Pete Townshend - All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes

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Posted on Wed, 11/04/2015 - 2:42pm
by Ron Wallace

Member since: Sat, 01/24/2015

Release Type

Studio Album

Release Year


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ATCO Records


Album Overview

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.


1Stop Hurting People3:53
2The Sea Refuses No River5:56

Arranged By [Brass]: Ann Odell


Written-By: Andy Newman
Written-By: Pete Townshend

4Face Dances Part Two3:24
5Exquisitely Bored3:41
7Stardom In Acton3:40
9North Country Girl2:27

Arranged By: Pete Townshend

10Somebody Saved Me4:53
11Slit Skirts4:51

Recording and production

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

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.

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

Video release

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."

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

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes was panned by most music critics upon its release. 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." 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. 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."

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." 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.


  • Pete Townshend: vocals, guitars and keyboards (Prophet 5–10 Synthesizer, Arp 2500 and Synclavier)
  • Virginia Astley: Piano
  • Tony Butler: Bass
  • Peter Hope-Evans: Harmonica
  • Mark Brzezicki: Drums
  • Simon Phillips: Drums
  • Jody Linscott: Percussion
  • Chris Stainton: Additional keyboards
  • Poli Palmer: Tuned percussion
  • John Lewis: Fairlight CMI synthesizer programmes


Design [Sleeve]: Carol Starr
Design [Sleeve]: Chalkie Davies
Engineer [Assistant]: Chris Ludwinski
Engineer [Assistant]: Mark Freegard
Engineer [Assistant]: Renate Blauel
Photography By: Davies And Starr
Producer: Chris Thomas
Recorded By: Bill Price
Written-By: Pete Townshend


℗©1982 Eel Pie Recording Productions Ltd. Includes printed matte paper liner with lyrics and credits.



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