January 19, 2021

How Can You Do It Alone

Pete Townshend: "I was actually going up Holland Park Road and I wanted a cigarette, I didn’t have a light and it was about two in the morning, and this guy came out of the station and I asked him for a light and he looked very afraid and he stepped back and I said ‘listen, all I want is a light from your cigarette’ and he said ‘Oh, all right’. He opened his coat up and got a lighter out and before he’d known what he’d done, he was completely naked underneath, with the trousers and the string, he was a flasher! He’d obviously just come off the tube doing a bit of flashing. He saw that I saw that he was naked and that I knew what he was up to. I looked into his eyes and he looked into mine and the shame in his face! I felt like saying to him, ‘listen, don’t be ashamed. I don’t give a damn.’ Then I was walking up the street and I thought I should have asked him, ‘how do you do it all on your own? How do you live that solitary…How do you get your kicks?’ Because that’s more alone than masturbation. So I started to explore that idea and that turned into the song. How can you do anything on your own ultimately?"

This song first appeared as a jam during The Who’s late-1979 North American tour (one of those jams appears as a bonus track on the 1997 Face Dances CD. See below). Oddly enough, after Pete turned it into a real song, it disappeared from The Who’s live performances. Pete’s demo version appears on Scoop 3.

Recorded live at Chicago International Amphitheater December 8, 1979 and edited down from a jam running 7’24. Many of the 1979 Who shows featured jams at the end where Pete would try out new material. "Cats In The Cupboard" from Pete’s solo album Empty Glass as well as "Dance It Away" were also previewed that year. "How Can You Do It Alone" was the last song performed that night.