White City: A Novel

White City: A Novel is the fourth solo studio album by English rock musicianPete Townshend, released on 11 November 1985 by Atco Records.[3] The album was produced by Chris Thomas (who had also produced Townshend’s previous two albums, Empty Glass and All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes) and it was recorded by Bill Price at three separate recording studios in London, England: both of the Eel Pie studios, and A.I.R..

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1985 studio album by Pete Townshend
White City: A Novel
Studio album by

Released 11 November 1985 (1985-11-11)
Recorded November 1984 – July 1985


Length 38:27
Label Atco (US)
Producer Chris Thomas
Pete Townshend chronology
White City: A Novel
Deep End Live!
Singles from White City: A Novel
  1. Face the Face
    Released: 1985
  2. Give Blood
    Released: 1985
  3. “Secondhand Love”
    Released: 1986

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic [1]
Rolling Stone (positive)[2]

The album peaked at No. 70 on the UK Albums Chart, and at No. 26 on the US Billboard 200. The album also reached the Top 20 in five other countries, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland.

. . . White City: A Novel . . .

A loose concept album, its title refers to a story (called a “novel” in the album title) that accompanies the album, which takes place in a low-income housing estate in the West London district of White City, near where Townshend had grown up. The story tells of cultural conflict, racial tension and youthful hopes and dreams in the 1960s – a world of “prostituted children“, “roads leading to darkness, leading home” and despairing residents living in “cells” with views of “dustbins and a Ford Cortina“. The song “White City Fighting”, which features Pink Floyd‘s David Gilmour on guitar,[3] tells listeners that the White City was “a black, violent place” where “battles were won, and battles were blown, at the height of the White City fighting”.

The album opens with crashing guitar chords (also played by Gilmour[4]) that capture a feeling of urban chaos, leading into “Give Blood“, a song with Townshend’s moral lyrics demanding listeners to “give blood, but you may find that blood is not enough”.[5]

The disc also mentions a film based on the album, directed and “adapted for longform video” by Richard Lowenstein. The 60-minute video, entitled White City: The Music Movie, was released by Vestron Music Video in 1985 and stars Pete Townshend, Andrew Wilde and Frances Barber. The videotape also features exclusive footage of Townshend discussing the album and film, and the premiere performance of “Night School”. That song, in a different form, would be included on Hip-O‘s 2006 reissue as a bonus track.

The track “White City Fighting” originated as a composition written by David Gilmour for his 1984 solo album About Face.[3] He asked Townshend to supply lyrics, but felt that he couldn’t relate to them, so Townshend used the song instead with Gilmour playing guitar.[3] Gilmour sent the same tune to Roy Harper, whose lyrics had the same effect as Townshend’s on Gilmour.[3] Harper used the result, “Hope”, which has a markedly slower tempo, on his 1985 album Whatever Happened to Jugula? with Jimmy Page on guitar.[3]

All tracks are written by Pete Townshend, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. Give Blood 5:44
2. “Brilliant Blues” 3:06
3. Face the Face 5:51
4. “Hiding Out” 3:00
5. “Secondhand Love” 4:12
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. “Crashing by Design”   3:14
7. “I Am Secure”   4:00
8. “White City Fighting”
9. “Come to Mama”   4:40
Total length: 38:27
2006 Hip-O bonus tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Length
10. “Night School”   3:23
11. “Save It for Later” 4:58
12. “Hiding Out (12″ mix)” (Previously released on 12″ single)   5:50
2006 Imperial bonus tracks
No. Title Length
10. “Secondhand Love” (Live in Brixton)  
11. “Face the Face” (Live in Brixton)  

. . . White City: A Novel . . .

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. . . White City: A Novel . . .

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