Updated July 31, 2023

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January 1980

New music releases: "Call Me" - Blondie; Permanent Waves - Rush; "Together We Are Beautiful" - Fern Kinney; "Sexy Eyes" - Dr. Hook
Pete Townshend meets The Clash
Kate Simon

On the 8th, Pete attends a Clash concert at Brighton Top Rank. From a book by their road manager Johnny Green, A Riot of Their Own: Day and Night with the Clash: "In the Brighton Top Rank, the dinner-suited manager came to find me. 'There's someone at the door who's not on the guest list.' Pete Townshend was in a bright red jacket, steadying himself on the arms of two women. He came and gave a nod backstage: 'Jam up with you boys later?' 'Yeah, all right.' The band were toweling down before the encore. Townshend went back on stage with them. He came on, fists pumping the air, and I plugged his guitar in. No sound came out. I'd given him one of Mick's old guitars with a duff lead. I wandered off to replace it. I didn't hurry. He wasn't the Clash." After he gets a working guitar, he joins them for "Garageland", "Armagideon Time", "English Civil War" and "Louie Louie."

On the 16th, Variety reports The Who have left their U.S. record label MCA and signed to Warner Brothers Records for $12 million dollars.

Rolling Stone on Cincinnati

Chet Flippo writes a lengthy report on December's Cincinnati tragedy for Rolling Stone . He reveals that various citizens and city officials had warned that something like this was going to happen at Riverfront Coliseum as early as three years before. In another article, promoter Larry Magid calls the tragedy a "symptom of society" that could happen again.

During the month, Pete and Kenney Jones demo Pete's new songs "Don't Let Go The Coat" at A.I.R. Studio One, London and "You Better You Bet" at Eel Pie Studios, London.

On the 20th, ITV airs a 45-minute documentary about The Who called Won't Get Fooled Again.

February 1980

New music releases: Against The Wind - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; "Any Way You Want It" - Journey; "Shining Star" - The Manhattans; "All Out of Love" - Air Supply
Theresa Russell Bad Timing

Around the 13th, Pete arrives in Los Angeles to visit director Nicholas Roeg in an effort to get him to direct a film of Life House. Roeg is not at his Los Angeles residence but his then-girlfriend, actress Theresa Russell, is. Pete, Theresa and a friend end up going that night to see Pink Floyd perform The Wall live. Before or after the show Pete uses cocaine, later saying it was the first time he had used hard drugs since becoming a Meher Baba disciple. Whether it was the influence of the drugs or the beauty of his companion, Pete becomes strongly infatuated with Ms. Russell and the next day shows up at Theresa's doorstep to make a plea for her affection. She turns down the smitten Townshend. This incident and financial woes brought on by The Who's film company investment, bring the second attempt to film Life House to a failed conclusion.

On the 15th, Pete assembles his demo reel of songs for the new Who album at Warner Brothers Recording Studios - Studio C in North Hollywood. It is an all-night drink-and-drug-fueled session with Pete recording the demo for "Teresa," later retitled "Athena" for The Who's It's Hard album (Pete's demo is later released on Scoop 3) and guitar and vocal overdubs for the song "What Is Love".

On the 18th, Pete is back in London to play his demo tape for the assembled Who. The probable track listing is "Teresa," "It's In You," "How Can You Do It Alone," "Daily Records," "You Better You Bet," "Dirty Water," "Don't Let Go The Coat," "Dance It Away" and "What Is Love." The band is not enthused by what they hear. After listening time is over, Pete surprises Who mixman Bob Pridden by demanding he go out and score him some cocaine.

Also on the 18th, The Chords cover "Circles" on the Kid Jensen Session on BBC Radio. It is released on the CD The Chords at the BBC 28 years later.

On the 23rd, Keith Altham, The Who's press agent, defends The Who in a letter to Melody Maker. It is a reply to a letter from a fan who felt the group had lost contact with the record-buying public.

March 1980

New music releases: Glass Houses - Billy Joel; Departure - Journey; Women and Children First - Van Halen; Duke - Genesis
Im The Face 1980 PS

On the 14th, "I'm The Face" backed with "Zoot Suit" is re-released as a single in the U.K. to coincide with the new Mod revival. It will reach #49 in the British charts.

