Wednesday, August 25, 2010

383 A Quick One. Sadly not quick enough

383 A Quick One. Sadly not quick enough

Album: A Quick One
Artist: The Who
Year: 1966
Genre: Rock


1. Run, Run, Run
2. Boris the Spider
3. I Need You
4. Whiskey Man
5. Heat Wave
6. Cobwebs and Strange
7. Don't Look Away
8. See My Way
9. So Sad About Us
10. A Quick One, While He's Away

The mega-selling bands of the British invasion era are gradually starting to appear on this list with more regularity. The bottom hundred was home to some of the more obscure artists in the countdown and we're starting to move into territory in which household names start to get more a foothold. But that doesn't mean the top 500 isn't kicking up some major surprises. When I encountered a Who album I assumed I'd recognize a lot of the songs. I'm not an avid devotee of Daltrey and Townshend but I've got some compilations and live releases and so I was expecting to know some of these tracks. With the exception of one song and a cover this was all new to me. A Quick One is definitely a strange kind of Who album. It's their second release and an attempt to broaden their sound away from the limitations of their first album which was fairly narrowly focused on good songs worth hearing. For some reason the band decided to reach out beyond quality songs and expand their repertoire to include mediocre and bad songs as well. The process for accomplishing this feat involved broadening the pool of songwriters so it wasn't limited to Pete Townshend (who could write good songs) and included the rest of the band (who can't write for nuts). So while The Who Sings My Generation (their debut release) was a great set of songs that sounded like an actual album, A Quick One is a hodge podge of writing styles and sounds like a shambles. But that's not to say there isn't stuff here to love, it's just got nothing to do with the songwriting.

The album's opener is a track called Run Run Run which starts off sounding like My Generation but quickly sounds like just a cheap copy that replaces the anger with silly lyrics and bad rhymes. Daltrey sings the track as if he's a pop singer rather than a rock shouter and it's all a bit tepid. I Need You is actually worse but replaces Daltrey's slightly pissy voice with Townshend's pissier one. Pete should spend his time writing songs and playing guitars and should be kept well away from microphones (and the internet, but that's a different story). Don't look Away, See My Way and So Sad about Us are all inconsequential Who songs that you won't see on any best-of's and they won't be playing live any time soon. But they're actually a lot better than some of the other stuff on the album.

Bass player John Entwhistle was never known as a song-writer and the reasons are here on this album. The two songs penned by John are both pretty deplorable. Whiskey Man is fairly forgettable while Boris The Spider is annoying. It developed a cult status amongst Who fans for the novelty of having Entwhistle sing it rather than the song itself. Boris is basically a nursery rhyme tune with even simpler lyrics. I've listened to the song four times now which means I think I've spent more time on it than Entwhistle did writing it and the Who spent recording it. Apparently Entwhislte was forced to play this song at every Who concert for years and he quickly got quite sick of it. I know how he feels.

The most notable thing about A Quick One is the title track which was The Who's first foray into the arena of Rock opera which would later set them apart from other rock bands of their era. While their future efforts would spread over two albums, A Quick One lives up to it's name by clocking in at a modest nine minutes. It tells a story of infidelity involving a train driver and it moves through several "movements" before finally finishing in a big finale. Personally I've never really responded to The Who's rock operas. To me it sounds like a lot of poorly formed ideas cobbled together into a clumsy narrative that is as engaging as a "what I did on my weekend" essay. The whole thing is overblown and given far more pomp and gravitas than rock deserves.

You might think I hate this album but as I said earlier there is something to love and that's the drumming of one of rock's greatest ever skin-thumpers. Even in the dullest examples of songwriting on A Quick One there are moments when Keith shines through as the wild maniac he was. His finest effort is the "song" he wrote called Cobwebs and strange an odd cacophony of off key whistles and brass reminiscent of what an Alcoholics Anonymous marching band would sound like if they all fell off the wagon at the same time. It's weirdly compelling but made impressive by Moon's furious drum solos. The man was amazing and his death was a huge loss not just for drummers but for larger-than-life characters everywhere.

The Who were a great band and there are albums coming in this countdown that I will praise at annoying lengths. But this is a long way from their finest moments. When they band released a four CD boxed set of greatest hits back in the nineties this album didn't rate a single track except for a live version of A Quick One. I think that says more than my review ever could.

Highlight: Heatwave. And Moon's drumming
Lowlight: The final track

Influenced by: Motown, nursery rhymes and opera.
Influenced: Drummers everywhere

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "If you like British Invasion, Hard Rock, Metal, R&B, Reggae, Polka, Disco...I don't care. You will love the Who! Harder than the Beatles, funnier than the Stones, the Who are an amazing band. "

-God knows that's always been my problem with the Stones. I've often thought "I could like these guys but they're just not funny enough"

So did you enjoy this or was a quick one too long for you? Let me know below

1 comment:

  1. better things to come from the who and as you say, david ,if it wasnt for moons thumping...