on 1 March 2005
It's a shame that when a band produces a number of great albums that some of their lesser known albums fall by the wayside. This is certainly one of those. It's not that this is their best (but by no means their worst), but it deserves more exposure than it gets.
John Entwistle's greatest song is here for a start, the arachnophobic 'Boris the Spider'. He was apparently stuck for material to write about, and noticed a spider...the rest is history! There is also the best song that Keith Moon's name was put to - the insanely twisted 'Cobwebs and Strange' that could only have come from the head of someone like Keith Moon. It feels like Pete Townsend took a backseat in the songwriting department here, as there's also a rare contribution from Roger Daltrey, and the bonus tracks are covers versions that appeared on the b-sides of singles.
Pete Townsend's outstanding contribution here though is 'A Quick One While He's Away'. It's the first of his 'rock operas', but it stands in the shadows of the overrated 'Tommy' and the excellent 'Quadrophenia'.
This album sits well alongside the classics 'The Who Sell Out', 'Tommy', 'Live at Leeds', 'Who's Next' and 'Quadrophenia', and is certainly better than any of the albums not mentioned above.
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.
on 21 November 2011
This is probably the least well known of their 60s output but its by no means a mediocre or filler album by any stretch. Theres some killer Who cuts here such as Run Run Run, So Sad About Us and the ambitious title track itself. Elsewhere, the Who's eccentric side comes to the fore with two John Entwistle numbers Whiskey Man & Boris the Spider. Even Keith Moon gets on the writing credits with I Need You and Cobwebs & Strange. Roger Daltrey contributes with a Buddy Holly style track See My Way and Townshend's knack for a catchy pop song in Don't Look Away make this a very enjoyable set. My only gripe with this re-issue is with the bonus material. The compilers didn't include the full Ready Steady Who EP and missed out the best track from it, Circles. However, I'm not sure whether that was down to a space issue on the cd itself or a possible license problem with the ownership of the track - it was at the centre of a row between the Who and their original producer Shel Talmy back in the early months of 1966. Its definitely worth buying but personally, I would love to see this album given the deluxe treatment the other two early Who albums received recently. They could issue a second disc of the original mono album mix and this time include Circles as well along with the alternate version of I'm A Boy first heard on Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy plus any other off-cuts, alternate takes, demos etc. In fact see The Who Sell Out's deluxe edition for a great example!
on 28 January 2014
This is probably my favorite Who album. The themes, moods, textures of the songs resemble a kaleidoscopic fanfare. Quirky themes abound; phobias, whiskey addiction, and the famous mini-opera of A Quick One with its many different parts -some excellent, some good.
Keith Moon's and John Entwhistle's contributions are whimsical and humorous. Whiskey and Strange is one of the few instrumentals tracks I enjoy listening to, and Boris the Spider is deserving of its reputation. And Roger Daltrey's See My Way fits in the category of: it's so bad, it's good. Special mention goes to So Sad About Us, and to the excellent cover of Heatwave, with its melodic intensity redolent -in some weird way- of 80s cop TV shows (don't ask me why, this is always the association it bring to my mind).
I would have rated the album with 4-stars if it wasn't for the plethora of marvelous extras. Standouts are the surf music covers of: Bucket T, and Barbara Ann, Doctor Doctor, and the Moon/ Entwhistle penned In the City (Jam fans will notice a similarity with a famous song of the latter band).
Overall I think this album deserves -at least- to be judged without any preconceptions on the part of the listener. Maybe the experience will be surprisingly pleasant.
on 30 June 2014
Whilst The Who were not yet the finished article this disc provides fascinating glimpses of what was just a few years away. The opening track, Run Run Run, features the jangly guitar sound that would soon become so familiar, as does So Sad About Us. This latter track is one of the highlights of the album, both musically and lyrically: "I can't switch off my loving like you can't switch off the sun".
The story behind the original album is that each member of the group was promised a certain sum of money provided they each wrote two tracks (Roger only managed one). Keith wrote a song called I Need You, about The Beatles, and an instrumental called Cobwebs and Strange (assisted in the writing by John). It would be easy to write off this manic instrumental, but I would suggest you listen to the solo drum passages. Keith never took a drum solo. Listen to his drumming on this track and I think many of you will agree that this was a shame.
John's songwriting showed a great sense of humour that was to continue into his solo albums. You may already be familiar with Boris The Spider, but his humour manifests itself in such songs as I've Been Away (about a man who has been in prison for a crime committed by his brother who "bribed the jury because he owns the local brewery") and Whiskey Man, the imaginary drinking partner of an alcoholic.
Throw in a few surf songs to keep Keith Moon happy and Pete's first attempt at a Rock opera and we have a four-star album.
After the hard-driving R'n'B of The Who's debut, for their second album they needed to mix the formula up a bit. The result is a touch haphazard, laden with experiments but an impressive album nonetheless.
