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Music / A Quick One

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A Quick One.

A Quick One is the second studio album by The Who, released in 1966. This album marks a major Growing the Beard moment for Pete Townshend as a songwriter - and the band in general. Though this is the album least dominated by Townshend's song-writing, it does contain the mini rock opera "A Quick One, While He's Away", which foreshadows their later work such as Tommy and Quadrophenia.

In the US, the album was released as Happy Jack in May 1967, with the same cover (but with title A Quick One obviously replaced by Happy Jack) and an altered track-listing. Fan favourites include "Boris the Spider", "Whiskey Man", "So Sad About Us" and "A Quick One, While He's Away".

Tracklist (A Quick One):

Side One

  1. "Run Run Run" (2:43)
  2. "Boris the Spider" (2:29)
  3. "I Need You" (2:25)
  4. "Whiskey Man" (2:57)
  5. "Heat Wave" (1:57)
  6. "Cobwebs and Strange" (2:31)

Side Two

  1. "Don't Look Away" (2:54)
  2. "See My Way" (1:53)
  3. "So Sad About Us" (3:04)
  4. "A Quick One, While He's Away" (9:10)

Tracklist (Happy Jack):

Side One

  1. "Run Run Run" (2:44)
  2. "Boris the Spider" (2:30)
  3. "I Need You" (2:25)
  4. "Whiskey Man" (2:57)
  5. "Cobwebs and Strange" (2:31)
  6. "Happy Jack" (2:11)

Side Two

  1. "Don't Look Away" (2:53)
  2. "See My Way" (1:53)
  3. "So Sad About Us" (3:04)
  4. "A Quick One, While He's Away" (9:10)

Principal Members:

  • Roger Daltrey - lead vocals, trombone, bass drum
  • John Entwistle - bass, backing and lead vocals, french horn, trumpet, keyboard
  • Keith Moon - drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals, tuba
  • Pete Townshend - guitar, backing and co-lead vocals, keyboard, penny-whistle

