Monday, 4 September 2017
The Who: Non-Album Recordings Part One 1964-1967
The back of the acetate featured a tentative early take on another Holland-Dozier-Holland song made famous by Marvin Gaye. The Who would finally release a 1971 cover of [13a] 'Baby Don't You Do It' as the B-side to 'Join Together' in 1971, but the first tentative stab from 1965 is also a pretty good cover, with a slower tempo and Roger singing as if he's depressed rather than angry. Pete and John sing backing vocals on this version, a merry chirrup of 'shoowap shoowap shoowap' that sound as if they're poking fun at their lead singer and his blues (given what's been said about this period of Who history, perhaps they were). Keith is the only Who member acting normally and he bangs the hell out of his kit, at least until Pete lets fly with a gloriously bonkers guitar solo that invents psychedelia a full two years early. The snarlier re-recording is much looser and clearly more a warm-up between old friends than a serious attempt to get the song on record. The 'shoo-bop' backing vocals have gone now, in favour of some gritty explosive guitar-work and Roger at his most extroverted and alive. A shame The Who never did this one live as that's where their rock and roll classics tended to best sing and dance, but in terms of purely studio-basedc covers it's arguably their best. Find it on: the 1965 version can be heard on the CD re-issue of 'Odds and Sods' (1998) and the 1971 version on the 'Who's Next' CD re-issue
A slightly more gentlemanly-sounding than normal Who also appeared at the BBC at the end of 1965 for a series of cover songs they never released on album.  'Good Lovin' - a hit for The Young Rascals not long before and almost a hit for The Grateful Dead about fifteen years later - sounds rather snappy, with Keith finding a real momentum in his drum-rolls and a high-pitched John making a good foil in the backing vocals to Roger's gutsy lead. Only Pete sounds a little under the weather, holding on to the song's relentless groove by his finger-nails. It's not as strong as the best of the band's 1965 recordings but it's good enough to make you wish they'd nailed a perfect take of it sometime when they weren't in so much of a hurry. Find it on: 'The BBC Sessions' (1999)
Ditto the band's final James Brown cover,  'Just You and Me (Darlin')' which suits Roger's squawk, John 'n' Pete's playful backing vocals and Keith's why-play-one-note-when-ten-at-once-will-make-the-point-quicker? style of playing but which features perhaps the most basic Townshend guitar solo he ever recorded. It's a lot better and Who-like than 'I Don't Mind' or 'Please Please Please' and The Who are really entering their stride during the last verse (Pete ad libbing a 'don't you know that's right darlin!' for good measure). They haven't quite nailed the song here, but it's a worthy try and this could have been a really nice cover had it been done under normal recording circumstances instead of being played for a load of bored white-coated engineers at the BBC. Find it on: 'The BBC Sessions' (1999)
Though fans know it best as the lead song on the November 1966 EP 'Ready Steady Who!' actually  'Circles' aka 'Instant Party' belongs with the bulk of songs recorded during the band's final days on Brunswick for Shel Talmy. In fact it was intended as the follow-up to 'My Generation' ahead of 'Substitute' before The Who's split with the label meant that Talmy and Brunswick were set on a course of destruction, renaming the song and making it a mere B-side. Given the late 1965 vintage this song is impressively psychedelic (to the point where we named it the 'second earliest example of AAA psychedelia' in one of our website columns yonks back, losing out only to The Searchers' 'He's Got No Love') and way ahead of its time. Roger's narrator is so head over heels in love that he can't function properly and everything is going round in 'circles' - cue some gloriously and suitably heavy psychedelic band interplay as Pete tries to make his droning guitar sound like a sitar. An early template for what will become 'I Can See For Miles', it features Roger as the 'centre' while all hell breaks loose around him and The Who all appear to be playing different songs - a pretty good summary of the narrator's no-doubt acid-enhanced emotional breakdown. The moment when Roger's lonely disorientated soul is joined by Pete and John's harmonies us truly moving, even if Keith is forever looking to trip them up and start the manic feeling of alienation all over again. Given what else was around in the charts in 1965 this is impressive, mind-blowing stuff and really should have been a single (the contemporary of 'We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper' and 'Get Off My Cloud' it would surely have blown all the other opposition away). The Who's version is gloriously messy compared to the many cover versions of this song around (of which Les Fleurs De Leys' take included on the various artists box 'Nuggets' is best and adds a giddy little guitar riff that's in tight control until fading into feedback right at the very end; Pete's guitar is there all the way through the song by contrast, either and sometimes both side of the line of being in control). Two versions of the song exists - the superior earlier one was titled 'Instant Party' and released as the B-side of 'Substitute' by Talmy before a legal dispute with Brunswick saw it withdrawn and replaced by a completely different song which didn't even feature The Who - it finally came out 'officially' as the B-side of the 'unofficial' single 'A Legal Matter' which The Who tried (unsuccessfully) to block after they left the label. It's this version you can hear on the multiple CD re-issues of 'The Who Sings My Generation' down the years. A second version - a re-make that's as near to the original anyway except for being draped in busy John Entwistle brass - appeared on the 'Ready Steady Who' EP and is now pretty rare to find on CD (it's on 1987's rarities set 'Two's Missing'). Both are fabulous, but the more unencumbered original just has the edge.
Shel Talmy didn't quite understand what The Who wanted to call their song 'Circles' and got confused between another rather oddball song that was named on the tapebox as [ ] 'Instant Party Mixture', initially intended for the B-side of 'Circles' and left unreleased until 2002. Actually there's not much similarity between the two - 'Circles' is the future and 'Instant Party' is the past, perhaps the last of the retro Motown-style numbers in the band's set (though credited to Townshend the song is clearly lots of doo-wop and Motown songs stuck together, notably  'Shout and Shimmy' and 'Mr Bassman'). The Who may well have invented the 'party' album here mere months before The Beach Boys had the same concept! Pete and John shoo-wop their way through the entire song while leaving Roger to struggle with some impenetrable lyrics about a band 'playing groovy sounds'. Pete interrupts the song at one stage to mimic a cigarette advert and gets in a line about 'everybody's smoking it...' as close as they dare get to a drugs reference in this period, with the clue for clued-up drug users being that each verse ends with a certain word, umm, missing (thanks to interruptions from Pete) that's clearly meant to refer to a drug the band can't mention ('The reason why what I've seen is really hot...' refers to pot; 'He blasts the music - I'd like more thrills' is surely meant to rhyme with 'pills' and 'What makes Grandpa do the Monster Mash' makes no sense unless you assume it rhymes with 'hash'. Unless you seriously expect a writer as natural as Pete to simply skip rhy ming couplets altogether this early on in his career). though parents were probably more worried about the lines about a teenage couple 'waiting till their parents are in bed' before having some illicit fun. Together with John using his 'comedy bass voice' for the first time, this track feels like a dry-run for 'Who Sell Out', but it's nothing like as memorable. Find it on: the deluxe CD re-issue of 'The Who Sings My Generation' (2002)