Strait to the Point: THE WHO – Odds & Sods

Review by: Michael Strait

Just fanservice. A nice lil bunch of curiosities for the completionist.

A bonus review for a bonus album – fair, wouldn’t ya say? This was a collection of outtakes, rarities and other such collectors’ items released originally to fill a free year, then re-released in 1998 with more than twice as many tracks for the obsessives and completionists. I don’t really feel like there’s much point in giving it any sort of rating, so instead I’m just gonna give a quick overview of what’s on here.

There’s a rough, though not rigid, chronological order here. We start with “I’m The Face” – a pleasant little R&B tune that was one side of the first single The Who ever released, back when they were called The High Numbers – and we end with “Naked Eye”, a song that can also be found on the bonus track edition of Who’s Next. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any outtakes from the Quadrophenia sessions, although “Water” has enough dull musicianship and rawk gawd posturing to sound like one. Aside from that one, though, the Who’s Next outtakes are pretty much all totally awesome, and a couple of ’em even sound better than some of the album tracks. What did we do to deserve “Gettin’ In Tune” instead of “Put The Money Down”? The latter’s great – it’s all mountainous and monolithic like the best songs on that album, but it’s also got some convincingly macho swagger and a nice sense of humour. “Time Is Passing” ain’t bad either, though the country ‘n’ western parody at the beginning is maybe a leetle too arch for a bunch of middle-class Englishmen. Then again, they don’t shy away from self-parody on this thing either – just listen to “Long Live Rock”! Ridiculous tune, but it pretty much entirely eliminates the need for AC/DC’s “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, and, come to think of it, does a great job parodying just about every single 80s hair metal band before any of them even existed. It’s no necessity, but as far as joke songs go it ain’t bad at all.

Most of the other stuff is kinda scattered. There are two more joke songs: “Now I’m A Farmer”, notable mostly for some lead vocal silliness from Moon, and “Little Billy”, which sounds like a silly Entwistle song even though Townshend apparently wrote it. There’s also “Cousin Kevin Model Child”, which I guess is a joke song of some kind, but which elicited a verbal, audible reaction of “What the fuck is this shit?” from me when I heard it; skip it, and also skip the studio version of “Young Man Blues” (super corny imitation-American accents ruin it), the rock version of “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand” (no less boring for all the rocking – in fact, possibly more boring for being longer), “Too Much Of Anything” (too much of nothing, more like), and “My Way” (a fairly generic Eddie Cochran cover). There’s a bunch of other stuff which is only really interesting from a historical perspective, like “Leaving Here” (Daltrey’s first attempt at machismo on the mic), “Faith In Something Bigger” (a perfectly pleasant early pop tune that ultimately lacks identity), and “Under My Thumb” (a cover of the Rolling Stones song that fails because it’s one of those songs only Mick Jagger could sing properly). There are, however, some gems buried here: “Baby Don’t You Do It”, which contains some excellent drunken angst-over-breakup from Daltrey and some more of that destructive guitar feedback Townshend left behind after the debut; “Glow Girl”, which is a nice, psychy little pop tune that ends on a genderswapped version of that “it’s a boooy, Mrs. Walker, it’s a boooy” bit from Tommy (no idea which was written first); “Pure And Easy”, which sounds kind of like one of them endearingly corny Yes pop songs from their earlier albums; and “We Close Tonight”, which confuses me because it’s got elements you tend to find in early Who songs coexisting with the trappings of their later stuff, but which sounds cool anyway. 

The three I haven’t commented on – the studio version of “Summertime Blues”, the rock version of “Love Ain’t For Keeping” and the Entwistle tune “Postcard” – are all unspecial, unremarkable but nonetheless pretty good tracks that wouldn’t stink up your collection if you felt the need to have ’em. I’m not a big Who fan, personally, so I doubt I’ll be returning to this very often, but it’s a nice little gesture to the fans. Also, I can’t deny that it’s kind of interesting to hear The Who’s career trajectory represented here in miniature; in just an hour and 20 minutes you get pretty much the entire story of The Who’s existence up to this point, and it’s a nice reminder that they were, for all their faults, a supremely interesting and unique band that were never content to remain in one place for very long. Vitality flows through the veins of this record, even on the bad songs – let’s just see how long they could keep that up…