Happy 50th birthday to A Quick One!

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Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use doctrine

Released 9 December 1966, A Quick One was The Who’s sophomore album. From my experience in the fan community, this seems to be one of those things which is largely judged differently along sex-based lines. A lot of guys tend to hate it or think it’s junky bubblegum, while female fans are more forgiving and are even known to like it more than a little.

This isn’t one of the greatest albums of all time, but it’s not the worst either. It’s a typical 1966 album, in that there are a few hits and radio favorites padded out with a bunch of filler. For the most part, I find the filler fun and cute. One guy on the old album reviews section of thewho.net claimed he wanted to throw up every time he played it. As I said in my own review, why would someone play any album he hates so much it makes him want to throw up?

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

 “Run Run Run” (written by Pete)
“Boris the Spider” (written by John)
“I Need You” (credited to Keith but probably 90% written by John)
“Whiskey Man” (written by John)
“Heat Wave” (cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland song)
“Cobwebs and Strange” (instrumental) (credited to Keith but probably 90% written by John)
“Don’t Look Away” (written by Pete)
“See My Way” (written by Roger)
“So Sad About Us” (written by Pete)
“A Quick One, While He’s Away” (written by Pete)
“Batman”*
“Bucket T”*
“Barbara Ann”*
“Disguises”* (written by Pete)
“Doctor, Doctor”* (written by John)
“I’ve Been Away”* (written by John)
“In the City”* (written by John and Keith)
“Happy Jack”* (written by Pete)
“Man with the Money”* (cover of an Everly Brothers’ song)
“My Generation/Land of Hope and Glory”* (first part written by Pete; second by Edward Elgar)

As per the custom of the era, the album was repackaged for the American market, and retitled Happy Jack. The U.S. version removed “Heat Wave,” and added “Happy Jack” between “Cobwebs and Strange” and “Don’t Look Away.”

The album failed to chart in the U.S., though it reached #4 in the U.K. The only successful single was “Happy Jack,” which charted at #3 in the U.K. and #24 in the U.S. “Boris the Spider” became one of John’s most popular songs, one of the songs most associated with him. “So Sad About Us” also became very popular, as well as the original closing track.

By 1966 standards, “A Quick One, While He’s Away” is a complete anomaly, particularly on an album full of songs ranging from 1:53 to 3:04. It clocks in at 9:10, and, true to what Pete admits is his own pretentious nature, it was billed as a mini-opera. The subject matter is also pretty risqué for 1966, since it’s clearly about an affair and cuckoldry. It consists of six parts:

“Her Man’s Been Gone”
“Crying Town”
“We Have a Remedy”
“Ivor the Engine Driver”
“Soon Be Home”
“You Are Forgiven”

Pete wanted cellos in the concluding section, but since The Who didn’t exactly have the type of budget as The Beatles did, they had to sing “Cello cello cello cello cello cello cello” several times.

The band were under a contractual requirement to write at least two songs each, though Roger only wrote one. Pete was always their predominant songwriter, though John showed a real talent for songwriting already at this early point. I love the dark, twisted humor in his songs. Roger did go on to write some pretty nice songs, but I think we’re all glad he chose to stick primarily to singing.

It’s fun, cute bubblegum pop, not the hard rock The Who became known for, but that just makes it different, not wretched and inferior. Too many so-called fans seem to think they had to sound a certain way for their entire career, instead of God forbid trying out different musical styles and evolving over time. It’s fine to have a personal preference, but not to bash them for failing to measure up to that preference every single time.

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One of my ultimate summer albums

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Used to illustrate the subject; use consistent with fair use doctrine

Released 14 August 1971 (and now 45 years old), Who’s Next is widely considered The Who’s most quintessential album. It’s one of the most ideal starting places for a new fan or someone interested in getting to know the band beyond the 5–10 tracks in rotation on most classic rock stations. This is one of those things which deserves the massive amounts of hype, instead of being more hype than substance.

WN started life as Pete’s very ambitious magnum opus Lifehouse, a rock opera which he’s kept coming back to over all these years. So many songs and themes from Lifehouse have been recycled or resurrected in both his solo and band albums. Though Lifehouse itself has never properly been completed, its story is familiar to longtime fans thanks to songs and dialogues Pete used in other projects.

