A Quick One (Happy Jack)

The Who

MCA Records, 1966


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I know what you're already asking - "Why does this record have two titles, Bob?" Well, for one thing, that's how it's listed on my album jacket. (For the record - no pun intended - I'm working off the re-issue that was paired with The Who Sell Out back in the '70s.) From what I've been able to gather, the album should be called A Quick One, but at the time of its American release, some people thought the title was too suggestive. (Obviously Tipper Gore was involved in politics at a young age - that, or she led a double life as a record executive.)

Well over thirty years after its release, A Quick One features Roger Daltrey and crew growing into their roles as the next big thing to happen to British rock. While some of the songs contained on this record are now well-known staples of classic rock radio, it is the hidden gems that make this one worth searching out, dusting off, and cranking until the neighbors threaten to call the police.

If this album will be remembered for one song, it will obviously be "Happy Jack," a song whose meaning I've never completely understood, even though I've been listening to it for over a decade. A pleasant-sounding number that focuses on the rhythm section of guitarist Pete Townshend and bassist John Entwistle, as well as on the vocal harmonies that have been noteworthy throughout The Who's career, this song has remained popular all this time for a good reason. A well-written song is always able to stand the test of time. But it is not my favorite song off this album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Ever since I discovered their best-of Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy as a teenager, I have always loved the song "Boris The Spider," a song that showed the songwriting ability and wit of Entwistle. My wife should love this song - a ditty about a spider (yes, a spider - with a killer chorus provided by Entwistle) who gets smushed in the end. (Mrs. Pierce hates the creepy-crawlies.) This one occasionally gets played on the radio; it should really be experienced many times, just because it's a great song. But it's still not my favorite song off this album.

Oh, at one time I would have said that "Boris The Spider" was the highlight. But now, I'd be hard pressed to choose between "Whiskey Man," "Run Run Run" and "So Sad About Us". Three songs that have received almost no attention, these are the tracks that showed the incredible promise that The Who had in 1966. While you can hear at least one of these on the box set released a few years ago, I'd suggest experiencing them in the setting of this album.

If you think I'm about to declare A Quick One a love-fest, you're wrong. There are some mistakes on this album - though most of them are minor. I've never really been a big fan of "A Quick One While He's Away," the song that some people have said was the predecessor of Tommy. (I think they're grasping at straws for that comparison; Tommy is far more developed than this tale, and flows somewhat better.) "Heat Wave" seems to be an addition made years after the original pressing of the album (the sound quality is much different on this one - and it isn't for the better). But the true waste of time is "Cobwebs And Strange," a circus-based number that almost begged for the invention of the music video, if only to give drummer Keith Moon the chance to make a fool of himself to. This track is one you can skip over without feeling guilty.

What surprises me about A Quick One is how well most of it stands up after all this time. The music only occasionally sounds dated (though not terribly), and it's still exciting to listen to as if it just was released today. (At least, how I would imagine the release was like in 1966; I wasn't alive yet.) Unfortunately, this album seems to have fallen into the cracks of time, even though some recent compilations (such as 30 Years Of Maximum R 'n B and the rediscovery of The Rolling Stones Rock 'N Roll Circus) have tried to emphasize some tracks that have been forgotten about.

A Quick One is an adventure that is worth checking out, landmines and all. Some treasures were not meant to be left undiscovered - and The Who's backcatalog is just waiting for rediscovery by this generation.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.