A Quick One, While He’s Away: A Tribute to The Who’s Classic

The Who - Live at Leeds
Where?

The Who rock opera appreciation here. You can see Woodstock 1969 for more. This is one of Pete Townshend‘s compositions before the Tommy (1968) album.

A Quick One, While He’s Away

On The Who Live at Leeds (recorded on 14th February, 1970) there’s a long and rambling explanation before this track, offering insights to the audience what it’s all about.

Pete Townshend does most of the talking, but drummer Keith Moon chips in with silly asides throughout.

Basically, the song tells the tale of a woman cheating on her partner. When the man returns from a period away, she tells him about her infidelity.

Ultimately, the man then forgives her and they get back together.

As a song it’s broken up into six short movements, essentially pop songs placed together leading towards a crescendo.

Townshend later described it as “Tommy’s parents”, referring to the full scale rock opera he completed in 1968.

It was written in 1966 for the band’s second album A Quick One. The album version isn’t all that great, but for the band’s thunderous live act it turns into something else.

And it’s at the six minute mark where the song really comes alive—The Who’s incredible live act back then doing wonders for it.

It’s performances like that where you realise this lot, aged around 24/25, really were a special group together.

And the above clip from London in 1969 highlights one of the odd things about The Who—the revolving singing act.

Roger Daltrey remains the band’s lead vocalist, but Pete Townshend and bass guitarist John Entwistle also had fantastic vocal ranges.

It’s Entwistle providing the impressive falsetto during the song. Guess it just wasn’t enough being a genius bass player, he had to have a great voice as well.

All that annoyed Keith Moon, who couldn’t sing very well. Eventually he went off to try anyway with the largely disastrous Two Sides of the Moon (1975).

Now all we want to do is create a tribute act—The Whom. Perfect name for such a thing, right?

25 comments

  1. The Who are a total institution! Incidentally, ‘Lisztomania’ is worth checking out if you haven’t seen it yet – a 1975 flick by Ken Russell in which Daltrey played Liszt and Ringo Starr played the Pope. Soundtrack by Liszt and Wagner, as re-interpreted by Rick Wakeman (who also appeared as Thor). A wonderful combination of crassness, silliness, tasteless digs at the Nazis and more. It shouldn’t have worked, largely didn’t… and yet… and yet… (Also the story in Daltrey’s very erudite autobiography about how he used one of the props from that movie to troll his neighbour is hilarious).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen Ken Russell’s Tommy, which is a quite mental take on the album. Very daft indeed, which inadvertently triggered off the legendary Oliver Reed and Keith Moon friendship.

      I should read Daltrey’s autobiography, though. I read Townshend’s from a few years back, but it’s a bit plodding and dull. He waited a bit too long to write it.

      Like

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