The One Album the Who Never Wanted to Release

The Who has been rockin’ since 1964, despite quite a few setbacks and breakups throughout the years. However, there isn’t a band in the world that hasn’t released at least one bad album. And the band itself doesn’t have much love for the 1982 release It’s Hard.

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The Rough Beginnings Behind ‘It’s Hard’

Yes, it really is hard. Especially if you’re dealing with a band member who is prone to alcoholism and violent outbursts.

This was the reality for the members of The Who in 1982. The band was in a strange limbo in their careers. Pete Townshend’s issues with drinking were becoming a full-blown problem. In fact, it even led to physical violence with other members of the band. Though, it’s worth noting that physical fights between Townshend and Roger Daltrey were already commonplace.

To put it simply, the band wasn’t on good terms when they were recording It’s Hard. Townshend eventually did a stint in rehab, but the damage to the album had already been done.

It’s Hard should never have been released,” Daltrey said back in 1994. “I had huge rows with Pete. When the album was finished and I heard it I said, ‘Pete, this is just a complete piece of sh*t and it should never come out!’”

Daltrey went on to say that the album came out due to outside manipulation.

“The record company wanted a record out and they wanted us to do a tour,” he continued. “What I said to Pete was, ‘Pete, if we’d tried to get any of these songs onto Face Dances, or any of the albums that we’ve done since our first f***ing album, we would not allow these songs to be on an album! Why are we releasing them? Why? Let’s just say that was an experience to pull the band back together, now let’s go and make an album.’ He said, ‘Too late. It’s good enough, that’s how we are now.'”

Was ‘It’s Hard’ Really That Bad?

Honestly? It’s up to your specific taste. It wasn’t a massive failure, at least. The lead single “Athena” peaked at no. 28 on the Billboard charts. It made some money. However, the album isn’t without its problems.

The original mix of “Athena” as well as “Eminence Front” don’t exactly sound great. However, MCA re-released the songs with better mixes back in 1997.

[Get Tickets To See The Who’s Roger Daltrey Live In 2024]

When it was originally released, the critical response to the album was nothing short of polarizing. Some praised the album as the most vital The Who release since Who’s Next from 1971. Others weren’t impressed, with one critic calling Townshend’s lyrics “book-club poetry.” Many didn’t find the songs memorable and found the album as a whole to lack energy.

Today, it’s still a listenable release. But given the trauma a lot of the band’s members had to go through to get the release out there, it’s kind of a bittersweet listen.

Photo via Michael Ochs Archives

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