Don't Trope Away:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: The title character in "Happy Jack" is a social outcast, although he seems blissfully unaware of it.
The kids couldn't hurt Jack
They tried and tried and tried
They dropped things on his back
And lied and lied and lied and lied and lied
But they couldn't stop Jack, or the waters lapping
And they couldn't prevent Jack from feeling happy
  • Alliterative Title: "Run Run Run".
  • Black Comedy: "Boris the Spider", a horror song in which the animal is squashed dead near the end.
  • Break Up Song:
    • "I Need You":
      Please talk to me again
      I need you
    • Also, "So Sad About Us"
      Sad - never meant to break up
      Sad - suppose we'll never make up
      Sad about us
  • Cover Version: "Heat Wave", originally by Martha and the Vandellas.
  • Darker and Edgier: At least compared to the rest of the album, "Whiskey Man", which is a song about a drunk who gets committed to a mental institution to cure him of a booze-induced Imaginary Friend.
  • A Day in the Limelight: This is the only Who to contain songs written by all four members of the band (one by Daltrey, two each by Moon and Entwistle, and the rest by Pete - discounting the one cover); their manager had finagled a deal with their label that would net each contributing songwriter the then princely sum of £500 (approximately £7300 in 2022 pounds).
  • Delicious Distraction: The promo film for "Happy Jack" has the band as a gang of Blatant Burglars who sneak into an apartment and start trying to break into the safe... only to be quickly distracted by a lovely cake.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The somewhat psychedelic album cover by Alan Aldridge.
  • Drunken Song: "Whiskey Man"
    Whiskey Man's my friend, he's with me nearly all the time
    He always joins me when I drink, and we get on just fine
  • Easily Forgiven: The girl who is the subject of "A Quick One, While He's Away" is forgiven by her long-absent boyfriend immediately after admitting her infidelity with Ivor the engine driver. A rare justified example - said boyfriend mentions he wasn't entirely faithful himself.
  • Epic Rocking: At 9:10, "A Quick One, While He's Away".
  • Face on the Cover: The band members are drawn in a frame.
  • Freaky Is Cool: "Whiskey Man"
    Seemingly I must be mad, insanity is fun
  • Harsh Vocals: John Entwistle's growled refrain in "Boris the Spider" has been cited as one of the earliest examples of a death-growl.
  • Here We Go Again!: The group made a video for "Cobwebs and Strange" that featured Keith finding a strange hat which, once he put it on, caused him to go berserk. The rest of the band chased him around for the length of the video until they finally got it off and he returned to his normal self—except at the end of the video we see Pete is wearing the hat now.
  • Imaginary Friend: "Whiskey Man"
    Doctors say he just a figment of my twisted mind
    If they can't see my Whiskey Man they must be going blind
  • Instrumental: "Cobwebs and Strange", one of the two songs written by Keith Moon, is an instrumental.
  • List Song: "Run Run Run" lists all kinds of superstitions, yet the protagonist tells the woman in the song: "well, you ain't the luckiest girl I know and you won't get luckier the way you're going".
  • Longest Song Goes Last: "A Quick One, While He's Away" (9:10) ends the album.
  • Love Triangle: There's one between the main couple and Ivor the Engine Driver on "A Quick One, While He's Away".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: When we get to "You raise your hatchet in the yellow crowd", things have gotten very dark in the bright and poppy "I Need You".
  • Market-Based Title: The US version of this album changes its title to Happy Jack and replaces "Heat Wave" with "Happy Jack".
  • Medley: "A Quick One, While He's Away", which is essentially several songs in one.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Boris the Spider", a song about a spider who is squashed dead with a book.
  • New Sound Album: This album sees The Who move away from the R&B of My Generation and into a more commercial territory - and in the case of "A Quick One, While He's Away", proto-Progressive Rock.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "A Quick One, While He's Away".
  • One-Man Song: "Whiskey Man", and the "Ivor the Engine Driver" section of "A Quick One, While He's Away".
  • Onomatopoeia: The band's instruments making written down noises on the cover.
  • The Power of Love: "Heat Wave".
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Whiskey Man"
    Two men dressed in white collected me two days ago
    They said there's only room for one and Whiskey Man can't go
  • Shout-Out: The "Ivor the Engine Driver" section of "A Quick One, While He's Away" puns on the BBC children's series Ivor the Engine.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Boris the Spider" received a sequel in the form of the song "My Size" from John Entwistle's debut solo album Smash Your Head Against the Wall from 1971, where the closing riff is similar to the one heard throughout "Boris the Spider".
  • Soprano and Gravel: John Entwistle actually does that with himself in the song "Boris the Spider", where he switches from his normal voice to some of the deepest growl you'll ever hear during the chorus, and a funny falsetto during the bridge.
  • Spiders Are Scary: "Boris the Spider", a song about a spider who is described as a "creepy crawly" too.
    Creepy, crawly / Creepy, crawly / Creepy, creepy, crawly, crawly...
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Keith Moon sings lead vocals on "I Need You". John Entwistle sings lead vocals on "Boris the Spider" and "Whiskey Man", as well as co-lead vocals on "Happy Jack" and "A Quick One, While He's Away" (as Ivor the Engine Driver). Pete Townshend sings co-lead vocals on "Heat Wave" and "A Quick One, While He's Away" (the final section).
  • Superstition Episode: "Run Run Run" lists all kinds of superstitions:
    Well you ain't the luckiest girl I know
    And you won't get luckier the way you're going
    Your horseshoe's rusty and your mirror's cracked
    You walk under ladders then you walk right back
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "So Sad About Us" modulates upwards for its final verse.
  • Uncommon Time: While "Happy Jack" is mostly in 4/4, the choruses contain occasional bars of 5/4.
  • Unsound Effect: Because they couldn't afford to hire additional musicians, Pete, Roger and John had to sing "cello cello cello cello" for the part in "A Quick One, While He's Away" that was supposed to have strings.
  • You Need to Get Laid: During one point in "A Quick One, While He's Away", the friends of the protagonist tell her that they 'have a remedy' for her when she's distraught about the long absence of her partner. This remedy comes in the form of Ivor the Engine Driver, who the friends set her up with.

Alternative Title(s): Happy Jack