The Who – Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

Just as I am not into guitar heroics very much, I also tend to not get terribly worked up over drums. I hate excessive cymbal use (or really, almost any cymbal use) and I often feel like drums are mixed too loud. I do favor a tom-heavy approach, and perhaps that is why I love Keith Moon, maybe above all other drummers. Inventive, energetic, and not a little goofy, Moon is impressive as shit but never overwhelms the song.

What I Think of This Album

If you can only own one Who album, this is the one to get. It’s not the most comprehensive compilation – you are definitely missing out on later Who tracks, including the phenomenal, essential “Baba O’ Riley.” But it focuses on their early/best period like no other collection (at least, I assume), and song-for-song can’t be beat, presenting the Who as an energetic and powerful combo that could write catchy melodies with intelligent lyrics.

The album is made up of singles, with the exception of album track “Boris the Spider” and an alternate version of “I’m a Boy.” You get the short, sharp, shocks of “Can’t Explain,” with two cool solos (the second one is better) and rapid-fire fills from Moon; the pop majesty of “The Kids Are Alright;” and Moon showcase “Happy Jack,” with its happy harmonies and irresistible two note bass line (and a bit of studio chatter from Townshend at the very end). Intense and paranoid “I Can See for Miles,” with its stinging guitar part, follows, and then the very strange but hyper-enjoyable “Pictures of Lily,” which is the heartwarming tale of a father passing vintage pornography down to his son; it also has a weird and small French horn part from John Entwistle amidst a surprisingly robust arrangement. “My Generation” destroys everything in its path, but spares high-octane “The Seeker,” bluesy and spiritual, with its shout-outs to Dylan and the Beatles and nifty little piano part. “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” shoots bolts of feedback at the listener (backed by Moon’s furious drumming and more piano) – break this song down analytically and it’s a marvelous construction. I don’t even mind Daltrey’s ridiculous vocal performance.

I can honestly take or leave “Pinball Wizard,” though obviously Townshend’s guitar work is impressive. “A Legal Matter” has that great clean guitar line. I probably first heard “Boris the Spider” in fifth grade and thought it was dumb, and as an adult, I now regret that I was too charitable in my youthful assessment. To think that this garbage track could’ve been replaced with “So Sad About Us” or “Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand,” (or, you know, just about anything else). The restrained intensity of “Magic Bus” is wondrous to behold, with Moon playing a rhythm on the clave and Townsend’s acoustic strumming creating a thrilling tension. “Substitute” features excellent bass work from Entwistle, a cool acoustic part from Townshend, some very clever lyrics, and a sneering performance from Daltrey. “I’m a Boy” is about a boy raised as a girl, with some lovely harmonies, great drumming, and more Entwistlian French horn; I’ve never heard the single version of this song.

The title refers to the worst nicknames ever:  Meaty is the muscular Daltrey, Beaty is drummer Moon, Big is the tall Entwistle, and Bouncy is stage dervish Townshend.

The Best Thing About This Album

The drumming on “Happy Jack.”

Release Date

October, 1971

The Cover Art

Pretty good for a compilation, and if you stretch, it complements one of Townshend’s common lyrical themes of appearance v. reality.

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