December 5, 2023

The Who – Who’s Missing

I bought this album in 1987, two years after it was released and the first time I had ever seen it in a small record shop in South Wales. I remember it really well, as my default move in any record shop was/is to make a beeline for the ‘W’ section to see if anything new in the world of The Who had been released, almost always being disappointed. And then bang, two new albums, how exciting! Who’s Missing and Two’s Missing. Who’s Missing had been out since 1985 but I’d never seen it or even read about it which is odd as I avidly read the music press at the time. Anyway, I remember buying both there and then in ’87 without hesitation.

Who’s Missing is undoubtedly the better of the two, and side two of that album contained some of my most played Who tracks back then. Fast forward 10 years and the ‘Great Vinyl Cull’ of 1995, as I like to call it, was the last time I saw that record out in the wild. I needed the money and vinyl was dead, right? So I took all my vinyl to Selectadisc in Nottingham and they bought almost all of it, but that’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say it wasn’t that long before I was earning proper money, had seen the error of my ways and started re-collecting all of my old LPs, and lots of new ones!

Who’s Missing eluded me for many years. It’s very rarely seen online in the UK (quite a few USA copies for too much money and of course p&p) and I have never seen it in a store or record stall to this day, so when it popped up on eBay recently for a very reasonable £5 I snapped it up. I am yet to locate a reasonably priced copy of Two’s Missing.

I am going to unapologetically skim through side 1 – there are only 2 Pete Townshend penned tracks here, I’m A Boy and Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hand, but both are noteworthy as being the original 7-inch mixes from the UK and USA respectively. They have since appeared on other box sets and extended albums. Having said that Shout and Shimmy is a great cover of a James Brown track, and Leaving Here does a fine job of covering a Motown classic. Anytime You Want Me, Lubie and Barbara Ann sound more like band jamming sessions, especially the last one, and probably should have remained as such. These tracks are interesting for any Who fan as examples of the covers they used to do live in the early days, and I guess earn their stripes on, but the difference in quality when I’m A Boy kicks in is evident. I remember feeling more than underwhelmed at the selection back in ’87.

In stark contrast, side 2 brings together all the genius elements of the band and showcases the depth of talent therein. It starts with an unmistakable John Entwistle written track, Heaven and Hell, and indeed this song was played by Entwistle live on most if not all of his solo shows. The Who, however, stopped playing it around 1975 and this studio version only appears on the ‘B’ side of Summertime Blues, here on Who’s Missing and the box set 30 Years of Maximum RnB. The live version appears on an extended Live At Leeds, in fact, the reissues start with it, so fans of that album will know it well. Moon’s drumming is superb on this track and you can tell he had a lot of fun with it, overlaid with classic Who chords and Entwistle’s typical melody, it’s a hopeful start to the side.

Here For More sums up this era Who. If you close your eyes you can see Roger Daltrey in his dungarees and long flowing blonde hair marching along whilst singing this, and it was one of only a handful of Daltrey written tracks for The Who. Lyrically, the next track I Don’t Even Know Myself could be by no other than Pete Townshend. Self-indulgent and reflective “Don’t pretend that you know me, ’cause I don’t even know myself” is typical of the angst and thinly veiled depression that defined Pete’s songs around this time, fuelled no doubt by too much Brandy. A country twang accompanies the chorus but the verses are pure Who. A great track. It is a testament to how good The Who was around this time that songs like this were relegated to B sides or left on the cutting room floor.

When I Was A Boy should be immediately familiar to anybody who has heard John Entwistle’s solo albums. That man did love a horn. This was the B Side to Let’s See Action, and was written by Entwistle, lamenting growing up and leaving childhood behind. Entwistle is a much better songwriter than most people give him credit for, but they are somehow too structured to compete with The Who, this one included, but it is another very good track.

We end with a fantastic live version of Bargain, the first time released anywhere. This was recorded in 1972 so a couple of years after Live At Leeds, and it has the same feel. Not for nothing the band were considered one of the best live acts of the 70s and this track does not fail to deliver. Bass, drums and lead guitar are all played by arguably the best ever musicians to pick up (or sit down at) these instruments, overlaid with Daltrey on top form. Superb.

Who’s Missing (and Two’s Missing) are odd releases, coming not long after the much more commonly found Rarities Volumes I and II with which they share quite a few tracks, the former released by MCA and the Rarities by Polydor, this probably explains the difference in availability between the USA and the UK.

I am very happy to have this back in my collection, and will get Two’s Missing as and when I see it, but it was this one, mainly for that terrific side 2, that I have been waiting for for 20 plus years. Welcome home!

The Who, When I Was A Boy

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