The Who In The ir Own Words

Steve Clarke's collection of Who quotes, The Who In Their Own Words, is published.

Around this time, John Entwistle begins work on his forthcoming solo album, Too Late The Hero at Crystal Studios, Los Angeles.

On the 19th, Pete is filmed miming to "Rough Boys" for the Kenny Everett Video Show accompanied by Kenney Jones.

Rough Boys UK PS

On the 21st, Pete releases his first completely solo single, "Rougn Boys" in the U.K. "And I Moved" is on the B-side. It will peak at #39, Pete's only Top Forty solo hit in the U.K.

80-03-22 Lifes Work In The Dumpster

On the 22nd, New Musical Express reports that Pete's only copy of the script of Life House was accidentally sent to record producer Nick Lowe instead of film director Nicholas Roeg. Lowe threw the script in the trash but it was later retrieved and returned to Pete

Hitchiking Pete
Photo: Richard Barnes

The Who begin their 1980 European tour with a two-night stay at the Grugahalle in Essen, Germany on the 26th and 27th. On the 28th, they play the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland. That night Pete, having been accused by those around him of behaving in a "schizophrenic" manner, decides to quit the rock 'n' roll business and become a tramp. With just his wallet, his passport and the ever-present bottle of brandy, Pete sets off on foot to the town of Berne, Switzerland. He spends 16 hours either walking or sleeping under a tree before he finally reaches his destination, the Berne Zoo, famous for its huge brown bears kept in bearpits. However, when Pete gets there it is the off-season and the bears are not there. He is discovered passed out in the empty bearpit and is flown to Vienna where The Who perform at the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, Austria on the night of the 30th. The events of the past two days are quickly transformed by Pete into the song "Cache Cache" for the next Who album. The last date of the month is a performance on the 31st at the Festhalle in Munich, Germany.

April 1980

New music releases: Heaven and Hell - Black Sabbath; "Against the Wind" - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; "She's Out of My Life" - Michael Jackson; Sky 2 - Sky
80-04-01 Poster
Courtesy: thewhocollection.com

The Who's 1980 European Tour ends on the 1st at the Festhalle in Frankfurt, Germany.

On the 10th, Pete lands in New York City to do promotion for his solo album Empty Glass.

Joan Jett Call Me Lightning

Joan Jett releases her first solo single "Make Believe". As repayment to The Who for allowing the use of their Ramport Studios to record part of her first album, she covers "Call Me Lightning" on the single's B-side.

Empty Glass US LP

On the 14th, Pete's first totally solo album, Empty Glass, is released in the U.K. The U.S. release follows on the 21st. Reviews are raves with Sounds magazine giving the album its highest rating and Paul Morley in New Musical Express saying the album shows Pete is still an important musician. The album peaks at #11 in the U.K., the highest chart position for a Pete solo record in that country. In the U.S. it shoots all the way to #5.

80-04-14 Roger Vancouver
Photo: Harry Benson

On the same day, The Who begin their 1980 North American Tour at the PNE Coliseum in Vancouver. Internally there is some dissension in The Who not only over touring with Pete in shaky condition but also that the tour appears to promote Pete's solo album instead of The Who's own work. The tour heads on to the Seattle Center Coliseum on the 14th and 15th.

Pete Bloody Hand
Photo: Annie Liebovitz

On the 17th, Pete is in San Francisco at the offices of Rolling Stone magazine being interviewed by Greil Marcus and photographed for the cover by Annie Liebovitz. While executing a windmill for the camera, Pete slices his hand open. Annie takes a photo of Pete with his head on his bloodied hand.

80-04-19 NME Pete Cover

Meanwhile on the 19th back in the U.K., New Musical Express prints a massive interview with Pete covering a wide range of topics: The Who's place in the world of punk and new wave, plans for the new Who album, plans for a potential Life House movie written by Ray Bradbury and directed by Nicolas Roeg, the meaning of songs on Empty Glass and much more.

80-04 Oakland
Photo: Michael Zagaris

The tour continues with three nights at the Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California (18th, 19th, 20th), the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah (22nd), two nights in Denver at the McNichols Arena (23rd, 24th), the Kemper Arena in Kansas City (26th), the Checkerdome in St. Louis, Missouri (28th) and the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa (29th).

