Monday, August 25, 2008

Who 4: Magic Bus

They’d been picking up a cult following thanks to their live show, but in the era of the high-speed mid-‘60s release schedule, the Who were woefully behind. Their American record company wasn’t helping either.
The Magic Bus—The Who On Tour album was a particularly stupid idea, made worse by not even giving the audience what they needed. Three of the songs were already on Who albums, and the selection of stray B-sides was pretty arbitrary. It does have one version of “Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde”, John’s reaction to rooming with Keith, which was ignored in the ‘90s catalog revamp. “Call Me Lightning”, “Pictures Of Lily” and the so-called title track were all singles, included along with two Ox B-sides (“Someone’s Coming” and “Doctor Doctor”) plus a few tracks from a year-old British EP. Given the selection of tracks that could have been included—perhaps prohibited by ongoing legal disputes—a much more enjoyable album could have been compiled but wasn’t. (The UK Direct Hits collection, released around the same time, came closer as more of a best-of compilation, but still missed the mark widely.)
The biggest offense of the album was the subtitle, which misled fans into thinking it was a collection of live tracks. The band had considered releasing such an album, from such hip venues as the Fillmore East, but hadn’t been satisfied with any of the results. Looking back, it’s hard to say whether it would have made a difference. This album killed very little time, and the band needed to make a splash soon, or die trying.

The Who Magic Bus—The Who On Tour (1968)—2
Current CD equivalent: none

1 comment:

  1. Until CD’s and the Internet came along, a lot of us just assumed that this was The Who’s real fourth album, like we assumed that “Flowers” was a real Stones album. Like that album, the record company cobbled it together using material previously unreleased in the US and stuff from the two previous albums. At least “Flowers” was padded out with three big singles. However, the three tracks U.S. Decca chose, rather obscure, are inexplicable, unless they wanted to get a couple of Pete lead vocals on the record.

    Nowadays, this is almost just for collectors, since most of the tracks are available elsewhere in MUCH better sound. It does take some effort to find this U.S. single mix of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". It’s a good tune for Halloween. The CD copy that I got a hold of has the biggest find – a TRUE STEREO mix of “Magic Bus” that has to be heard through headphones. I’m not sure if this had been released somewhere else.