Happy Jack (song)

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"Happy Jack"
Happy Jack song cover.jpg
Single by the Who
from the album Happy Jack (US version of "A Quick One")
  • "I've Been Away" (UK)
  • "Whiskey Man" (US)
  • 3 December 1966 (UK)
  • 18 March 1967 (US)
Recorded10 November 1966, CBS Studios, London
Songwriter(s)Pete Townshend
Producer(s)Kit Lambert
The Who singles chronology
"Happy Jack"
"Pictures of Lily"

"Happy Jack" is a song by the British rock band the Who. It was released as a single in December 1966 in the United Kingdom, peaking at No. 3 in the charts.[1] It peaked at No. 1 in Canada. It was also their first top 40 hit in the United States, where it was released in March 1967 and peaked at No. 24.[1] It was included on the American version of their second album, Happy Jack, originally titled A Quick One in the UK.

The song features Roger Daltrey sharing lead vocals with John Entwistle and Pete Townshend. At the tail end of "Happy Jack", Townshend can be heard shouting "I saw you!"; it is said that he had noticed drummer Keith Moon trying to join in surreptitiously to add his voice to the recording, something the rest of the band would try to prevent (Moon had a habit of making the other members laugh).[2][3] Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh calls this line "the hippest thing" about the song.[3]

According to some sources, Townshend reported the song is about a man who slept on the beach near where Townshend vacationed as a child. Children on the beach would laugh at the man and once buried him in the sand. However, the man never seemed to mind and only smiled in response. According to Marsh, "the lyric is basically a fairy tale, not surprisingly, given the links to Pete's childhood".[3]

Greg Littmann interprets the song as a possible reaction to alienation, as Jack allows "the cruelty of other people [to] slide off his back".[4]

Despite its chart success, Who biographer Greg Atkins describes the song as being the band's weakest single to that point.[1] Daltrey reportedly thought the song sounded like a "German oompah song".[5] But Chris Charlesworth praised the "high harmonies, quirky subject matter" and "fat bass and drums that suspend belief".[2] Charlesworth particularly praised Moon's drumming for carrying not just the beat, but also the melody itself, in what he calls "startlingly original fashion".[2] Marsh states that although the song contained little that the band had not done before, it did "what the band did well", giving the "soaring harmonies, enormously fat bass notes, thunderous drumming" and the guitar riffs as examples.[3]

Live performances[edit]

The song was first performed by The Who in 1967 and continued to be played until 1970; a performance from The Who's February 1970 concert at Leeds may be heard in a medley with other songs on the 1995 CD reissue of Live at Leeds and subsequent reissues. It was also performed in Townshend's first solo concert in 1974. The most recent performances of the song were short (one-and-a-half-minute) versions at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, on 22 and 23 December 1999.

A snippet of the song was played at a 1982 concert in Indianapolis to appease a fan who was holding a sign saying, "Play Happy Jack, It's My Birthday!", which was blocking the vision of several fans behind him. However, Townshend stated that he and the band couldn't remember how to play the full song anymore.[6]

Cover versions[edit]

American rock band Southern Culture on the Skids covered it on their 2007 album Countrypolitan Favorites. The song was used as the soundtrack to a Hummer TV commercial in 2005.[7]

Too Much Joy performed it on their 2001 live album Live At Least, the title and cover of which were nods to Live At Leeds. Their version fell apart before the song was over.

Cultural impact[edit]

The song is used in the introduction to the first episode of Legion, as well as in the end credits of the show's final episode.


  1. ^ a b c Atkins, John (2000). The Who on Record: A Critical History, 1963-1998. MacFarland. pp. 74–76. ISBN 9781476606576.
  2. ^ a b c Charlesworth, C. (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of the Who. Omnibus Press. p. 104. ISBN 0711943060.
  3. ^ a b c d Marsh, D. (1983). Before I Get Old. St. Martin's Press. pp. 240–241. ISBN 0312071558.
  4. ^ Littmann, G. (2016). "Who's That Outside: The Who and the Problem of Alienation". In Gennaro, R.J.; Harison, C. (eds.). The Who and Philosophy. Lexington Books. pp. 55–59. ISBN 9781498514484.
  5. ^ Segretto, M. (2014). The Who FAQ. Backbeat Books. pp. 29, 50. ISBN 9781480361034.
  6. ^ "Who's News : The First Farewell Issue" (PDF). Thewho.org. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  7. ^ "HUMMER Race- Happy Jack!". YouTube. 14 July 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2016.