So Sad About Us: Influential The Who Song Obscured by History

The Who's song So Sad About Us on vinyl

Here’s a curiosity from The Who in the band’s mid-’60s heyday. So Sad About Us wasn’t really as a single (oddly enough), but has gone on to become one of The Who’s most influential songs.

There are many covers of from bands over the decades, such as with The Jam’s 1970s version, and you can kind of tell why when you have a listen to it.

The Who’s Obscure Little Number is So Sad About Us

So Sad About Us is a simple, forlorn love song. Guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend covered a numbered of these in the ’60s, not least with the bittersweet single Substitute.

But Townshend actually wrote the song for Liverpool beat band The Merseybeats. This band performed in the city’s famous Cavern Club, where The Beatles first made their name.

Lyrically it’s clear what’s going on here.

So sad about us,
So sad about us.

Sad that the news is out now,
Sad, suppose we can’t turn back now,
Sad about us.

So bad about us,
So bad about us.

Bad, never meant to break up,
Bad, suppose we’ll never make up,
Bad about us.

Apologies mean nothing,
When the damage is done,
But you can’t switch off my lovin’,
Like you can’t switch off the sun.

The song was recorded in October 1966 in London and released with the A Quick One album (more on that further below).

We really like So Sad About Us, it captures The Who’s R&B infused, chaotic, but bittersweet years very well. But the production of the song is a bit different to their other songs, as it feels like it’s live.

Everything is loud and in your face, particularly Townshend’s guitar and drummer Keith Moon’s restrained playing (see, anti-Moon folks, he could tone it down when necessary).

Strangely enough, The Who never released this one as a single. We couldn’t find any information about why, but it seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity. Although the band did perform it live, it’d dropped off their live set by the time 1968 rolled around.

It remains one of The Who’s more obscure songs to the general public. Tucked away on A Quick One, probably the band’s most forgotten album really.

Considering what The Who did after 1966, with Tommy and everything else, it’s not too surprising to see something like So Sad About Us disappear behind an immense catalogue of stadium rocking anthems.

But… the humdinger here is it does have an incredible legacy as one of the band’s most influential songs.

The Many Covers of So Sad About Us

Due to its raw, punky sound and unpolished production, So Sad About Us remains The Who’s most covered song by many other bands.

You’d think it’d be My Generation or other classic singles, but no… it’s So Sad About Us. And you can kind of see why, with its basic structure and catchy hooks.

Townshend had this knack of capturing youthful angst, particularly set to the backdrop of the Sixties and the Mod movement. The Who, with the band’s fashion sense of jackets and giant targets on t-shirts, pretty much personified the Mod movement.

And when pelting relatable songs like this out for a youthful audience, it’s no surprise they could hit the mark time and time again.

As it’s also a song pretty much anyone can have a go at—it encourages a singalong, so why not? Like this version by American actor and singer Shaun Cassidy (brother of David Cassidy).

With the passage of time we must note modern bands don’t seem to cover it much.

But the song was still receiving covers as late as 1992. American indie band The Breeders did a decent version.

And, hell, we feel like throwing together a cover of our own right now: Professional Moron Sings So Sad About Us. You’d buy that single, right? Of course you would!

A Quick Look at the A Quick One Album (1966)

The Who’s 1966 album A Quick One was the band’s second album. It launched in December 1966 in the UK, with a different version launching in the US in April 1967.

At that time, The Who was heavily influenced by American R&B, soul, jazz, and other stuff. So the album features an energetic cover of Holland–Dozier–Holland’s Heat Wave (above). The album wraps up with Townshend’s mini-opera A Quick One, While He’s Away.

The album is also notable as Townshend didn’t take full songwriting duties, with bassist John Entwistle contributing the oddity Boris the Spider. Keith Moon even wrote a song, it’s called I Need You.

Apparently, he’s also responsible for the chaotic, hyperactive instrumental Cobwebs and Strange. We guess this one is an audio depiction of the general stuff going on in Moon’s brain.

There’s no denying A Quick One is a bit of an odd album. Almost directionless, to be honest, but hinting at the future for a band destined for superstar status.

It’s a mishmash of ideas, combined with the band’s sense of humour, that makes for what’s actually a great little album. And you can see Townshend, who took over creative leadership for the next album, led everything in a much more structured route for 1967’s concept album The Who Sell Out.

And so A Quick One marked the first initial steps away from The Who being just another singles band.

In fact, it lay down the groundwork for what was ahead—big rock opera spectacle and all that jazz. Which, sadly, left no room for So Sad About Us.

Dispense with some gibberish!

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