As soon as I say “no one ever talks about this song,” the Contrary Brigade descends, claiming that they do SO talk about these songs, and these are their FAVORITE songs, thanks VERY much. That may be true, but I wanted to give a little shout-out to some of the songs I don’t see mentioned as often as the usual Baba O’Riley/Pinball Wizard/My Generation fare. The littler songs that I also have a soft spot for. And since the Who are going to be in L.A. later this month (and I’ve had tickets since last year, before the tour had to be postponed), I wanted to write a thing about them. I’m excited, guys!
Honorary Mention: Boris the Spider – Simply put, an autobiographical song by John Entwistle about a grown man being frightened of spiders and squashing one such specimen with a large book. Nifty little song when your evening is in need of a little quirk. From the album A Quick One.
10. Tattoo – Track off The Who Sell Out (best album title ever), “Tattoo” is a soft song of rebellion, while poking some light fun at gender norms. The instrumentation is atypical of the Who’s usual boisterous sound, and there’s some nice vocal harmony work in it.
9. Tea and Theatre – Track off Endless Wire. What I love about this song is it’s a representation of what the Who is now. Yes, Zak, Pino, and Simon round out the touring Who. And they do an incredible job. No one could dream of more. But they are not the Who. Not quite. The Who as they originally were is over. Has been since before I was born (we had already lost Keith). What remains of that Who is Roger, Pete, and a guitar. And that’s all this song is. Equally stinging and healing at the same time.
8. 905 – Track off Who Are You. John Entwistle writes a THX-1138 style sci-fi song. That is all.
7. Blue, Red and Grey – Track off The Who by Numbers. Pete Townshend accompanies his own vocals with a ukulele. A nice unexpected burst of optimism. It’s about how any moment of the day can be beautiful. Well, okay, it’s actually, basically, a love song, but proper charming.
6. However Much I Booze – Another track off The Who by Numbers. Kind of the opposite of the previous song on the list. Pete takes lead vocals again to talk about feeling fake and trapped and not believing there’s a way to escape your situation. Even if you try to drink the feeling off every night, the next morning, you’ll start the vicious cycle all over again. But accompanied by rollicking rock music.
5. Dogs (Part 2) – Track off the compilation album Two’s Missing. No, it’s not that there’s some brilliance you’re not getting. This song has no business being this high on the list. I just really like it. I thought I read somewhere that it was the non-LP B-side to “Pinball Wizard,” but the Deluxe Edition of Tommy is how I discovered this song. This track is mostly frenetic drumming from Keith and a bunch of barking dogs. No, no, it’s fun, really.
4. Water – Track off the Two’s Missing and Odds and Sods compilations. Again, I came to this through a Deluxe Edition, but of a different album, Who’s Next. Very bluesy, this song. Just cool. Well, arguably, very slightly sexist. But I think it was mostly about trying to get a drink of water at Woodstock or something.
3. I Don’t Even Know Myself – Bonus track off Who’s Next (this is getting a little ridiculous, it’s probably other places too, I am TRYING to site my sources). The lyrics make it it one of those, “you think you know me?! You don’t know me!” angry, borderline pretentious teenager songs that Pete continued to write well into his adulthood. But that’s what I like about it. And the music bit, obviously.
2. The Quiet One – Track off Face Dances (yes, Kenny Jones is the drummer on this track, step off) that’s anything but quiet. Another one by Entwistle, about how just because he doesn’t smash up his musical equipment, he’s been labeled “the quiet one,” and that’s total bullshit, and maybe everyone else is actually too loud. Did you ever think of that? Hmmm? I fond this song very relatable. This dude’s my hero.
1. The Real Me – Track off Quadrophenia. Yeah, okay, there’s a good chance this is the best known song on this list, but I don’t care how much you talk about it or play it, it’s not enough (and aside from my dad, no one has ever brought this song up in conversation with me. I always have to bring it up). This song is the best thing that’s happened. Ever. In the history of the world. Why aren’t you listening to it right now?! What’s wrong with you?! THIS is rock and roll. THIS is simultaneously mod (stop arguing with me). This is, if I may bring up Entwistle again (yes, I may), the greatest bass recording for any track off anything (STOP arguing with me). And do you want to hate him a little more? That pesky Entwistle? He didn’t know that they were recording. Yeah. He was just joking around when he played that madness. That’s not how the bass part was even supposed to go! And Pete’s writing is ON POINT here. Both the lyrics (rebellious teen again) and the music. It’s just…it’s just…just…perfect. There’s nothing about this song that isn’t incredible. And the way the song’s original ending blends into the next track (the title track, “Quadrophenia”), gives me chills every damn time. I’m gonna stop writing so can go listen to it now.