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Articles Home » 1982 Articles » Who, The - 1982 It's Hard
Who, The - 1982 It's Hard

ARTIST: Who, The
ALBUM: It's Hard
LABEL: Polydor
YEAR: 1982
CD REISSUE: 1997, Polydor, 537 696-2


LINEUP: Roger Daltrey - vocals * Pete Townshend - guitar * John Entwistle - bass * Kenney Jones - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Athena * 02 It's Your Turn * 03 Cooks County * 04 It's Hard * 05 Dangerous * 06 Eminence Front * 07 I've Known No War * 08 One Lifes Enough * 09 One At A Time * 10 Why Did I Fall For That * 11 A Man Is A Man * 12 Cry If You Want


It would be fair to suggest that the inspiration that had driven The Who through the imminent period following Keith Moon's sad death in 1978 was clearly waning by the time this was released in 1982. A year earlier the band had recorded 'Face Dances' to a mixed reception, the album an obvious departure from the Moon era in terms of the bands frantic hard rock power, but still an accomplished melodic rock effort. Tensions in the band were high however and Townshend was more interested in shooting heroin and boozing than creating memorable music, something Daltrey took issue with naturally. With the band in disarray (as always) Townshend managed to clean up his act and the band amazingly released two albums in consecutive years, something they hadn't done since the 60's. The only drawback was 'It's Hard' was to be the bands swansong for the time being, but something which undoubtedly made sense at the time given the bands ragged status. Opinions vary on 'It's Hard' to this day and over the nearly 20 years I've been listening to it my own thoughts have wavered between good and bad, depending on my mood. But the fact remains I play this more than nearly any Who album and I couldn't tell you the last time I listened to 'A Quick One' or 'The Who Sell Out'. That tells me that ultimately this is a great album, just a radical departure for Who loyalists of the day who were probably expecting another 'Tommy' or 'Who's Next'.

The Songs
The music is very much radio-friendly, with a glut of synthesizers, often overshadowing Townshend's guitar work. With that in mind I've decided for the first time to review an album track by track, in order to get a feel of the various styles evident here:

'Athena' - This has a jangly tone much in the 'Squeeze Box' tradition, very light in execution with some bizarre lyrics from Townshend regarding actress Theresa Russell so the story goes. Not overly heavy, but traditional Who regardless.

'It's Your Turn'- An Entwistle composition about being an aging rocker and an excellent piece of near AOR at that. Lots of melodic interludes and a real sense of desperation that backs up the lyrics. One of the best songs on offer.

'Cooks County'- Townshend felt compelled for some reason to make a social statement about urban blight in an impoverished county in Chicago, but did it sensibly to a hard rock backing. One of the bands heaviest tracks here, the keyboards blend in well and despite the fact this is obscure and forgotten, it's uniformly excellent.

'It's Hard'- A fairly weedy piece of hard rock that still manages to entertain, especially the triumphant synth lines, despite an overall mood of self-pity from Townshend.

'Dangerous'- A muscular Entwistle offering where his bass runs the show along with more excellent synths in the mix. This is pretty much superfluous radio-oriented AOR. I honestly cannot hear any guitar in this whatsoever and it isn't missed, especially since Townshend had ditched his Les Paul for a Fender, which radically altered his sound.

'Eminence Front'- Obviously the most well known track from the album but for me one of the weakest tracks. I really couldn't blame fans for turning on this in 1982 as it's essentially a Townshend solo album cut, with 'Won't Get Fooled Again' like keyboards and some pretty weak guitar work. Somehow it became a minor hit, but I can live without it.

'I've Known No War'- A sprawling epic concerning nuclear war that I'm sure Townshend thought was going to be recognised as a modern day classic, but never came close to happening. A lumbering track, it features great vocals from Daltrey but the lyrics are forced and Pete was trying a bit to hard to be socially relevant here.

'One Lifes Enough'- A short, synth laden ballad which has been critically battered in the past, but it's pleasant enough, with Roger putting in another fine vocal effort. More mellow than Who loyalists probably wanted, but if you look back they'd been making tracks like this for most of their career. I often wonder why people fail to notice this ...

'One At A Time'- A typical Entwistle rocker about marital woe, but with his distinctive vocals it's effective, but a long way from 'My Wife'. The chorus is excellent and if there's one thing Entwistle could be relied upon for it was a dose of hard rock in between Townshend's sympathetic musings.

'Why Did I Fall For That'- I still don't know what to make of this track, it sounds like a cast off from 'Face Dances' and there's zero guitar, but the melody reaches AOR levels giving it repeat value.

'A Man Is A Man'- Townshend reaches new levels of self-pity and misery, but the lyrics are on the mark and this is somewhat of a sequel to 'Imagine A Man' from 1975's 'Who By Numbers'. Another softer AOR track, not exactly riveting musically, but even the Who at their worst are great.

'Cry If You Want'- This was the bands final studio statement until 2006's 'Endless Wire' and it's one of the harder rocking tracks, with Townshend unleashing some power chords, which up to this point you'd swear he'd forgotten how to play. Jones' drumming is a regimented military style which builds into a nice crescendo near the conclusion. Hardly essential Who, but not shabby either. For some reason this was on the setlist on a Who tour a few years back.

In Summary
One person who certainly disliked 'It's Hard' was Daltrey himself, who criticised it upon release and some years later described it as a 'piece of shit' which he 'hated, hated hated!' Opposed to 'Who's Next' or even 'Who Are You' I could see why he might think that, but it isn't as bad as the naysayers have made it out to be. While the Rolling Stone reporter who gave it 5 out of 5 and said it was their best since 'Who's Next' was deluded to say the least, there's nothing here I find myself reviling. The music is melodic, occasionally heavy and not the disaster purported. If it is that bad then there must be something wrong with me I suppose. After all Townshend would go on to release 'White City', 'Iron Man' and 'Psychoderelict ..'.

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#1 | Eric on January 24 2011 12:55:20
No, it's not a 'bad' album. I played it quite a bit in the summer of '82...
#2 | super80boy on July 04 2013 03:31:49
Yes, they stray away from the classic rock Who sound, but its a good effort. There is quite the variety in material on offer here as well.
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