WN came into my life on Halloween 2000 (the same day I bought The White Album), at an Amherst music store which I don’t think is in business anymore (or else moved). I only went to that store every so often, since they had a lot more CDs than vinyl, and typically charged more than Newbury Comics and Mystery Train Records.

Though The Who were always best as a live band, this album shows they could be just as good in the studio. It’s awesome hard rock, showcasing them at their prime. There’s a reason so many folks recommend this album above all others to potential new fans, because it contains everything awesome about The Who. It’s that quintessentially perfect album against which all others in their catalogue are judged, for better or worse.

Track listing, with stars by bonus tracks:

“Baba O’Riley”
“Bargain”
“Love Ain’t for Keeping”
“My Wife” (one of John’s signature songs)
“The Song Is Over” (so lush and beautiful)
“Getting in Tune”
“Going Mobile” (a song I didn’t really like or appreciate till I finally had a car and knew how to drive!)
“Behind Blue Eyes” (super overplayed!)
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” (also very overplayed, but never gets old)
“Pure and Easy”*
“Baby Don’t You Do It”*
“Naked Eye”* (live at the Young Vic Theatre)
“Water”* (Live at Young Vic)
“Too Much of Anything”*
“I Don’t Even Know Myself”*
“Behind Blue Eyes”* (original version)

In 2003, a 2-disc deluxe edition was released, though I haven’t bought it yet. The first disc contains the original first nine tracks, plus six outtakes. The second disc is a 26 April 1971 show from the Young Vic.

I love playing this album in the car stereo when it’s boiling hot outside. It’s such a perfect hot weather album, just like Live at Leeds, and begging to be cranked up. It’s also one of those albums where every time is like the first time all over again, taking me back to those special moments when I first heard each of the songs.

Who Are You review

[This is a repost and expansion of something I wrote in 2012. That original post also included a discussion of The Who by Numbers, since it was my 11th anniversary with both albums.]

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Who Are You shows they were moving in the direction of New Wave at the time of Keith’s untimely death, and probably would’ve still done their Eighties albums in that musical style if he’d still been with them. They had to change, adapt, and move with the times. If they’d kept trying to remake Who’s Next and Quadrophenia for the rest of their career, that would’ve been really boring, and gotten them a reputation as one trick ponies. I just can’t understand the hypocritical criticisms of some of these so-called fans who want everything their way, every single way, and screw what was best for the band and what fit with the musical climate and reality.

Side one is all about the changing nature of music, and how, while it’s distressing to realize your style is perceived as out of step, it’s important for music to evolve and change with the times if you want to stay relevant and keep being creative. Some fans don’t like this album that much, but I’ve always adored it. It’s just pulsing with musical excitement and energy, and I love synthesizers, being an Eighties kid. However, the CD remastering kind of really sucks. Now that I have the vinyl, I far prefer the original format. For example, they took out part of the chorus on “Trick of the Light,” and also fiddled with “905.”

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It’s also kind of an unusual album, in that Roger sings one of John’s songs. He almost never sang a song John wrote. The album overall has three of John’s songs, again a rarity. Many people have rightly compared him to George Harrison, not only because they were each The Quiet Ones of their respective bands, but also because they had to fight to be thrown a bone, get even one song on each album in spite of a wealth of great material.

The album is also notable for “Love Is Coming Down,” one of three songs Pete wrote during this period with lyrics about standing on or jumping off of a ledge. Thank God he got over this dark mood. The other two are “Street in the City,” from Rough Mix, his 1977 album with Ronnie Lane of The Small Faces, and “Empty Glass,” the title track of his first official solo album from 1980. The original 1978 lyric of the latter was “Killing each other, then we jump off the ledge,” but in 1980, it was changed to “Killing each other by driving a wedge.”

Even though Keith’s drumming was suffering during this period, he was still the best drummer he could be, and the album is one final memory, his beautiful swan song. Even if he never again was as perfect as he was on the ending of “Love, Reign O’er Me,” he was still better than all the other drummers out there. It’s so eerie how, on the front cover, Keith is sitting in a chair that says “Not to be taken away.” I’m now older than he was when he went to his eternal home.