In order to gain a greater advance for the album's recording, all four members wrote songs, with mixed results. Vocalist Roger Daltrey's sole contribution, 'See My Way,' is a decent enough pop tune but then composition never would be his real talent. Keith Moon's 'I Need You' is in the same vein, a throwaway but listenable nonetheless. This is something you cannot say about his 'Cobwebs And Strange,' an incredibly bizarre avante-garde piece that's plenty of fun but not one to listen to repeatedly.
Bassist John Entwistle, the second most prominent writer of the group, wrote the off-kilter fan favourite 'Boris The Spider' and the excellent ode to alcoholism 'Whiskey Man,' a fascinating song exploring relatively new subject matter at the time.
Throw in a serviceable cover of 'Heatwave' and the mix of writers makes things very all over the place. It's up to Pete Townshend to give the album its best songs. The loping, heavy 'Run Run Run' recalls the power of the band's debut, while the harmonies on 'So Sad About Us' are glorious. Both excellent tunes, but the whole album pales in comparison to its closing mini-opera.
Already growing tired of the three-minute pop song, Townshend constructed a nine-minute song cycle to stretch his musical legs. The resulting title track takes in psychedelia, country pastiche, girl-group harmonies and the band's trademark R'n'B and is remarkably evolved for a band only two years old to that point.
All in all, this album is quite low down on a Who buyers' guide simply because of its mixed bag of quality. But it is still most certainly worth getting, as without it the ensuing albums would never have been recorded and there is much to love on this little record.
on 22 February 2013
I bought this because I like Doctor Doctor and it wasn't on their greatest hits cd. The artwork on the cover is terrific. There are some good tracks and some strange choice tracks. Batman and the two Beach Boys type tracks (Bucket T and Barbara Ann) just don't feel right with the other tracks. As a result, the album doesn't hang together as well as it might. Happy Jack and Doctor Doctor are probably the best tracks with Boris the Spider, Whiskey Man, and Don't Look Away not far behind.
Like all the bands who survived from the mid-1960s into the 1970s, The Who's output roughly divides into two eras, one of exciting R&B, the other of the more sophisticated and ambitious rock. Though they were always ambitious musically, it's their latter era work that tends to gain most of the plaudits. The Who, though, are at their best when they simply throw off the shackles and go for it. Hence, 'A Quick One', their last work before they began to 'grow up', is both vibrant and ingenious.
This album is full of catchy tunes and adrenalin, yet it still unleashes a few surprises. The hard-driving 'Run Run Run' sets the standard, complete with winning harmonies. 'Boris The Spider', which contains the wonderful punchline, 'He's embedded in the ground', is unforgettable. 'Cobwebs And Strange' is a nutty, anarchic, brassy mixture from the mind of Keith Moon. Of the other short songs, 'Don't Look Away' and 'So Sad About Us' are probably the best. The nine-minute title track is the genesis of Pete Townshend's rock opera ambitions. Though it comes across as a medley rather than a seamless whole, I find this much more enjoyable than the 'Rael' opus from the following album. The bonuses are mostly worthwhile and some feature Moon's surf influence.
'A Quick One', far from being a makeweight in the Who catalogue, is one of their best albums. My only preferred Who album is 'Who's Next', another work that is basically just a song collection. In 1966, many artists took a leap forward and used their own imaginations rather than continue to rely on outside material. 'A Quick One' is an essential part of that.
on 14 March 2016
This review is specifically for the 1995 MCA CD release. The songs themselves are a mixed bag. The title track is their first stab at an extended, ahem, "rock opera" and doesn't quite click performance-wise or production-wise (the definitive version was captured in late 1968 at the Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus) but is still of immense interest and naive charm. Other material ranges from the mod pop of "So Sad About Us" to the macabre musings of John Entwistle - "Boris the Spider" & "Whiskey Man" - to Keith Moon's loon-about "Cobwebs and Strange". Definitely not The Who's best album ("Sell Out" for this reviewer) but a worthy and entertaining disc, which the bonus material emphasizes.
However, this 1995 version is baffling aurally. The mixes are both mono and stereo with no apparent rhyme or reason in the running order. The mastering itself is adequate except in the case of "I Need You", which finds the cymbals running amok sonically. They're loud and tinny. I am always skipping this track, which I do not have to do on earlier versions of this CD (both the 1988 Polydor and MCA versions for example).
on 16 August 2010
If you've seen the Who live or heard some of their later work this album will come as a surprise to you, being full of chirpy pop rather than rock. I therefore don't like this as much as 'Tommy' or 'Who's Next' (but my wife prefers it). The title track is notable as Pete Townshend's first attempt at the 'rock opera' and is probably the best track on the album. Liked the bit where the band sing 'cello, cello, cello, cello...' in the background as they couldn't afford an orchestra! So go for this album if you like mid-sixties pop, but not if you prefer the hard rocking Who of their later years.