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Music Review: The Who – Happy Jack

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Happy Jack or A Quick One as it was titled on its original English release was the second album released by The Who. While it would not have the energy or raw appeal of their first album, it would have a better focus and conceptualization. The title song, “Happy Jack,” would become the group’s first successful single in The United States. The Who would embark upon a tour that would include their coming out party at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival.

Each member of the group was asked to contribute at least two original compositions. Keith Moon and John Entwistle managed to create the two songs apiece while Roger Daltrey stalled at one. While Entwistle’s contributions would be fun and interesting in a quirky way, it was the Pete Townshend creations that showed an evolving maturity on which the group’s future would depend.

I have always wished that John Entwistle would have been more active in the songwriting arena, but given the genius of Pete Townshend this was not to be. Here we find two of Entwistle's best compositions. “Boris The Spider” would feature a deep bass vocal and an odd but effective melody. It may have been that Entwistle was just having fun but it would remain a concert staple for years. “Whiskey Man” may not have been as strong but the vocal was excellent and the humor came through again.

If “I Need You” proved anything it was that Keith Moon should not sing. If “Cobwebs and Strange” proved anything it was that Keith Moon was born to play the drums.

Pete Townshend’s compositions would begin to set the tone for The Who’s career. “Run Run Run” would establish him as a guitarist to be reckoned with in the future. “So Sad About Us” is a well constructed and produced rock ballad. “Happy Jack” demonstrated that Townshend could write accessible singles. “A Quick One, While He’s Away” was a mini opera and has been called the parent to Tommy. It was close to ten minutes of short song parts which told a story. It was a wonderful way of telling a tale and Townshend would put the lessons learned here to good use over the years.

Happy Jack may not be as historically important as The Who Sing My Generation or be as good a listen four decades later, but it does form an important link in the chain of Who albums and the creation of their sound. If their first album was a five star effort then this one is a solid four. 

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About David Bowling

  • Paul

    Right on the money.

  • Paul

    Just one note – “Happy Jack” was not on the British album, called A Quick One, and only an alternate, acoustic version is included on the CD.

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