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Track listing (stars by bonus tracks):

“New Song”
“Had Enough”
“905”
“Sister Disco”
“Music Must Change” (took me awhile to warm up to this song)
“Trick of the Light” (I’m so naïve I didn’t immediately realize this song is about a hooker in a brothel!)
“Guitar and Pen” (one of those Who songs which women tend to like and men tend to hate)
“Love Is Coming Down” (another Who song more popular among female fans)
“Who Are You”
“No Road Romance”*
“Empty Glass” (demo including John and Keith)*
“Guitar and Pen” (Olympic ’78 mix)*
“Love Is Coming Down” (work in progress mix)*
“Who Are You” (lost verse mix)*

The Who’s catalogue was remastered onto CD by Pete’s then-brother-in-law, Jon Astley. I’m far from the only fan who feels as though Astley majorly dropped the ball by the time he got towards the end of the catalogue. There were so many awesome bonus tracks on earlier albums like Who’s Next, A Quick One, and The Who Sell Out (and of course it would’ve been sacrilege to add anything to Tommy or Quadrophenia), yet from The Who by Numbers onward, the bonus tracks scraped the bottom of the barrel and weren’t really worth the effort.

There are some great bonus tracks on the later albums, but most of them are just alternate versions of songs already included, either live or studio. Of course The Who were an awesome live band (in comparison to The Beatles, who weren’t really that great live even factoring in issues like poor recording technology and ear-splitting screams), but many of us would’ve far preferred entirely new, unreleased tracks. We’d happily shell out the money for CDs of those entire live shows, like Swansea ’76 and Toronto ’82.

Overall, this seems to be an album thought more kindly of by female than male fans. As proudly tomboyish as I’ve been my entire life, I can’t deny this is one of those things which I don’t take the stereotypically male view on!

IWSG—Writing lessons from unexpected places (and how Imre redirected several storylines)

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Every first Wednesday of the month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group share worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears.

Monday morning, I dreamt I was watching some James Cagney film on the big screen, and all of a sudden Chico Marx showed up as one of the gangsters. He was really brutal, cutting people’s ears off and stabbing people in the head. Even in the dream, it felt so wrong and bizarre. Chico’s character was mischievous, not malicious.

This dream relates to last month’s IWSG post, where I talked about how we know our characters better than anyone, and thus understand when something is completely wrong and out of character. It’s natural for our characters to grow and change over time, particularly if we’ve been with them for years, and it’s not unreasonable to try out new things. But ultimately, we’re the ones steering the ship. My Max wasn’t my Max anymore when I wrote that goofy opening page on someone else’s suggestion, just as my Cinni wouldn’t be my Cinni anymore if I toned down her behavior much more.

I suppose the dream was brought on by the photolithograph hanging next to my bed, and the fact that I’ve been watching a lot of Cagney films this year. Since finally reaching my goal of 1,000 silents (now up to 1,113), I’ve moved to focusing more on films of the early sound era. It’s totally hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence) that I decided to focus on Cagney in particular this year, since 2016 is his 30th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) year. Since I’m so tomboyish, I’m watching all the gangster and man’s man roles before touching lighter stuff. So far, my favoritest films are White Heat and The Roaring Twenties.

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In April, I revisited Thirty Years of Maximum R&B (The Who’s boxed set), which I got 15 years ago, on 3 April 2001. I still remember all the details of the day I found it, how excited I was to find it (and for only $35 no less!), and how I took three days to get through it all. As I mention in the abovelinked review, one of the little issues which really adds up is the constant segueing. There’s zero breathing time between a lot of songs. While this works very well on an album like The Who Sell Out, it wasn’t the right choice for the boxed set.

This has applications to writing, in that we should always consider how much time to put between chapters and sections of a book. Some books, or certain chapters in particular, work very well when they lead into one another, or when one chapter begins within 24 hours of when the previous chapter ended.  Likewise, it can be good to put some space between chapters, for a more natural pace and leisurely journey.

Another lesson from the boxed set is its over-focus on Sell Out and Who’s Next, with unfairly short schrift given to the Eighties material. We should always consider if a book works best with equal weight given to each part, or if it’s best to put most of the action into one section.