May 1980

New music releases: "It's Still Rock & Roll To Me" - Billy Joel; My Home's in Alabama - Alabama; Fame - Michael Gore; Diana - Diana Ross
80-05-02 St Paul
Photo: Alan Berkovitz

The first leg of the 1980 North American Who tour continues at the Civic Center in St. Paul, Minnesota (2nd), the Chicago Amphitheater (3rd), two nights at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto (5th and 6th) and concludes at the Montreal Forum (7th). Blackfoot is the supporting act on the last two shows.

Empty Glass US LP

On the 10th, Pete's solo album Empty Glass is released in the U.S. John Rockwell in The New York Times calls it a success that sounds like The Who of a decade before while Jon Parales in Mademoiselle says it shows Pete has risen to the challenge set forth by punk rock. The album will ultimately reach #5 in the U.S. charts, the highest position for any solo album by a member of The Who. Also released is a promotional album The Pete Townshend Tapes, in which Pete discusses the songs on Empty Glass and what's doing with The Who.

80-05-12 People cover

On the 12th, The Who are on the cover of People magazine.

80-05 Roger McVicar Cannes

Roger and John McVicar attend the premiere of Roger's film McVicar at the Cannes film festival.

1980 RS Pete

At the end of the month, Rolling Stone publishes the Pete interview they had conducted back in April as a cover story. Within the interview, Pete makes some incautious remarks about how The Who continued after the 1979 Cincinnati concert disaster that imply The Who didn't care about the deaths and destruction. This inflames those pursuing the lawsuit and may have scuttled a possible settlement at the time.

June 1980

New music releases: The Game - Queen; Urban Cowboy - Various Artists; The Blues Brothers: Original Soundtrack Recording - The Blues Brothers; Emotional Rescue - The Rolling Stones
80-06-01 Who Anthology Book

On the 1st, The Who Anthology, a collection of Who songs in sheet music form, is published in the U.K.

On the 14th, Pete's solo single "Let My Love Open The Door" backed with "And I Moved" hits the U.S. charts and goes on to become Pete's biggest U.S. success as a solo artist reaching #9 in the Billboard charts and #11 in the Cash Box charts. This ties it with the highest position achieved by a Who single in the U.S., "I Can See For Miles" in 1967.

Let My Love UK ad

On the 21st the single hits the British charts. British fans get a different b-side with the previously unreleased tracks "Greyhound Girl" and "Classified." Apparently they don't appreciate the bonus as the single peaks at #46.

80-06 Pete Townshend
Photo: Tom Wright

On the 18th, The Who's extensive tour of North America resumes after a six-week break. Trouble starts after the first show at the San Diego Sports Arena as Pete punches a wall and breaks several bones in his right hand. He has to wear a cast for the rest of the tour.

80-06-26 ticket

On the 20th, The Who start a two-night stand at the Los Angeles Forum followed on 23rd by a five-night stand at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Supporting them on the 26th, 27th and 28th are The Only Ones, whose lead guitarist John Perry will later write a book on The Who's album Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy.

On the 30th, the tour moves to Tempe, Arizona at the ASU University Activity Center. A combination of a heat wave and having The Who perform in their town at the same time knocks out the power for 90 minutes in the middle of the show. To pass the time, Roger signs autographs while Pete plays air guitar on a broom. The supporting act is Willie Nile.

July 1980

New music releases: Back In Black - AC/DC; Honeysuckle Rose - Willie Nelson and Family; "Shoot to Thrill" - AC/DC; Deepest Purple The Very Best of Deep Purple - Deep Purple
July 5, 1980 ticket

The Who's North American tour continues its Southern swing as The Who perform at the Dallas Reunion Arena on the 2nd. The 3rd finds them at the Erwin Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the 5th at The Summit in Houston. The opening act is Willie Nile.

Free Me picture sleeve

Also on the 5th, a single from the soundtrack to Roger's film McVicar is released. "Free Me" backed with "McVicar" peaks at #53 in the Billboard charts, #44 in Cash Box.

The Who 1980 Atlanta ticket

On the 7th, The Who perform at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge the 9th at The Omni in Atlanta, the 10th at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee, the 11th at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, the 13th at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina and the 14th at Hampton Coliseum in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Who end their 1980 touring with an added date on the 16th at C.N.E. Stadium in Toronto with fellow acts Heart, the J. Geils Band and Nash the Slash. Hundreds suffer heat exhaustion during the daylong show.

