With The Who releasing a Super Deluxe Edition of their classic ‘The Who Sell Out’ this month, I thought I would have a delve into their back catalog to come up a couple of What-If albums. As it turns out, they cover the period after the aforementioned album came out.
The late 60s. Where bands who only a few years before would be seen wearing matching suits, they now they would be seen in the best Canary Street caftans and brightly colours outfits. Where music became a lot more experimental and harked back to the writers youth referring to children’s books and the music hall traditional. Well, that’s what happened in the UK anyway. Even The Who, the ultimate R&B Mod band went all floral jackets and freaked out with songs such as ‘Armenia City In The Sky’ and ‘I Can See For Miles’. It was also the era when ideas where thrown out left, right and centre about what a band were going to do and in their manager Kit Lambert, The Who had a man with ideas to burn. It was he that is credited with convincing Pete Townshend to move away from conventional song writing and move into something more mature. Townshend had produced the song ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’, which had six distinct movements. It would also lead to ‘Tommy’, the album that turned The Who from international hitmakers into a creative force to be reckoned with.
Lambert didn’t just save his ideas fro Townshend though. He also had some ideas for the bands bass player, John Entwistle. Lambert recognised Entwistle’s talent for writing quirky songs that could possibly appeal to children, so what if an album had been released made up of John’s songs for that market. This would not be the first time that a major 60s artist had released an album geared toward children. Donovan had released a double album called ‘A Gift From A Flower To A Garden’ where the second disc was made up of nursery rhyme style songs for younger listeners. However, Entwistle didn’t write songs in that vein, but about nasty old men who kept all their money to themselves and spiders. Supposedly, Entwistle completed fitteen songs for the project before it went the way of many a Who project and disappeared into the mists of time. Some of these songs were released by The Who on the B-Sides of singles as well as as the odd album track. However, what if this album had been put together and released in 1968 as The Who didn’t put out an album themselves that year (even though a hodgepodge of outtakes and singles was mooted called ‘Anyone For Tennis’). What do we have?
Well, the answer to that is not a lot. Not all of those fifteen songs were recorded at the time as far as I can tell, and if they were, they have not seen the light of day. Some of them may well have been used for a late 90s animated show called Van-Pires. Bogeyman from that show could well be a retitling of the song ‘She’s A Witch’, which has also been known as ‘Horrid Olive’. This song has been shown to date form a demo recorded in 1970. There were only eight Entwistle songs to choose from, and they were short songs at that. Even for the 60s, a ten song album of just over 20 minutes would have been a bit short. There, I included two songs, which featured on the ‘Ready Steady Who’ EP. Even though they were covers, they do fit into the theme of the album. These were the theme to the Batman television series and Barbara-Ann, originally recorded by The Regents but this version shares a similar arrangement to the one The Beach Boys had produced. The 60s Batman show was directed towards children and Barbara-Ann has a certain amount of charm about it that it fits in better here than it did on the original Who EP. All of the information contained below relate to UK release dates as well as that territories versions of singles and LPs.
Doctor Doctor – Originally released on the B-Side to the ‘Pictures of Lily’ single (1967). If nothing else, this song sounds like a child going to the Doctors and complaining about all that is wrong with him. The bit a bit making a will though might not be so child like.
Boris The Spider – Originally released on the album ‘A Quick One’ (1966). The first song Entwistle ever wrote and he said it only took six minutes to do so. It was inspired by a night out with Rolling Stone’s bass player Bill Wyman, where they would give animals funny names. Entwistle came up with Boris the Spider and a staple of live Who performances for the next few years was born.
Someone’s Coming – Originally released as the B-Side to the ‘I Can See For Miles’ single (1967). Not really a children’s song as it deals with a man who wants to see his girlfriend but her parents ban her from seeing him. They only time they get to meet is when she takes her dog for a walk.
In The City – Originally released as the B-Side to the “I’m A Boy’ single (1966). A co-write with Who drummer, Keith Moon and shows Moon’s love of The Beach Boys as it mentions surfing, but I am not sure how much surfing anyone could have done in a British City.
Batman – Originally released on the EP ‘Ready Steady Who’ (1966). Written by Neal Hefti and was the opening theme to the popular TV Show that ran from 1966 to 1968.
I’ve Been Away – Originally released as the B-Side to the single ‘Happy Jack’ (1966). A revenge story from man who has spent time in prison after being found guilty of a crime his brother had committed.
Whiskey Man – Originally released on the album ‘A Quick One’ (1966). The story of a man and his imaginary drinking buddy, who only ever seems to be there when the protagonist drinks. You might think that a song about a man who drinks too much and is put in a padded cell would be inappropriate for a children’s album, but this was the 60s. Kids programmes such as Doctor Who would show characters smoking and in Camberwick Green, Windy Miller is unable to do his job after having drunk himself to sleep on very strong cider.
Silas Stingy – Originally released on the album ‘The Who Sell Out’ (1967). A perfect fit for this album as it tells the story of a man who is so tight with his money that children take the piss out of him for it. He is also so worried about it being stolen that he buys so much stuff to protect his cash that he bankrupts himself.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde – Originally released as the B-Side to the single ‘Call Me Lightning’ (1968). Written about the problems Keith Moon was having with drink and how he was one person when sober and another when drunk. This is the slightly longer UK version of the song.
Barbara Ann – Originally released on the EP ‘Ready Steady Who’ (1966).
Would this album have come out in the 60’s? Not a chance. It would have involved Entwistle not having any of his songs performed on any Who record up to 1968, the year in which Kit Lambert put forward the idea of a children album in the first place and having the foresight to have enough material to fit a solo LP, when that sort of thing was rare in that period. As an album, it fits together nicely and I was quite surprised that all of the songs were available on Spotify.
- Doctor, Doctor
- Boris The Spider
- Someone’s Coming
- In The City
- I’ve Been Away
- Whiskey Man
- Silas Stingy
- Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde
- Barbara Ann
The LPs sleeve has been taken from the back cover of his 1972 solo album Whistle Rhymes which fits perfectly with the theme of the LP. A picture of the man himself from the late 1960s is now where the sun was. A Track Records logo and text were added.