One Track Mind: Pete Townshend, “It Must Be Done” (2014)

Pete Townshend always seems to be mulling over new ideas, always seems to have a concept as fresh as it is grandiose. But then something happens along the way. Maybe the plots are simply too unwieldly. Maybe he gets too close to the subject. Maybe he just gets distracted. And, somehow, nothing happens.

At least, until now. Given an opportunity to do something on a much smaller scale — that is, a song for a cable TV show — Townshend came through, and with something flinty and modern and brisk and utterly present. At least, as best we can tell from the way-too-short snippet included on this preview clip.

‘It Must Be Done,’ set to air on FX’s ‘The Americans,’ was written with Nathan Barr, who regularly creates music for the series. The television show, about a pair of Soviet spies hiding out in 1980s-era America, gave Townshend at tight narrative focus — and, presumably, an even tighter deadline.

The results are, in their own way, just as revelatory as his Who partner Roger Daltrey’s recent foray into bluesier fare with Wilko Johnson. You can only hope that each of them bring these new threads into whatever comes next for the Who — and that it arrives on a schedule commisserate with “It Must Be Done” rather than, say, that of Lifehouse.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at