THE WHO - ‘Dogs’ & ‘Magic Bus’

Here’s a couple more of the write-ups I did for The Who’s Track singles box set, ‘Dogs’ and ‘Magic Bus’.

A: Dogs
Written by Pete Townshend. © 1968 Fabulous Music Ltd.
Produced by Kit Lambert.

B: Call Me Lightning
Written by Pete Townshend. © 1968 Fabulous Music Ltd.
Produced by Kit Lambert.

Originally released as Track 604 023 on 14 June, 1968, it reached Number 25 in the British charts.

For the benefit of sensitive radio listeners in America and a few other countries the lyric I look all white but my dad was black in ‘Substitute’ was amended to “I try going forward but my feet walk back” and close observers of The Who's evolution in 1968 might have been tempted to believe this was the way their career was heading. Whatever their motive, ‘Dogs’ was an unlikely follow-up to the sophistication of ‘I Can See For Miles’ and its lowly chart placing reflects a domestic apathy towards the group that, fortunately, would soon change. Any element of uncertainty in the camp, however, was softened by their accelerating progress in America where The Who’s stunning live shows were drawing increasingly large crowds.
              There’s a touch of music hall about ‘Dogs’, a contender for the funniest single The Who ever released; clearly influenced by the Cockney rock style of The Small Faces on ‘Lazy Sunday’, or maybe Ray Davies’ wry observational songs like ‘A Well Respected Man’ and ‘Sunny Afternoon’. Recorded at Advision Studios, London, on May 22, it’s quite a complex piece, not unlike ‘A Quick One’ in its musical changes, and evidently inspired by the British working man’s love of greyhound racing, beer and his darlin’ missus, probably in that order; slightly quaint but with just the right degree of Who-like swagger to suggest that Pete really means it. Roger puts on his best East End accent for the verses and Pete, from his recent observations at White City dog track, adopts the doddery old man persona during the fade-out.
              The B-side, ‘Call Me Lightning’, started at IBC Studios, London and completed on February 26, 1968, at Gold Star Studios in LA, is a different kettle of fish entirely. Another from among the earliest songs written by Pete, it was even suggested for The Who’s first single. Its mildly funky R&B feel is emphasised by chanted backing vocals – “dum, dum, dum, do-way” – with Roger emoting as best he can on lyrics that no-one bar Pete understood. John gets a twangy bass solo, which he never regarded highly.
              Pete: “It tries to be a slightly surly Jan & Dean kind of song to satisfy Keith and John’s then interest in surf music, which I thought was going to be a real problem. Being a trumped up Mod band was bad enough for us to handle, but trying to be a trumped-up Mod band playing R&B music with surf overtones was almost impossible... this song was trying to be all things to all men.”
              In the US ‘Call Me Lightning’ was a single in its own right and reached Number 40. The flipside was John’s ‘Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde’, their US label no doubt concluding that ‘Dogs’ would have confused the locals.

A: Magic Bus
Written by Pete Townshend. © 1968 Fabulous Music Ltd.
Produced by Kit Lambert.

B: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
Written by John Entwistle. © 1968 Essex Music Ltd.
Produced by Kit Lambert.

Originally released as Track 604 024 on 11 October 1968, it reached Number 26 in the British charts.

Still seeking a direction in the fallow period between The Who Sell Out and Tommy, The Who dipped into their vaults and came up with a song that Pete had written around the time of ‘My Generation’, in this case a Bo Diddley pastiche that employs his famous ‘shave and a haircut (pause) two bits’ rhythm. This was something they were good at: as The Detours they’d played Bo Diddley songs like ‘I’m A Man’, ‘Here ’Tis’ (which they recorded as The High Numbers at the same time as ‘I’m The Face’ but didn’t release until three decades later) and ‘Road Runner’ in the west London pubs where they learned their trade. Indeed, the evidence suggests that ‘Road Runner’ was the song that 17-year-old Keith John Moon played with them when he stepped up to the plate for the first time at the Oldfield Hotel in Greenford in May, 1964. Either way, Bo’s invention is a foundation stone of rock and simplicity in itself, for by repeating this beat endlessly and giving it a good thump from behind by a drummer who knows his way around floor toms, even the most inexperienced of garage bands can get a crowded ballroom up on their feet and dancing in no time at all.
              ‘Magic Bus’ was recorded at IBC in London during May on two separate occasions because Kit Lambert left the master tapes from the first recording in the back of a taxi. Engineer Damon Lyon-Shaw recalls that the band wanted to record it live. “So we miked everything up and it sounded just dynamic. Kit went off with the master and that was the last we saw of it.” The track was completed and mixed by Lambert at Gold Star Studios, LA in June. It certainly sounds livelier than most singles, Keith opening proceedings by tapping away on claves before the Diddley rhythm kicks in, over which Roger and Pete swap preposterous lines about trading their magic bus in for “one hundred English pounds”.
      As a stage number, ‘Magic Bus’ became a crowd favourite if for no other reason than it was quite unlike anything else The Who ever performed. With plenty of room to solo Pete loved it, unlike John who was anchored on one note with little room to stretch out.
              You could be forgiven for assuming that ‘Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde’ was autobiographical for The Who’s bass player certainly amused himself and others by playing the schizophrenia card. His love of spiders and dark sense of humour, much of it tongue-in-cheek, was part and parcel of his music, both in solo songs and those recorded by The Who, and his various homes contained macabre relics more suited to a fairground ghost train than a domestic hideaway. In reality, however, those fortunate enough to spend any time with John soon came to realise that he was the most amiable of men, eternally modest about his extraordinary skills as a bass player and genuinely gracious towards the many Who fans that befriended him.
              His attempts to translate Hammer horror into his music succeeds admirably on this novelty song about the perils of sharing hotel rooms with Keith Moon, its scary opening prefacing a menacing bass line and spooky French horn solo. Indeed, John’s bass carries the melody and, at the climax, Keith manages a wicked scream and John a rather ghoulish growl, though this was edited out for the US release. 


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