[Review] The Who: Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy (1971)

This greatest hits collection is a great overview of The Who’s biggest hits so far, many unavailable on album until now.

Kronomyth 7.0: Seek no more.

Accept no substitute. These swingin’ singles justify every noisy experiment, outlandish concept or kinky kompliment that gummed up their early albums. Singlehandedly. Because The Who were consistently brilliant when it counted. I can see pictures of Lily for miles anyway anyhow anywhere I choose, thanks to Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy. Need proof that The Who were great out of the gate? Here’s 200 proof. There isn’t a song among these fourteen tracks that isn’t sharp for the attack. The Seeker. I Can’t Explain. M-M-My Generation. These lights didn’t dim with distance like All Day And All of the Night or A Hard Day’s Night. If goin’ mobile isn’t an option, I’ll take the magic bus without so much as a whimper.

There’s no question that, among their albums, Who’s Next is as solid as a collapsing star. But their early albums had holes. That’s because the band saved their best music for singles. Remember, British listeners treated singles and albums as separate entities. Singles were not simply promotional teasers but self-standing entities. Stacked atop one another as they are here, The Who’s early singles dwarf whatever achievements the early albums could muster (not to sell The Who Sell Out short). As a result, Meaty Beaty becomes not a superfluous sampler from their first four albums but a vital assembling of their early wonders, the foundation of their reputation. It’s the place to start, that first sheepish knock at the door, and a sanctuary for the weary fan who’s forgotten the first tender strains of love that prompted him or her to choose this course. I return to this album often because I need reminding, because A Quick One is slow going, because my roving eye wanders during their long-winded concept albums. And I listen. And I’m in love again.

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Original LP Version

A1. I Can’t Explain (2:05)
A2. The Kids Are Alright (2:42)
A3. Happy Jack (2:14)
A4. I Can See For Miles (3:55)
A5. Pictures of Lily (2:37)
A6. My Generation (3:15)
A7. The Seeker (3:12)
B1. Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere (2:35)
B2. Pinball Wizard (3:00)
B3. A Legal Matter (2:47)
B4. Boris The Spider (John Entwistle) (2:26)
B5. The Magic Bus (4:28)
B6. Substitute (3:47)
B7. I’m A Boy (3:42)

All songs written by Pete Townshend unless noted.

Original 8-track version
A1. I Can’t Explain
A2. Pictures of Lily
A3. Boris The Spide
A4. I’m A Boy
B1. The Kids Are Alright
B2. Happy Jack
B3. Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
B4. The Seeker
C1. I Can See For Miles
C2. A Legal Matter
C3. Substitute
D1. Pinball Wizard
D2. My Generation
D3. The Magic Bus

The Pictures

Photography by Graham Hughes. Cover design by Mike Shaw, Bill Curbishley.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on October 30, 1971 in the US and Canada (Decca, DL 79184/D6 9184) and on December 3, 1971 in the UK (Track, 2406 006) with gatefold cover; reached #9 on the UK charts and #11 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in January 1972 in Germany (Polydor, 2383 082) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (MCA, MCA/MCAC-1578).
  3. Re-issued on elpee and 8-track in 1973 in the US (MCA, MCA/MCAT-37001) {MCA Coral label}.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1977 in the US (MCA, MCA-3025) with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-issued on elpee and cassette on August 8, 1980 in the US (MCA, MCA/MCAC-37001) {cloud label}.
  6. Re-packaged with The Who By Numbers on 2-for-1 cassette in 1982 in the US (MCA, MCA2-6914).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc in 1985 in the US (MCA, MCAD-37001) {made in Japan}.
  8. Re-issued on compact disc in 1990 in Canada (MCA, 37001-2).
  9. Re-released on remastered 180g vinyl elpee in 2017 in the Netherlands (Polydor, 5774828).
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