Heart To Hang Onto is a song by Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane on their 1977 album Rough Mix. This piece is really a recommendation for the whole album, which is an outstanding collection of beautiful songs beautifully performed; it’s been played as often as anything in my collection, over the years. Heart To Hang Onto is one of Pete Townshend’s finest compositions, which is a strong statement.
The album was maybe Townshend’s first-ever non-Who outing. He and Ronnie didn’t co-write any of the songs; each sings their own, with the other accompanying, along with a gaggle of guest stars including John Entwistle, Charlie Watts, and Eric Clapton. But on Heart To Hang Onto, they alternate voices on verse and chorus, and it works really well; also, it’s got a surprising guitar arrangement in the accompaniment, wistful lived-in lyrics, and just an exquisite melody. Pete has later said that the song is really about Ronnie.
But I can’t talk about Rough Mix without plugging a few of the other songs. Ronnie’s Annie and April Fool are outstanding; Annie is an autumnal lament, you might find yourself tearing up a bit. Clapton plays Dobro on April Fool and that’s some of the prettiest acoustic guitar sound I’ve ever heard anywhere.
Links · Spotify playlist. All these links are to the album because there’s too much great stuff to bypass, Heart To Hang Onto is just one click further: Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. Townshend is no fool and takes Heart To Hang Onto out on the road with him. As for live video, here’s a Townshend a solo take which I include because of the nice guitar playing. There are several performances online with someone standing in for Ronnie Lane, and often that someone is Eddie Vedder; here they are on Letterman.