Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Who - Jigsaw Puzzle

The Who – Jigsaw Puzzle
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  I’m A Boy
2.  Run Run Run
3.  Don’t Look Away
4.  Circles
5.  I Need You (Like I Need a Hole In My Head)
6.  Showbiz Sonata

Side B:
7.  In The City
8.  Boris The Spider
9.  Whiskey Man
10.  See My Way
11.  Man With The Money
12.  Barbara Ann

This, the second in a series of alternate Who albums, is a reconstruction of the unreleased Who album Jigsaw Puzzle, which evolved into their 1966 album A Quick One (or Happy Jack, depending on your continent).  Originally intended to showcase each member of The Who as a figurehead by allowing each to write their own half of an LP side, the concept was scrapped due to a lack of quality material and was rescued by Townshend’s seminal mini-rock opera “A Quick One While He’s Away”, which replenished the scrapped material  and occupied the remaining LP side.  This reconstruction is all in its original mono—as early Who should!—and uses the best possible mastering available.  Unique mono mixes were made of some songs which never received a proper vintage mono mix.

After the success of The Who’s singles “My Generation” and “Substitute” that emphasized the songwriting talents of guitarist Pete Townshend, the public greatly anticipated the band’s sophomore album.  In June 1966, The Who recorded a trio of solid tracks for the follow-up single to “Substitute”: “Disguises”, “I’m A Boy” and the John Entwhistle/Keith Moon collaboration “In The City."  Although “Disguises” was originally earmarked for single release, its position was overpowered by “I’m A Boy”, the best and probably most idiosyncratic song The Who had in their repertoire at this point.  Originally written as part of a scrapped rock opera called Quads, “I’m a Boy” told the story of a boy whose parents wished he was a girl, and was performed with a dramatic power-pop arrangement that only The Who could muster.  It turned out to be their highest-charting single to date, and The Who began to collect original compositions for an album while simultaneously recording non-original compositions in August destined for their live residency on the Ready Steady Go!  program (“Barbara Anne”, “Man With The Money”, “Batman” and “Heatwave”). 

But Townshend wasn’t alone in the strive to compose original material; manager Kit Lambert (who had asserted himself also as The Who’s producer) secured a new publishing deal that could make the whole band a bit of cash, but the other members were required to write at least two songs each.  Taking Kit’s request to heart, the Jigsaw Puzzle album was originally conceived as a way to exploit this publishing deal by prominently featuring each member of The Who as a lead songwriter, thus making a virtual four-part solo album in which each member of The Who received their half of an LP-side (a concept later revisited in 1973 for the Quadrophenia album). 

Recording at IBA, Pye and CBS studios at the tail end of September and the first week of October, The Who tracked just under an album’s worth of material for Jigsaw Puzzle with the four-part-solo-album concept in mind.  Townshend offered his own “Don’t Look Away”, “Run Run Run” (a song he had originally given to the band The Cat) and “So Sad About Us” (a song he had originally given to The Mercies); lively Keith Moon contributed his snide snub of John Lennon “I Need You” and the instrumental “Showbiz Sonata” (later retitled “Cobwebs and Strange”); stoic John Entwhistle contributed his own compositions “Whiskey Man” and the now-classic “Boris The Spider”; and Roger Daltrey’s sole contribution was his “See My Way.”  The Who also recorded a new, longer and more elaborate version of “I’m A Boy” intended for Jigsaw Puzzle, as well as a cover of “Bucket T” and a new version of “My Generation” coupled with “Land of Hope and Glory”, again both intended for both Ready Steady Go! and it’s accompanying soundtrack EP, Ready Steady Who! 

By November 1966 the official announcement was made of Jigsaw Puzzle’s release on December 1st.  The official tracklist was as follows… Side A: I’m A Boy / Run Run Run / Don’t Look Away / Circles / I Need You / Showbiz Sonata.  Side B: In The City / Boris The Spider / Whiskey Man / See My Way / Heat Wave / Barbara Ann.  The problem occurred when astute fans notice a majority of the album had already been heard before: Both “I’m A Boy” and “Circles” had been an A-side and B-side respectively; “Run Run Run” had already been covered by The Cat; “In The City” had already appeared as the B-side to “I’m A Boy”; “Barbara Ann” was already released on the Ready Steady Who EP that same month!  Of the twelve album tracks, half of them were nowhere near being new. 