On the 9th, it is reported that Pete wants to publish a book of erotic short stories. This is the first mention of the book that will emerge five years later as Horse's Neck.

On the 14th, Boxoffice magazine reports that The Who's manager Bill Curbishley has formed a new film company. One of his upcoming projects will be "The Hussars" starring Roger and directed by Nicholas Roeg (it never happens). The magazine also reports that McVicar is having trouble finding a U.S. distributor because it has been deemed too British for American audiences.

4Be2 picture sleeve

4" Be 2" release their single "Frustration" in the U.K. The b-side is a cover of "I Can't Explain." John Lydon's older brother Jimmy sings and the former Johnny Rotten reportedly produces the single and some claim he plays bass on the Who cover.

Also this month, young song parodist "Weird Al" Yancovic premiers the parody "Won't Eat Prunes Again" during a performance at Cal Poly.

Free Me UK picture sleeve

On the 18th, Roger Daltrey's solo single "Free Me" backed with "McVicar" is released in the U.K. It peaks at #39.

August 1980

New music releases: "Another One Bites the Dust" - Queen; "You Shook Me All Night Long" - AC/DC; Crimes of Passion - Pat Benatar; Give Me the Night - George Benson

On the 11th, the Recording Industry Association of America certifies Pete's solo album Empty Glass as Gold.

On the 14th, Roger is a guest host on BBC1's Top of the Pops. While introducing The Village People, he is heard to say "watch your backs".

McVicar soundtrack

The soundtrack album to Roger's film McVicar hits the U.S. charts on the 16th (it reaches #22 there) and the British charts on the 23rd (where it peaks at #39). The listing of performers on the sleeve shows that all the present members of The Who play on the record, but there is no information about which tracks they are on or whether they play any songs as a unit. Paulo Hewitt in Melody Maker pans it saying it sounds like Who Are You rejects. People magazine likes the harder-rocking songs, but finds the ballads too tame.

On the 24th, Pete takes over as DJ on BBC Radio One, playing two hours of his favourite music.

McVicar poster

On the 27th, the film McVicar has its London premiere. Roger's labor of love receives generally negative reviews. David Wilson in New Statesman calls it a competent television crime show but not much more. Melody Maker and Movietone News agree. Lawrence O'Toole in Maclean's headlines his negative assessment "God save us from bored rock stars." Roger does get praise for his performance, however, in Variety and Films Illustrated.

September 1980

New music releases: Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits - Kenny Rogers; Guilty - Barbra Streisand; Blizzard of Ozz - Ozzy Osbourne; "Crazy Train" - Ozzy Osbourne
The Who here for depositions

On the 3rd and 4th The Who and manager Bill Curbishley quietly return to Cincinnati to give their depositions in a $1.2 million lawsuit brought by Todd Volkman, a survivor of the crush outside Riverfront Coliseum before The Who's 1979 concert. The depositions are held at the Cincinnati Club. The proceedings get very emotional with John reduced to tears at one point. Pete later says he found it odd that Volkman's attorney questions him as if he were some stereotypically moronic rock star. Another oddity is that just as the band are giving their testimony a group of women in a building across the street, visible only to those sitting in the chair to be questioned, begin parading around naked! The next day Volkman's attorney is interviewed in The Cincinnati Enquirer. He says that the 14 lawsuits against the Coliseum, the promoters and The Who could total "substantially over $100 million."

McVicar autobiography

On the 6th, Melody Maker prints an angry rebuttal to their panning review of Roger's movie McVicar. The letter comes from John McVicar himself. He praises Roger for gambling on a risky subject.

On the 12th, Polydor issues Who Are You and Live at Leeds as a double LP set in the U.K.

Keep On Working picture sleeve

In the U.K. a third U.K. single is pulled from Empty Glass, "Keep On Working" backed with "Jools and Jim" is released in mid-September. It does not make the charts.

Without Your Love sheetmusic

On the 20th, Roger's second single from his McVicar LP hits the U.S. charts. The gentle ballad "Without Your Love," a cover of a Billy Nicholls' song from Pete's Meher Baba tribute LP With Love, becomes Roger's biggest solo hit in the U.S. peaking at #20 in Billboard and #23 in Cash Box. The flip side is "Escape Part 1."

