Back in 1985, way before you could instantly check out a video on YouTube and the Interweb, there was just MTV and VH1. I was in my first of 2 semesters of the (then) 1-year program at the (then) New England School of Broadcasting (now the New England School of Communications, or NESCom), and you could find the dorm lounge TV frequently set on to MTV. It was one of those times where I caught a video for a song that turned me on to the song itself, as opposed to hearing it on the radio. The video was for the new Pete Townshend song, “Face The Face.”
This video was no ordinary video. It was directed by Richard Lowenstein, who is famous for directing many INXS videos), and recorded live with Peter’s short-lived Deep End band, featuring a horn section, 2 backup singers, a upright bassist, drummer, harmonica, er, smokestack harp provided by Peter Hope Evans of the British band, Medicine Head, and additional vocals by Pete’s daughter, Emma. There were about a dozen people on the stage performing this song. Pete Townshend also jitterbugs during this song, while wearing a gold lamé, forties-style tuxedo. You can’t miss it.
I think if they had released the video mix as the single version, it might have charted higher than No. 26 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in January 1986. Instead, the single version was edited from the version that appears on Pete’s 1985 concept album, WHITE CITY: A NOVEL. Those aren’t bad versions, but they don’t have the energy of the version from the video. During my first trip to New York City in April 1986, one of the record purchases I made whilst there was the 12” single for “Face The Face,” which I was pleased to find out included the live video version.
In 1985, ROLLING STONE referred to “Face The Face” as an “urging to pursue idealism despite ‘the ghosts of failures spray-canned up on the wall’.” For a long time I didn’t know what the crap “Face The Face” was about. I just knew I loved the song, especially its video; maybe because, through the video, I could “face the face,” so to speak…