Friday, August 13, 2010

Meet the Song of the Day: "Run Run Run" by The Who

New feature!

I ain’t superstitious but some folks get freaked when Friday the 13th rolls around. There is little agreement on why the day is considered unlucky. Is it because of numerology (apparently symbolizing irregularity), Bible stories (Jesus was supposedly crucified on a Friday), or its connection to a crappy film series (hockey masks)?

Was Pete Townshend among the superstitious? When the time came to deliver new material for The Who’s second record, the normally prolific Townshend found himself short on fresh material. Manager Kit Lambert suggested that the other boys in the band compose two songs each to fill out the album and put a bit of royalty money in their pockets. While Roger Daltrey (who only managed one song) and Keith Moon turned in respectable efforts, it was John Entwistle who emerged as the true star of the bunch with a pair of genuinely unique, hilarious, and macabre numbers: “Boris the Spider” and “Whiskey Man”. Still, Townshend had to supply material for the rest of the record.

Aside from Entwistle’s surprising display of latent songwriting talent, A Quick One is most celebrated for its title “mini-opera”, another result of Lambert’s fertile imagination. The manager recommended Townshend string together some of his unfinished songs to create a sort of narrative suite. “A Quick One While He’s Away”, of course, was the seed from which Tommy eventually grew, as well as The Who’s most stunning live tour de force and one of their most thrilling and inventive early recordings. But there are other Pete-penned treasures to be discovered on A Quick One. The best of these is the powerful “So Sad About Us”, which recycles the guitar lick from The Byrds’ “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”. However, the album’s opening track is the fiercest track on the record, and the only one that really recaptures the anarchic noise of the first Who record, My Generation.

As a composition, “Run Run Run” is kind of slight: a rudimentary riff over which Daltrey shouts about the unluckiest girl in the world: she walks under ladders, cracks mirrors, opens umbrellas indoors, hangs out with black cats. Basically, she’s looking for some cosmic trouble. What makes “Run Run Run” a stand-out is that overdriven, overloaded, overhyped performance. Townshend’s guitar and The Ox’s bass are well in the red. Moon’s drumming is a wash of abused cymbals. Daltrey plays cock of the walk. Then Townshend rips off an effortlessly blazing solo that burns the whole enterprise to the ground before the band catches their second wind for a final-verse modulation that finds them ranting and raving into the sunset with that most unlucky lady on their collective arm.

Have an unlucky Friday the 13th, kids…

Visit the Song of the Day page here to shake and shout to “Run Run Run”…
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