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A Stereophonic Quick One
on 17 August 2004
In 1995, the Who's 1st LP for the Reaction label, A Quick One, from 1966, was remastered, remixed in analogue and re-issued in the UK by Polydor (527 758-2), complete with 10 extra tracks and a colour booklet with extensive notes.
A Quick One, featuring a cover by the very fashionable Pop Art graphic artist Alan Aldridge, showed that the Who had developed a unique sound and style of their own. Gone was the profusion of cover versions as found on My Generation, their first album, with all members of the band contributing to the composer credits. Only one cover, Martha and the Vandellas' Heatwave, in an arrangement from an Everly Brothers album, made the final tracklisting (an earlier version had been dropped from the My Generation album, and in America even this new version was replaced by the hit single Happy Jack).
A Quick One lacked the wild savagery soundwise of the first album, but still had all the elements of it including Keith Moon's powerhouse drumming and chaotic creative energy, as showcased on the well-named instrumental Cobwebs And Strange. The songs were in the main light-hearted and enjoyably immature, John Entwistle's Boris The Spider and Whiskey Man in particular showed a unique humour. Pete Townshend's songwriting talents continued to develop. The album opened with his thunderous Run, Run Run, a song that had earlier been given to The Cat to record on a single produced by Pete Townshend. Along the way came So Sad About Us, later to be covered by the Breeders and the Jam (who also revived the Who's version of Heatwave). The album finale was the ten-minute mini-opera A Quick One (While He's Away), which set in motion a whole new direction for his talents, and led, of course, to Tommy.
The extra tracks began with most of the contemporaneous Ready Steady Who! EP: Batman, Bucket T and Barbara Ann, the three surf music covers from side 1, and Disguises from side 2 (Peculiarly, Circles is not included on this or, it seems, any other Who CD except in an earlier recording). The surfer sides were the influence of Keith Moon, who had played in a surf combo called the Beachcombers in the surfing paradise of Wembley, London.
The B-sides of Happy Jack (I've Been Away), Pictures Of Lily (Doctor, Doctor) and I'm A Boy (In The City) follow, all written or co-written by John Entwistle, and three previously unreleased tracks complete the package. These are an acoustic version of Happy Jack, a great cover of the Everly Brothers' Man With Money and an anarchic version of My Generation which appears to begin in mono and segues gloriously into a stereo feedback-drenched rendition of Land Of Hope And Glory. This was originally intended for the Ready Steady Who! EP, released to tie-in with their appearance on the famous TV show, but was not music from the show itself.
A Quick One was originally released in mono in the UK, and according to the booklet in both mono and stereo versions in the US, although the 1995 re-issue CD appears not to have had access to the stereo masters if such they were (they may just have been electronically re-channeled fake stereo). Run, Run, Run appeared in a stereo version previously available on the vinyl Backtrack 3 compilation sampler, but, apart from Whiskey Man the rest of the original album was monaural, with 5 of the bonus tracks in stereo, including the Batman theme, which may have come from the same Backtrack series.
This release of this stereo edition of the album has nothing on the CD itself to differentiate it from the 1995 edition which appeared alongside it on the record shop shelves and which had a sticker saying it was newly remastered and remixed. The publication date on both sleeve and disc is still given as 1995, and the booklet is an exact reprint of the 1995 edition. There is not even a sticker with additional information on the cover of the case of the British re-issue.
This poor and rather wasteful promotion and lack of demarcation is a shame because when I finally tracked down the correct copy it more than lived up to expectations. The whole of A Quick One is in full stereo. Run, Run, Run is in a new and slightly longer mix, and all the bonus tracks are stereo too, with the sole exception of the acoustic Happy Jack. This gives a bigger, clearer sound allowing many of the production subtleties to be fully appreciated for the first time thanks to the separation, especially for headphone listening, and particularly enhances the vocal harmonies.
The absence of a revised booklet means one unfortunately cannot tell whether these mixes are derived from 1966 stereo masters or were newly created from multi-track tapes for this release.