The Who must have been wise to this fact and that month the album was completely restructured.  Returning to the studio in the midst of touring, the band cut their next single, “Happy Jack” b/w “I’ve Been Away.”  They also cut a song meant to replace the redundant Jigsaw tracks, a song so quintessentially The Who in this period that it could only become the title track of this new, reborn album.  It was a nine-minute epic that functioned as a mini-rock opera, a collection of suites that formed a narrative about infidelity and reconciliation: “A Quick One While He’s Away.”  Using this as well as their fine rendition of “So Sad About Us” from October and a cover of “Heatwave” from their August Ready Steady Who sessions to replace “I’m A Boy”, “Circles”, “In The City” and “Barbara Ann”, a completely new album emerged: A Quick One (although “Heatwave” was replaced with “Happy Jack” in America, and instead being used as the album’s title track).  Although A Quick One became The Who’s sound-defining album of the 60s that initiated the creative trajectory of the band’s entire career, are we able to reassemble this jigsaw puzzle? 

The first step is source material.  It is very relevant that A Quick One signaled the beginning of Kit Lambert as an active producer of the band and the effects of this are immediate.  Although Lambert was a fine manager, music promoter and possibly even filmmaker, he was an awful record producer and the sound quality of A Quick One often sounds inconsistent, moving in and out of clarity.  After A/B’ing numerous masters and needledrops of A Quick One, I have determined that this is just simply how the album sounds, and no mastering of the album will fix “Run Run Run”.  Perhaps it was supposed to sound like garbage?  I have also determined that the very best master of the album is the latest HDtracks 2014 remaster, which features the most rich and robust sound and is often the most pristine, considering the sound of the album. 

The track order is an easy task, as The Who published Jigsaw Puzzle’s initial tracklisting and the songs are all readily available to reconstruct the album.  While at first it appears to be a fairly random assortment of songs The Who just simply had finished at the time, a closer inspection will reveal it’s organization: that Side A are all Townshend and Moon compositions and Side B are all Entwhistle and Daltrey compositions (note that since Daltrey’s original vision of The Who were as interpreters of cover songs, the two covers of “Heatwave” and “Barbara Ann” are included within his section of the album).  In attempt to create a conceptual continuity within this series of alternate Who albums, we will replace “Heatwave” since it was already featured on my previous reconstruction Introducing The Who.  Its replacement will be a different cover song: The Everly Brothers’ “Man With The Money” since it featured a fairly elaborate, album-worthy arrangement, not to mention Entwhistle had specifically stated in an April 1966 article that an Everly Brothers song was intended for their second album! 

As with my previous Who reconstruction Introducing The Who, we will only use the song’s original mono mixes, as that was the way they were intended to be mixed as; any listen to the awkward  stereo  mixes will tell you!  That is an easy task for all but the long October version of “I’m A Boy”, which only has been released as a modern stereo mix.  Luckily, the stereo mix featured elements prominently hard-panned left or right, so in splitting the left and right channels and mixing them separately I was able to create a mono mix that fit the rest of the album, specifically using “I Need You" (which seemed to feature a similar instrumental arrangement) as a reference.  Likewise, a mono mix of “Man With The Money” has not been released, so we collapse the stereo and rebuild a monophonic mix using “Don’t Look Away” as a reference. 

How does this jigsaw puzzle compare to a quick one?  As with the previous Who alternate album, this listener enjoys it much more!  It is surely missing a quintessential Who track, but I personally don’t believe they’d truly ‘nail’ the title track anyways until at least their 1968 performance of “A Quick One While He’s Away” on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, not to mention the penultimate version featured on 1970’s Live At Leeds.  In that case it is a welcomed trade for this superb version of “I’m A Boy”, as well as “Circles” and “In The City”—smaller trees in The Who’s forest they might be, but the pair improve the atmosphere and create a slightly more horn-driven sound.  And although we lose the fantastic “So Sad About Us”, we have a more well-rounded album as a whole.  So what is next for The Who?  Maybe a better question to ask is... who’s Lily? 

Sources used:
A Quick One (2014 HDtracks mono remaster)
A Quick One (1995 Polydoor CD remaster)
Who’s Missing Two’s Missing (2011 Japanese SHM-SACD remaster)

flac --> wav --> SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
* md5 files, track notes and artwork included