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White City by Pete Townshend (1985)

Whilst idly flicking through YouTube for David Gilmour solo material from the ‘eighties I stumbled across this absolute corker of a song whose memory had lain dormant in my mind for well over twenty years.


A real “Wow, bloody hell. I so loved that song and that album!” moment.


As a massive teenage Who fan I vividly remember tuning into Melvyn Bragg’s interviews with Townshend on the South Bank show when I was in the Upper Sixth, and saving my pennies to buy the White City album on tape. It must have been late 1985, possibly early 1986.


The sheer energy blasting from this song, and the whole record are quite something to behold, even 24 years on, and it was stirring passion of this album that captivated me from the pumping and unusually chord driven base line, to Gilmour’s searing guitar sound through to Townshend’s brutally honest lyrics that gripped me, as this record sums up so well the evil nature of Thatcher’s fractured Britain.


Pete Townshend was the same age then as I am now when he made the White City record, and it is fascinating to hear him reflect on the area where he was brought up and the changes wrought upon this part of London, some good and some positively dreadful, and as we move into the darkest economic period possibly of my lifetime I fear for the City of Hull, in the best of times left behind and in the worst of times absolutely desolated as more and more jobs leave the City, never to return.


I just hope, beyond hope that whilst the Labour Government must never lose the pragmatism that has been it’s strength in Office, it may realise the devastation that is unfolding here and act quickly and decisively to protect the businesses that keep our heads above water, but not at the expense of protecting the Public Sector at all costs.


There is a feeling abroad that in a reverse of the Thatcher era, the State Sector is the one pulling the ladder up on those in the business world (Banks excluded) in the worst “I’m Alright Jack With My Protected Final Salary Pension (guilty as charged) Being Bailed Out To the Tune of £35 BILLION This Year Alone, Sod You” attitude.


This is classic Divide and Rule, and as more and more voters in the State Sector fear for their jobs, I sincerley hope that the Labour Party won’t revert to the last resort of the Socialist Scoundrel. that of a State Dependency Culture by using the old Turkeys Don’t Vote for Christmas gambit when the General Election comes around as a means to stop the Tories.



Townshend’s White City sounds very dated in places but the lyrical content is second to none, and I am glad to have been reacquainted with this evocative record from my youth.

About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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