The Who are an odd one for me. A few of their peers managed the same transition from being a “singles” group to an “albums” group, but for me the demarcation between the two phases of The Who’s career is notable, as prior to them going all in as an album focused act with their 1969 concept album, Tommy, I really struggle to appreciate their album output. From Tommy onwards, I appreciate their albums more, with their singles being an enjoyable sideline.
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, long held to be one of the greatest compilations of all time, covers The Who through their years as an iconic singles act, through the release of Tommy, with 1970’s standalone single “The Seeker” being their latest release on this compilation, and cutting off before they release Who’s Next.
Okay, so how good are these singles? Well, as you might expect from a band with the enduring reputation of The Who, each of them are iconic slices of RnB infused rock and roll, and there’s not a dud among them. Sure, there are some I prefer to others, but you can’t really quibble with Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy as a collection of material by The Who.
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy has riff-heavy rockers to playful psych-pop, and The Who could do it all. In Pete Townshend they boasted one of the great songwriters of his generation, John Entwistle kept the bottom and nailed down, and was a capable writer of light-hearted numbers which contrasted with Townshend’s work, and in Kith Moon they had one of the truly great rock and roll drummers. For me The Who’s weak link has always been Roger Daltrey. While the rest of the band were among the most iconic guitarists / bass players / drummers of rock and roll, Daltrey always seemed a bit second tier compared to the truly great frontmen of rock and roll,. Maybe this is a bit harsh, as no less an iconic frontman than Robert Plant owes more than a bit to Daltrey’s late 60s stage presence, but in the grand scheme of things, it took Plant to take it to the next level.
This compilation is 14 tracks of The Who in their 60s pomp, with their career in the ascendant. In retrospect, they were on a par with The Kinks in regards to amazing 60s singles, with both acts only being surpassed by The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Motown Records label in terms of iconic moments from the greatest decade for the seven inch single.