren't making any demonstrations to me, either. They were just doing it because they wanted to do it. It was really strange. I thought 'I'd really like to play with those guys.'"
But what would they play? Pete only had two songs ready for the new album and the failure of The Who to respond to the Face Dances material was foremost on his mind. "Before we started recording, I sat down with everybody and I said, 'listen, what's the fucking album going to be about? What are we going to say? I can't just go and write a load of songs again and bring them in and hope that you're going to feel good about them or hope that they are going to be right for the band or hope that the band's fans are going to think that they are right for the band. Let's at least all decide how we want the album to fucking sound, whether we want it to be different or old sounding, open or loose or tight or what, and even further, what we actually want the subject of the songs to be about before we commit ourselves and then at least we know when we've completed the album, we won't feel like we did about Face Dances.'"
Two weeks later, the Soviet Union
invaded Afghanistan and relations between the two superpowers began to break
down. In the fall of 1980 Ronald Reagan was elected president of the U.S.
Opposed to the SALT II nuclear arms-limitation treaty and with plans to increase
the U.S. military budget by $32 billion, Reagan set out to heighten the arms
race. Britain's conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, elected in 1979,
supported his efforts.
In interview after interview in 1982 Pete spoke of how The Who's new approach excited him and revitalized the band. "[The Who] all feel a great...sense of urgency I think it the only way to put it." "...it's changed our attitude a bit, because now we have something we want to take out and work one hundred percent; we want to shove it down people's throats, in a sense." "...a lot of material we're doing at the moment is quite anguished." "I thought, 'fuck it! There must be something! I've got two growing children, there must be something I can do about the planet. There must be something other than the occasional fucking concert for Amnesty International. I must be able to do something, express something." "I felt that suddenly the band had an outside purpose and it really did unify us a lot, it made us feel like human beings, part of society, living on a planet, not as isolated superstars who were worried about advancing middle age, money problems, whether they could buy another radiator cap for their Rolls-Royces. We were living in the real world again. Despite the fact that we can't alter who we are, or the fact that we are set apart from society, but to re-establish our position as observers, as commentators, as writers with a heavy emotional bias. To a great extent, it has given the band a feeling of being again." "Recording has rejuvenated us. Not so much in musical terms, but in the sense of standing together and saying that we're prepared to actually change the way that we live and the way that we operate, if it will make a difference."
And Pete also spoke of how happy he was with his songs and the recording. "I think the writing I'm doing now for the band has come out much more successfully." "I haven't tried particularly hard on the material. I haven't sat and ruminated and tortured myself to get anything out. I've just written the songs that I think are right for the band and they're much, much, much better for them; much more effective." "We're working with Glyn Johns who produced Who's Next and Who Are You and all the early, very early Who stuff, he engineered. And it's going extremely well." "I must say the material's come out really good and I'm really pleased with it so far." "The new Who songs are violently aggressive, the most aggressive stuff we've ever come up with. The songs that I've written are totally preoccupied with the danger and tension of living in the '80's. And that is the common attitude and stance that the band has." "Six weeks later the album was finished and it was a natural, unconsidered, spontaneous record; the kind I would imagine a brand new group could easily make. Perhaps in the context of a lot of Who records, particularly Who's Next and Quadrophenia it's not quite such a landmark, but from our point of view it's a tremendous record."
Roger's reaction to it in 1982, however, was negative even as he tried to sell it. "It's more of a live type album. I think it's very unpretentious. It's not particularly my favorite Who album. I think there's about five really good tracks on it...it's a stopgap album...I think musically you just cannot keep doing the same old thing. I think that's been one of our mistakes; that's one of my main criticisms of this album. It is a bit like this is The Who doing what they know how to do and I don't like that particularly. I like taking chances."
In the end, if you are sympathetic to the record, you tend to believe Pete that The Who were putting out an impassioned political statement. If you're not sympathetic, you tend to believe Roger that It's Hard was nothing but a contractual obligation. Which is the truth? It's hard to say.
Pete also wrote about this later in the thinly fictionalized short story
"Champagne On The Terraces" in his book Horse's Neck. Some
of the lyrics are quoted there as well as in the story "Horses" where he
recounts a dream about discovering a decaying white horse in a cottage
with a massive snake curled inside of it. He explains the meaning of the
dream, as "this is a gift from God, a presentation of his grace. If it
arrives with the package torn I can't argue. I'm ready to be humiliated,
to suffer, to go through whatever I need to go through. I won't betray
God or his world." Although Pete says this song was not intended for
Lifehouse, a character named Athena appears as the voice of
The Grid in Pete's 1993 Lifehouse re-write Psychoderelict.