On the 27th, David Bowie's LP Scary Monsters hits the British charts. It features Pete playing guitar on the song "Because You're Young."

Us magazine does an interview with Roger on the 30th. He complains about the effect of touring on his nerves: "I'm edgy after I finish a tour. After weeks of being exposed to the din of loud music, all sounds play on my sensitivity. I can't bear bells, shouting, even the hum of an electric razor. It takes about a month to adjust."

October 1980

New music releases: The River - Bruce Springsteen; Greatest Hits - Anne Murray; Zenyatta Mondatta - The Police; The Doors - Greatest Hits
Without Your Love UK picture sleeve

On the 3rd, Roger's solo single "Without Your Love" backed with "Say It Ain't So Joe" is released in the U.K. where it peaks at #55.

My Generation LP Virgin

On the 10th, Virgin re-releases The Who's long out-of-print first album My Generation in the U.K. It had been out of print since 1967 and is identical to the original release with the exception of the word "Virgin" in place of "Brunswick." Bruce Malamut reviews it in Melody Maker and calls it a timeless classic. It reaches #20 in the British charts.

Peter Weller and Pete Townshend

On the same day Melody Maker prints a joint interview with Pete and Paul Weller of the Who-influenced mod band The Jam. It is the first time these two have met. Paul's advice to Pete: "If you lot are planning to continue, then change your set!"

On the 12th, Roger appears with Hazel O'Connor on LWT's The Electric Theatre Show.

A Little Is Enough picture sleeve
Netherlands picture sleeve

On the 18th, the second U.S. single from Pete's solo album Empty Glass, "A Little Is Enough" backed with "Cats In The Cupboard", peaks at #72 in the U.S. Billboard charts. It reaches #89 in Cash Box.

November 1980

New music releases: Greatest Hits - Aerosmith; Hi Infidelity - REO Speedwagon; Eagles Live - The Eagles; "9 to 5" - Dolly Parton
Bill Szymczyk and Kenney Jones

On the 4th, The Who and producer Bill Szymczyk are back at work on the long-delayed Face Dances album as the soon-to-be hit single "You Better You Bet" is recorded at Odyssey Studios. Szymczyk had been unable to record The Who over the last several months due to injuries he sustained in a car accident followed by a commitment to produce The Eagles' live album.

Ride a Rock Horse UK video

VCL releases the film of Roger's Ride a Rock Horse on home videotape in the U.K.

Pete's "Rough Boys" backed with "Jools and Jim" is released in the U.S. On the 29th, it reaches its peak at #89 in the Billboard charts (it hits #99 in Cash Box).

December 1980

New music releases: "Back In Black" - AC/DC; Arc of a Diver - Steve Winwood; The Best of Bowie - David Bowie; Live - Fleetwood Mac

On the 8th, John Lennon is murdered outside The Dakota in New York City. Record Mirror on the 13th, records many British music celebrities' reaction: "Pete: "I can’t describe how I feel... there are just no words to say." Roger adds: "It's terrible. My heart goes out to his wife, his family and his friends."

After nine months of on-and-off work, more off than on, The Who finally complete the recording of the album Face Dances. They listen to a preliminary mix and are pleased with the results. Producer Bill Szymczyk then takes the master tapes to his own Bayshore Recording Studios in Coconut Grove, Florida to complete the mix.

The Village Voice places Pete's solo album Empty Glass at #14 in their year-end Pazz & Jop critic's poll.

On the 21st, Roger tells the fanzine Who's News a list of the tracks that are expected to be on the new Who LP. Neither "Daily Records" or "You" is listed but "Somebody Saved Me" with a lead Pete vocal is. The songs "Dance It Away" and "I like Nightmares" have already been dropped from the album. Roger wants the tracks put out as b-sides but the rest of the band have objected. Although the cover idea is underway, no title for the album has yet been finalized.

Pete Townshend in front of Magic Bus Bookshop

On New Year's Eve, Pete's staff confronts him with bad news. He is £500,000 in debt due to the combination of the recent purchase of a country estate and an unexpected printing bill at his publishing company. He is soon forced to sell off his barge company and The Magic Bus Bookshop (to Penguin Books) to raise cash.

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