Monday, April 21, 2014

#744: The best Who best-of

Well, there isn't one. The best Who best-of package I've seen is their four-CD box set, THIRTY YEARS OF MAXIMUM R&B, and even it has gaps. I mean, completists must have screamed because "Athena" wasn't on it, and that was even sort of an actual hit. Though I think it's forgettable enough.
The thing that surprised me about the set was, I thought I knew these guys pretty well, that I'd heard a lot. But I was wrong. I LEARNED a lot. I still think MAXIMUM R&B is the best box set ever. The only REAL mark against it is there weren't enough liner notes from Pete Townshend, and he's written more about The Who than anyone, including Dave Marsh. Pete just decided he didn't feel like writing about the band anymore, that week.
Then awhile back I got a couple notes from Crabby and 2000 Man about how they didn't quite think The Who had enough great tracks to fill up a good best-of. I would most respectfully like to argue with that. I think The 'Oo have more than enough good stuff to fill up a best-of. It's just that MCA or whoever hasn't done justice to them.
To me, a decent Who overview would have to include:

I'm the Face
I Can't Explain
Anyway Anyhow Anywhere
My Generation
The Kids Are Alright
Happy Jack (for completists)
A Quick One While He's Away (ditto)
I Can See for Miles
Armenia City in the Sky
Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand
Magic Bus
Little Billy
Call Me Lightning
Pinball Wizard
See Me Feel Me/Listening to You
The Seeker
Let's See Action
Pure and Easy
Baba O'Riley
Behind Blue Eyes
Going Mobile
My Wife
Gettin' in Tune
The Song is Over
Won't Get Fooled Again
Join Together
The Relay
The Real Me
I'm One
Bell Boy
Doctor Jimmy
Love Reign O'er Me
Long Live Rock
Slip Kid
Blue Red and Grey
Dreaming From the Waist (live)
Squeeze Box (for completists)
Who Are You?
Music Must Change
You Better You Bet
Daily Records
Athena (for completists)
Eminence Front

...OK, that's almost 50 songs, enough for three CD's, and I'm sure I've probably forgotten something. Tried not to leave out the hits and the obvious classics that HAVE to be in there, even if they've never done much for me (I Can't Explain, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, My Generation).
So if I can do this off the top of my head -- keeping in mind that I'm weak on their early stuff -- the question is why can't MCA do it right?
And the answer has got to be -- because if you DO pull together a best-of that accurately reflects a band's entire career, what reason is there for anybody to buy any of that back-catalog stuff? The marketer -- by doing his job the way it SHOULD be done -- has just shot himself in the foot.
So, to guarantee future sales, you've got to slop the hogs instead. Toss in a little trash with the good stuff: Decent outtakes, OK live cuts, rare B-sides. Forget to include the band's most famous songs -- like Atlantic failed to include "From the Beginning" on the first (vinyl) ELP best-of. Like Bob Fripp leaving "Schizoid Man" off of the first Crimson best-of. (Only in that case I didn't know what I was missing.)
Anybody else have an opinion in this area? I think The Who's got lotsa classic stuff, much of which the radio never plays. I just think their record company hasn't done them justice.
BTW, I played this same game while waiting for The Moody Blues' TIME TRAVELER best-of set to be released. I also came up with a four-disc set in my head -- but with a lot better song choices.... And yet still Decca/Polygram isn't trying to track me down for my expertise....


R S Crabb said...

you hoo Crabb again.

You'll have to argue with Universal on that Moody Blues Box set since Polygram was bought out back 1998.

I don't think I ever said that there was never enough Who songs to make a decent Best of, since I'm one of the bigger Who fans out there. But I may have mentioned that out of all the 50 plus Who Best ofs out there, each and every one left off key tracks and we can't seem to get The Relay on any recent Who Best ofs. And the only way to get Baby Don't You Do It (All 6:17 of it) is to find the B side to Join Together. And John Entwistle's stuff outside of Boris The Spider is left off (Postcard and Trick Of The Light were minor hits). But the last Who Best of, they managed to stick a couple new tracks off Endless Wire, an album while good would have been better as a Pete Townsend solo rather The Who since the rhythm section departed this earth years ago.

It used to be that Greatest hits packages represented the best that a band had to offer, or what they had for singles, which the original Who best of Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy did (although that was flawed too) but that that got tossed by the wayside by Hooligans and later The Who's Greatest Hits, then Who's Better, Who's Best and after that I quit counting. In this day and age it's a mixtape on CD. And basically what Universal does now since they don't promote new artists the way they used to do back in the 70s.

I compiled a Who Mix tape back in high school and most of it came from the 70s and probably mirrored closely to Hooligans although I added plenty of John's stuff and the outrageous live Baby Don't you Do It. Not surprisingly, I didn't add many songs after Keith Moon's OD. I think I added Athena, The Quiet One, You and One At A time, the last three John wrote.

I doubt if Universal will ever put together a worthwhile Who best of, since they haven't in the first place. Even the Ultimate Collection is a cluster****. Better to create your very own Who Mix CD ;)

As always thanks for the promo of Record Store Day and all things Crabby. Y'all rock.

TAD said...

Forgot "Substitute"! Knew I'd forget something....

2000 Man said...

See, even you forgot something, and you were trying to do a worthwhile job. I think it's harder to compile a decent career collection than most people think.

I don't think I said The Who doesn't have enough great songs for a hits package. My main beef with them is that they are spoken of in the same breaths as The Beatles, The Stones etc. Are they deserving of that? Has any band with as long a career as The Who released less music? I usually think of a weekend radio thing from around 1981 called The Beatles-Stones-Who-Led Zeppelin Weekend. It started Friday evening at 5:00, and I think they were in repeats of The Who's catalog by midnight. When stacked up against the bodies of work of the others, they had some great quality, but they just didn't release that much music. So with so little to look at, the soft spots where the songs were kinda filler were getting trounced by the other three bands all weekend long.

I still mostly like The Who. I think I like the oldest stuff the most, but they have some really great albums. And some really shitty ones. That song, A Quick One? Supposed to be a pure classic? I think it's pompous shit. But I'll listen to Magic Bus or 5:15 any day.