Album number 2 of The Who’s discography was released as A Quick One in the UK, and Happy Jack in the US (Decca’s name changes strike again!). It was released one year to the day after My Generation, and even in that short amount of time there were some noticeable changes to the band’s sound. Each of the band members also wrote at least one song this time around as well. There were 10 songs total on the original release, and Pete only wrote 4 of them, which is drastically different than the rest of their albums, where he was the primary songwriter.
The album starts off with a Pete contribution called “Run Run Run,” which is reminiscent of their first album, as well as a fun and catchy listen. It’s followed up by “Boris the Spider,” which is John’s contribution and also features him on lead vocals for the first time. It’s a horroresque song, but it is silly and fun, so it ended up becoming a live staple for the band.
There is only one cover song on this album, “Heat Wave,” which is most recognizable from Martha and the Vandellas. This might be my favorite of all of their covers; it has a signature Who sound while still keeping true to how the song was originally written. Wikipedia does not seem to value it as much as I do, as they do not not even mention this version on the article for the song.
One of Keith’s two contributions to the album is an instrumental track called “Cobwebs and Strange.” It is whimsical and circus-like, but then unexpectedly hits you in the face with his drum solos. As the song goes on the instruments are played faster and faster. It very much is Keith in the form of a song, and this clip from the The Kids are Alright film released in 1979 demonstrates that perfectly.
Roger’s song is called “See My Way” and clocks in at 1 minute 53 seconds. It’s a catchy song and structurally does not feel that short at all. The lack of length in Roger’s song is also quickly made up for by Pete’s last contribution, “A Quick One, While He’s Away.” As Pete tells it, their producer Kit Lambert suggested he make a 10 minute song, made up of multiple songs, to fill up the remaining space on the album. “A Quick One” was the result, and it became the mini-rock opera that preceded Tommy.
“A Quick One” is a great song in so many ways. It flows so well, and the music changes to perfectly set the scene; for example, when John is playing Ivor the Engine Driver, Keith’s drums start to sound like a train. When the main character’s love interest is returning home, it changes to a western-style travel sound. There is some silliness in the song (it wouldn’t be The Who without it, right?), such as the repeating of the word “cello” in place of one playing, as they supposedly could not afford to add it. The best way to experience this song is by watching their performance of it at The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus in 1968.
Overall, this album is great. It’s even better when listening to the Deluxe Edition, as you get “Batman” (yes, that Batman), “Bucket T” (a Jan and Dean cover), “In The City,” and “Disguises” that way, but to keep the write-ups simple I stick to the original release track lists. The amount of growth we can hear when listening to My Generation and A Quick One side by side is both impressive and promising regarding what’s to come. Stay tuned for my post about album number 3, The Who Sell Out. That album is a very interesting one!