Friday, February 6, 2009

Who 15: Hooligans

Face Dances was enough of a hit to keep The Who’s old label, MCA, mindful of cashing in while they could. The Hooligans collection, a two-record set, appeared in late 1981, and is something of an expansion on the Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy idea with more of an emphasis on the ‘70s.
In an unfortunate premonition of the repackaging to come, the album opens with “I Can’t Explain”, “I Can See For Miles” and “Pinball Wizard”. However, that repetition is redeemed by the first US appearance of “Let’s See Action”, a post-Who’s Next single that Who freaks would have known from Pete’s version on Who Came First. This track is easily as good, with Nicky Hopkins on piano, good use of delay and Roger taking the verses before giving the bridge over to Pete. “Summertime Blues” from Leeds precedes “Relay”, another stopgap single that’s an acquired taste. Side two provides something of a distillation of Who’s Next, with the necessary inclusion of “Baba O’Riley” and “Behind Blue Eyes”, but leaving off “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in favor of “Bargain” and “The Song Is Over”.
“Join Together”, another single, starts off side three, then we jump ahead for “Slip Kid” and “Squeeze Box” before going back to 1973 for “The Real Me” and “5:15”. On side four, “Drowned” comes from Quadrophenia, and finishes with “Had Enough” (the Entwistle song, not the Quad track), “Sister Disco” and “Who Are You”.
The odd juxtapositions and repositioning notwithstanding, Hooligans is a worthwhile compilation. The inclusion of the three rare singles made it essential, but its usefulness would be trampled within two short years by the pointless cash-in of Who’s Greatest Hits. 1988’s Who’s Better, Who’s Best, released worldwide, was another two-record/single-CD set, but leaned heavily on the ‘60s. It’s a shame that with all the repackagings, we couldn’t simply have nice upgraded versions of Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy and Hooligans to keep the catalog concise and complete.

The Who Hooligans (1981)—4
Current CD equivalent: none

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