IT'S YOUR TURN 3'39
Pete and The Who have been involved with charities in Chicago (and many other places besides) and The Who performed twice at the House Of Blues in Chicago November 12 and 13, 1999 raising money for Chicago's Maryville Academy charity benefiting neglected and abused children. This song was performed live only once during The Who's October 6, 1982 show at The Horizon in Rosemont, Illinois and has not been performed again after that. The ending of the version on the 1997 CD is extended by 8 seconds from the original fadeout and an echo is put on Roger's "people are suffering...people are hungry" towards the end. Click here to see the original lyric sheet: Cooks County.
IT'S HARD 3'47
The demo is available on Pete's album Scoop. "It's Hard" was released as The Who's last commercial single of new studio material in the U.S. to date on February 1983. The b-side was "Dangerous". It failed to chart. Footage of the band playing the song backstage at the Capital Center in Largo Maryland September 22, 1982 was used in the tour advertisement for Schlitz Beer. The 1997 CD version lacks a guitar "fix up" in Pete's opening solo that was in the original. Click here to see the original lyric sheet: It's Hard.
DANGEROUS 3'15 (1997 CD 3'35)
Tim Gorman was in a San Francisco cult band called Lazy Racer which had an album produced by Glyn Johns. When Pete said he was looking for a new keyboard player, Johns played him the Lazy Racer album. Pete liked what he heard, so Johns called Gorman in San Francisco and told him he was now a member of The Who! He continued to play with The Who through their 1982 tour. John "Rabbit" Bundrick, The Who's usual keyboardist from 1979 on was not in The Who at the time. He had been fired after a violent, drunken incident in the summer of 1981. He was reinstated in Pete's solo band Deep End after The Who's 1983 breakup. Gorman went on to play with Paul Kantner in the late 1980's and with Jefferson Starship in the early 1990's. On the 1997 CD version of It's Hard there is a reprise of the bass/organ duet from 1'13 to 1'28 that was cut on the original and an echo is added to Roger's voice starting at 2'26 that wasn't in the original mix. Click here to see the original lyric sheet: Dangerous. The line "back to the stone age" is a reference to an infamous remark made by U.S. General Curtis LeMay in 1965 that in response to aggression by North Vietnam, the U.S. should "bomb them back to the stone age."
John's bass line on the 1997 version is from a different take and is mixed higher. The intellectual firebrand Camille Paglia said, "I would cite the Who's magnificent, rumbling 'Eminence Front', with its penetrating insights into psychology and politics, as an example of what an evolved punk can and should achieve." Click here to see the original lyric sheet: Eminence Front. According to R. Rowley, the background music is played on a Yamaha E70 organ. Click here for more details.
ONE LIFE'S ENOUGH 2'21
Pete: "I'm in a kind of Catch-22 situation, because what I've done best for twenty years has damaged that part of my hearing. The only time I did it recently was on a couple of John's songs because it was what he wanted, and I came out of those two sessions with my ears ringing for a week. And I thought, 'Well, there's another db lost, you know.' I'm just very anxious to preserve my hearing." Click here to see the original lyric sheet: One At A Time.
WHY DID I FALL FOR THAT 3'18 (1997 CD 3'56)
Six months after the release of It's Hard President Reagan would announce the SDI initiative, popularly known as "star wars"; an attempt to build a nuclear missile defense system Reagan was characterize as an "umbrella" against nuclear attack. The 1997 CD keeps the song going another 38 seconds past the point where the original mix faded out. Click here to see the original lyric sheet: Why Did I Fall For That.
CRY IF YOU WANT 4'35 (1997 CD 5'18)
Pete: "I think in people of our generation it expresses itself not as an aggressive frame of mind but rather a realization that we've been a pretty useless generation of people, I think. We've done very, very little. We haven't actually even fought for what we've believed in. We've been pacifistic, we've been spoiled by peace...I'm trying to deal with my life and trying to face up to my responsibilities as a human being. That's boring to seventeen- and eighteen-year old kids. They don't want to know how miserable their lives are going to be, how much hard work they're going to have to do when they're thirty or forty years old. They just want to believe that they can stand onstage with a guitar and change the world."
In the original version, Kenney's martial-style drumming doesn't begin until 35 seconds into the song. On the 1997 CD it has been extended back to the beginning of the song. That CD's version also extends the ending another 43 seconds for some more Townshend power chords. Click here to see the original lyric sheet: Cry If You Want.
EMINENCE FRONT (LIVE) 5'44
DANGEROUS (LIVE) 3'48
CRY IF YOU WANT (LIVE) 7'12
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