Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Who 8: Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy

At the top of their game and with the end of legal limbo, the Who took the opportunity to look back with a collection of their earlier singles. Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy quickly runs awry of any straight chronology, but still presents a great sequence of their best songs, many of which hadn’t been on albums yet.
“I Can’t Explain” kicks us off, followed by the American edit of “The Kids Are Alright”. “Happy Jack” gives way to “I Can See For Miles”. “Pictures Of Lily” is the male version of unrequited pop star obsession later lived out by Sally Simpson. Then it’s back to “My Generation” before jumping ahead to “The Seeker”. The Who’s first new release after the triumph of Tommy, it has been called slight, but can you name any other contemporary songs by people of their stature that namechecked Dylan and the Beatles? It’s still a tough recording.
Side two opens with the cacophony of “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere”, followed by “Pinball Wizard”. “A Legal Matter” was an unlikely choice for a single, though “Boris The Spider” perhaps could have been huge. “Magic Bus” is included in a rare long version that’s still unavailable on CD, and it’s still a truly stupid song. “Substitute” was another great single that somehow doesn’t seem to fit between the first two albums, and neither does “I’m A Boy”. Its single version is better, but the long version included here explores the horns more, with an extra verse too.
Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy delivers the hits and should-have-beens in a handy package that made it a must-own in the vinyl era. But it was not included when the Who’s catalog was revamped in the 1990s, a move that still angers most fans. Considering the repetition that did occur, this was a case where nobody would have complained, especially if other, later hits were added in to pad out the CD. Instead—just like in the ‘80s—the record company decided to issue a series of redundant hits albums, none of them coming close to the near-perfection of MBB&B. The closest thing in the catalog is The Ultimate Collection, a two-CD set that contains all the songs, albeit the shorter mixes of “Magic Bus” and “I’m A Boy”. (As for single CDs, My Generation—The Very Best Of The Who had 12 of the 14 songs and Then & Now had nine, both including the two short mixes.)

The Who Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy (1971)—4
Current CD equivalent: none


  1. "Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy" is available as a CD in both the USA and Canada. The Canadian version is preferred for sound quality. They are available through and

    The tracklisting is the same as on the LP, with the long version of "Magic Bus" and the alternate take of "I'm a Boy" etc:

  2. Thanks Paul. Can you confirm with your own ears that "Magic Bus" is the long version? Every Canadian CD I've tried has been the short one.