Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The Who - A Quick One (Decca, 1966; MCA, 1995)

The Who's second album saw them proceeding from the rhythm and blues roots of their first album and the Maximum R and B motto of their mod beginnings into a mixed bag that might not completely cohere, but was vital for the band's successes that lay right around the corner. The album itself was a top five hit in the UK, and the single "Happy Jack" (which was the name of the album in the USA, where the record company objected to the double entendre nature of the original title) was a pop hit in both England and America. And the group is definitely turning in a pop direction on this album, with most songs written by Pete Townshend, but the other members chipping in, particularly John Entwhistle, who contributed two of is best and most enduring songs "Boris the Spider" and "Whiskey Man." Seeing that the album was running short of material, Who co-manager Kit Lambert challenged Townshend to think bigger and extend rock and roll beyond the three minute song. The result was their "mini-opera" a tentative step that would eventually come to fruition wonderfully on future albums like Tommy and Quadrophenia, but at the time a suite of six short songs condensed into one nine minute narrative suite was virtually unheard of in pop music. It's a unique piece in their studio output, but one that would really come awake when played live, like the devastating performance on the Rolling Stones Rock 'n' Roll Circus. The extra songs on the extended CD version of the album also show some of the band members influences, particularly Keith Moon's love of surf music in the band's versions of "Barbara Ann" and "Bucket T" as well as powering the band through a ripping cover of the Batman theme. They are developing a signature sound on "Disguises" and "So Sad About Us" that display emotional growth far beyond the primarily cover band of a year or two prior. They retain their muscular virility, but are produced well enough to make this powerful music palatable to the pop audience and playable on the radio.The end of the disc features some interesting curios like "I've Been Away," the B-Side of Happy Jack and "In the City" the B-Side of one of the great Who 45's, "I'm a Boy" featuring only Moon and Entwhistle due to a scheduling snafu. Finally, there's an unusual version of "My Generation / Land of Hope and Glory" that takes the music in a vivid, new direction. So you can see that what at first can be viewed as a hodgepodge of tracks is really the first step, however faltering, into The Who's glory years, as they work toward mastering the pop single and long form composition, with witty and distinctive songwriting. A Quick One (Happy Jack) -

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