The WHO – ” Happy Jack ” May 20th 1967

Posted: May 20, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The Who’s American Album Chart Debut

The American market wasn’t fully ready for The Who when they made their album debut with ‘My Generation’ at the end of 1965. Second time around, they cracked it, winning their first appearance on the US album chart 48 years ago today, on May 20th, 1967 — but only after a delayed release and a title change.

With the US release coming five months after the UK, The Who’s American label, Decca Records, decided that the band’s second LP ‘A Quick One’ should be renamed there for their song that was climbing the Hot 100 at the time. ‘Happy Jack’ had been a top three UK hit in January, but wasn’t included on the album ‘A Quick One.’ That wouldn’t do for Decca, who removed the album’s one cover a nod back to their soul and R&B roots with a cover of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas ‘Heat Wave’ — and replaced it with ‘Happy Jack,’ which would become The Who’s first US top 30 hit in early June. The song features Roger Daltrey on lead vocals with John Entwistle singing the first verse, making it one of the few songs composed by Pete Townshend to feature Entwistle on lead vocals. Author Mike Segretto describes Daltrey’s vocal as “imitating Burl Ives”. At the tail end of “Happy Jack”, Townshend can be heard shouting “I saw you!”; it is said that he had noticed drummer Keith Moon trying to join in surreptitiously to add his voice to the recording, something the rest of the band would try to prevent (Moon had a habit of making the other members laugh). critic Dave Marsh calls this line “the hippest thing” about the song.

According to some sources, Townshend reported the song is about a man who slept on the beach near where Townshend vacationed as a child. Children on the beach would laugh at the man and once buried him in the sand. However, the man never seemed to mind and only smiled in response. According to Marsh, “the lyric is basically a fairy tale, not surprisingly, given the links to Pete’s childhood”.

Daltrey reportedly thought the song sounded like a “German oompah song”. But Chris Charlesworth praised the “high quirky subject matter” and “fat bass and drums that suspend belief”. Charlesworth particularly praised Moon’s drumming for carrying not just the beat, but also the itself, in what he calls “startlingly original fashion”.

The album also featured one of John Entwistle’s best-loved songs, ‘Boris The Spider’ (a title that he and Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman came up with after a night out drinking); two Keith Moon compositions, ‘I Need You’ (his first-ever song for the band) and the highly percussive ‘Cobwebs and Strange’; and a mod favourite that the band are currently reviving on their ‘Who Hits 50’ anniversary tour, ‘So Sad About Us.’

Happy Jack back

After ‘A Quick One’ reached No. 4 in the UK in January, the ‘Happy Jack’ version opened on Billboard’s Top LPs at No. 184, in between albums by Jimmy Ruffin and Dean Martin. It climbed steadily for the next nine weeks, peaking at No. 67 in June.

 

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