A Quick One is the second album by English rock band The Who, released in 1966. American record company executives released the album under the title Happy Jack, rather than the sexually suggestive title of the UK release, and due to "Happy Jack" being a top forty hit in the U.S. "Happy Jack" was not included on the UK version of the album, but instead was released as a non-album single.
This is widely regarded by fans to have been a pivotal album for the group, due to the departure from the R&B / pop formula featured on the band's first release. Part of the marketing push for the album was a requirement that each band member should write at least two of the songs on it (although Roger Daltrey only wrote one), so this Who album is the least dominated by Pete Townshend's writing.
The album was also the band's first foray into the form of rock opera, with "A Quick One, While He's Away", the title track of the LP, a nine-minute suite of song snippets telling a story of infidelity and reconciliation. The Who would later go on to write and record the full scale rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia.
The album was intended to be pop music, a sonic participant in the pop art movement. The cover was designed by the pop art exponent Alan Aldridge, with the front cover depicting the band playing their instruments. The back cover is a black-and-white photo montage of the band members accompanied by a short personality sketch of each (infamous among Who fans for Keith Moon's humorous assertion that he was keen on "breeding chickens"). A track listing, a couple of paragraphs touting the band, an ad for their first album, and a technical blurb are also crowded onto the back cover.
The blurb reveals the recording technology of the time by announcing "This is a high-fidelity record! For proper reproduction use RIAA or a similar Record Compensator setting." The album was recorded at IBC Studios, Pye Studios and Regent Sound, in London, England in 1966. Kit Lambert was the producer.
"Boris the Spider" was written after Entwistle had been out drinking with Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman. They were making up funny names for animals when Entwistle came up with "Boris the Spider".
Since Entwistle had trouble singing "r"s, he double-tracked the vocals on "Whiskey Man", singing "fwend" and "flend", hoping they'd come together as "friend".
"Heat Wave" is a cover of a song by Martha and the Vandellas that was very popular in the UK at the time. For the U.S. release, "Heat Wave" was dropped and "Happy Jack" added in its place. "Heat Wave" was added back on to the album for when Happy Jack was re-issued on the 1974 double album repackaging of A Quick One and The Who Sell Out as A Quick One (Happy Jack).
"Boris the Spider" quickly became John Entwistle's most popular song and was still performed live decades later; in later years, John was almost invariably sporting a spider necklace for photographs. "Happy Jack" is quirky in both lyrics and sound, but is popular nonetheless and remains a favorite of both fans and non-fans alike to this day. It was featured in TV ads for the Hummer automobile in 2004. "A Quick One, While He's Away" was Townshend's first move toward the production of the rock operas that he is so much noted for. Though it is a simple medley of song fragments, the band came to refer to it as their "mini-opera", and on the remastered CD release of their Live at Leeds album Townshend can be heard introducing it as "Tommy's parent". The song was performed live for The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus film. (The film, made in 1968, came out on video in 1995. The track can also be heard on the soundtrack of Jeff Stein's film The Kids Are Alright; it is also used in Wes Anderson's film Rushmore, but the soundtrack album uses the Live at Leeds version.)
One of Keith Moon's contributions, "I Need You," was originally titled "I Need You (Like I Need A Hole In The Head)." Moon thought The Beatles spoke in a secret language behind his back, and this song was his way of getting back at them. Although Moon denied that a vocal part in the song was a John Lennon imitation, Entwistle said, in fact, that it was.
"Cobwebs and Strange" was originally called "Showbiz Sonata." Entwistle claims to have written the melody, but it actually comes from a song from the UK television series Man From Interpol. Unquestionably, the drums come from Keith alone.
Daltrey insisted that Moon should sound like Buddy Holly´s drummer, but was rather unhappy with the results. Another version of the song was recorded, had at least one airplay and was realised on the BBC Sessions CD.
One particularly notable track on this album is the mod/pop number "So Sad About Us". Though it is difficult to accurately gauge such phenomena, "So Sad About Us" has likely been covered more frequently than any other song on the album. (According to Allmusic, it is "one of the Who's most covered songs." ). Shaun Cassidy, Primal Scream, The Breeders, and most notably The Jam are among the many artists who have recorded studio versions of the song. Beyond the sheer number of covers, it is also one of The Who's most frequently imitated songs. As the aforementioned AMG put it, it is "an archetypal early Who song" and "hundreds of bands have based their entire careers on this one song." With its ringing guitars, Beach Boys-styled harmonies, crashing drums, and lovelorn lyrics, it is one of the early forebears of the power pop genre, along with other early Who staples such as "I Can't Explain" and "The Kids Are Alright". Pete Townshend and one-time Jam frontman Paul Weller performed an acoustic duet of the song as captured on the album The Who and Special Guests: Live at the Royal Albert Hall.
The album's engineering produced a mushy sound that went unmitigated even by the remastered CD release.
"Happy Jack" and "A Quick One, While He's Away" can also be heard on the remastered CD release of Live at Leeds from a 1970 performance.
In addition to their usual instruments, each bandmember played an orchestral instrument as well to give a marching band effect on "Cobwebs and Strange". Keith Moon played orchestral cymbals, Pete Townshend played penny-whistle, John Entwistle played trumpet, and Roger Daltrey played trombone.
An early version of the Who's second album was to be titled Jigsaw Puzzle. Its preliminary running order consisted of the following tracks:
|1966||UK Chart Albums||4|
|1967||"Happy Jack"||Billboard Pop Singles||24|
|1966||"Happy Jack"||UK Singles Charts||3|