April Camp 2016 final I

A huge issue came up early during Camp NaNo in April, when my unplanned secondary character Imre Goldmark took on a life of his own and began cajoling me into giving him Csilla. I’d kind of already planned for Csilla to marry a man five years her junior in another book, when she’s already in Israel! Originally, Imre’s mother had only suggested Csilla might be interested in him, since they’re about the same age. Before I knew it, he was pleading his case for why they’re a perfect match, and giving me a very compelling storyline.

I thought about Imre and Csilla perhaps briefly dating, then moved it to a passionate love affair, and finally considered Imre fighting in Israel’s War of Independence as a volunteer, to try to impress Csilla with his bravery, and being killed in action so Csilla would be free to marry the guy I originally planned for her. I finally realized Imre knew better than I did what their story was, and decided to do things the way he dictated. Their road to happily ever after and the chupah has a lot of twists and turns, but that’s the best kind of love story.

Plus, the name Imre just came into my head when I was thinking of names for Mrs. Goldmark’s three children. Character names almost never come to me like that.

Happy 50th Birthday to My Generation!

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Fair use, good faith rationale to illustrate the subject

The Who released their début album, My Generation, on 3 December 1965 (the same day Rubber Soul was released). It came into my life on 30 January 2001, as my seventh Who album, bought in the same Newbury Comics expedition as A Quick One. Given the date, the album I got was the U.S. repackaging, The Who Sings “My Generation,” not the British original. Due to disputes with their original producer Shel Talmy, there was no proper CD remastering until 2002.

After how embarrassed I was to discover the audiomaniac fanatics were completely wrong about the 2001 deluxe remastering of Live at Leeds, I paid them no attention when they began bitching about the upcoming remastered MG. Normal people don’t care about minute differences in sound, nor do they have access to all these different versions and overdubs to compare and contrast. We just care about great music, not nitpicky, anal-retentive excuses to whine and pretend we could’ve done such a better job.

The main difference between the U.S. and U.K. releases was that the U.S. version ended with the beautiful, haunting “Circles” and removed “I’m a Man.” Honestly, by modern standards, the “offending” lyrics are so tame: “All you pretty women/Stand up in a big long line./When I get you in bed, darling,/Gonna make love all the time.”

The track listing:

“Out in the Street”
“I Don’t Mind”
“The Good’s Gone”
“La-La-La-Lies”
“Much Too Much”
“My Generation”
“The Kids Are Alright”
“Please, Please, Please”
“It’s Not True”
“I’m a Man”
“A Legal Matter” (sung by Pete)
“The Ox” (instrumental)
“Circles (Instant Party)”
“I Can’t Explain”
“Bald Headed Woman”
“Daddy Rolling Stone”

Bonus disc:

“Leaving Here”
“Lubie (Come Back Home)”
“Shout and Shimmy”
“(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave”
“Motoring”
“Anytime You Want Me”
“Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (alternative version)
“Instant Party Mixture”
“I Don’t Mind” (full-length version)
“The Good’s Gone” (full-length version)
“My Generation” (instrumental version)
“Anytime You Want Me” (a cappella)
“A Legal Matter” (mono)
“My Generation” (mono)

Though I don’t feel moved to listen to it that often, it’s a great album, made even greater with the two-disc deluxe remastering. In 2014, there were new remasterings in both mono and stereo, but that’s not something I’m interested in purchasing. I’m not an audiomaniac like certain infamous people on the Odds and Sods mailing list (which I unsubscribed from years ago due to these audiomaniacs and their outrageous behavior, which went far beyond just throwing tantrums over minute sound differences).

It’s a raw, gritty album, rather sounding like an unrefined garage band with deep roots in R&B. They were still finding their style and didn’t yet write all their own material. As for Roger, he was literally finding his own voice. If you compare MG and anything from Live at Leeds onward, the difference is like night and day. In this earliest album, Roger sounds so unformed, without much range. However, that works great for a song like “I’m a Man” or “Bald Headed Woman.” They weren’t yet making songs which required tons of range and emotion. Touring Tommy all over the world gave him a huge boost of self-confidence, and his vocal prowess went through the roof.

My favorite track is “Circles.”