In January 1965, The Who released its first hit single, “I Can’t Explain,” written by the band’s guitarist and principal songwriter, Pete Townshend. In the ensuing years, The Who established themselves as an iconic rock band, playing a mesmerizing set at Woodstock, being listed for over a decade in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Loudest Band in the World, and recording arguably the two most quintessential rock operas in history, Tommy and Quadrophenia. Individually, Pete Townshend is revered as one of rock’s greatest guitarists, songwriters, and showmen, noted for his signature windmill-style guitar strumming and smashing his instrument on stage. But however celebrated Pete and his band have become over the years, Mr. Townshend is responsible for writing and recording one of the most trite and overexposed songs in the history of pop music: “Let My Love Open the Door.”
Pete’s “Let My Love Open the Door” originally appeared on his 1980 solo record, Empty Glass. Released as a single that same year, the tune peaked at number nine on Billboard’s singles chart. Since then, the song has permeated a myriad of movie soundtracks, trailers, and television commercials, including Look Who’s Talking (1989); Grosse Pointe Blank (1997); Mr. Deeds (2002); Along Came Polly (2004); Jersey Girl (2004); Evan Almighty (2007); and JC Penney’s 2004 holiday ad campaign. Most recently, the song was covered by Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche for inclusion in Steve Carrell’s Dan In Real Life.
Now, never will I claim that Pete Townshend sold out. Nor will I criticize the man for contradicting himself after writing, “I hope I die before I get old,” yet performing well into his 60s. But I feel obligated to ridicule his most commercial and contrived tune. After all, anything that’s achieved such an overwhelming level of popularity deserves to be ridiculed, right? Right. So, here goes…
“Let My Love Open the Door” is such a lame song! Seriously. First, it’s far too hokey and saccharine (which in and of itself explains why the masses absolutely love it) to be considered a genuine artistic achievement. I define hokeyness as any song that relies on a gimmick, and Townshend’s conceit of a locked heart screams gimmick. Secondly, the rhyme scheme is awful. I’ll give Pete a mulligan in regards to his rhyming “love” with “enough” since he could have easily employed the word “above” there, but coupling the lines “When everything feels all over” with “I’ll give you a four-leaf clover” is inexcusable. Finally, the chord progression is far from complicated. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with simplicity, I’ve come to expect much more from the virtuosic Townshend. Any teenager with a single guitar lesson under his belt could have written this five-chord ditty.
Thankfully, “Let My Love Open the Door” has been the exception to the rule rather than the rule itself in regards to Pete Townshend’s canon. And while I’m certain we haven’t heard the last of the song being cued up just before a movie’s credits roll and Ben Stiller (or Adam Sandler or Steve Carrell) walks off with a beautiful woman, it’s a joy to know that Pete’s superior songs will forever exist on our LPs, cassettes, and compact discs. So, for the most part, thanks, Pete. But it’s time to show “Let My Love Open the Door” to the proverbial door.