The Vinyl Say 027: The Who

In every collection there are records that get played all the time, many of them for years, decades even. Then there are those that, while no less treasured, somehow fall by the wayside to lie in wait, ripe for rediscovery. This series chronicles some of those nuggets as they resurface from my own back pages.  So, put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record and it sounds like this…

The Who – Let’s See Action b/w When I Was a Boy (Track, 1971)

Got a little distracted there and haven’t posted for months, but when this beast of a 45 found its way to the top there’s no way I could ignore the blighter.

Written by Pete Townshend for the ill-fated Tommyfollow up project Lifehouse, ‘Let’s See Action’ was left off the subsequent Who’s Nextalbum and released instead as a stand alone single – unheard of today but not uncommon back then when labels would permit even the biggest acts to give the kids a little extra. It charted as well, 16 with a bullet.

As with much of Townshend’s output in the early 1970s it draws on the teachings of Meher Baba to make use of positive impulses from within, although Roger Daltrey reckoned the lyrics were prompted by his band mate’s anger at Who managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp’s inability to get excited by Lifehouse.

Anyway, it’s a monster of a tune, a proper boys’ song – all big chords, country runs, Daltrey taking the roof off as Entwistle’s rock solid performance shows Moon the way back home. But the stand out player is guest sideman Nicky Hopkins on piano, his honkytonk frills adding texture and flavour, although Townshend’s middle eight and outro breakdowns are a treat as well.

‘Let’s See Action’ also cropped up in demo form on Who Came First, Townsend’s first solo album as ‘Nothing Is Everything (Let’s See Action)’. 

But there’s more… the flip is an absolute peach. John Entwistle’s ‘When I Was a Boy’ finds the bassist contemplating the unruly journey to adulthood and not finding the destination is all it’s cracked up to be. Roger Daltrey’s rich vocals give the song an added air of despair accentuated by Entwistle’s plaintive French horn asides with Nicky Hopkins (again) on the keys and an uncharacteristically restrained Keith Moon shows he knew a thing or two about what was right for a song. 

‘When I Was a Boy’ is Entwistle at his mordant best – down but not out. 

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