Looking back, it is now easy to see just how conceptual Pete Townshend always was. After a brief spurt of singles in 1965 and 1966, Townshend quickly started thinking conceptually about his songwriting.
“A Quick One While He’s Away” was a ten-minute, one-act playlet that kick-started the entire process in late 1966, and Townshend never looked back. It was as though he needed to conceptualize some grand vision to provide the basic inspiration and that his songs would then somehow fit the concept. In 1967, this method of songwriting was still vague in nature, long before “Tommy” or “Quadrophenia” or “Lifehouse” or “White City” or “Iron Man”, etc., etc. Instead, Townshend simply considered ways that his compositions could be strewn together with a structure to bind them into something more cohesive than a simple compilation of varied songs.
Townshend’s inspiration for a concept album came about after the band had been approached to record commercial jingles. Townshend recognized that he could utilize his ‘commercial’ work as a means to support a concept based on a radio program with commercials and public service announcements interspersed throughout his collection of songs. It was a simple yet ingenious idea, allowing for tongue-in-cheek, irreverent compositions about tattoos, deodorant and baked beans sitting beside some of the best material he had ever written. The result was incredibly fun and entertaining, with the concept binding the wildly disparate ideas into a cohesive whole. This is the band’s least self-serious album, and its playful sensibility remains contagious even today.
December 1967 - Billboard Charted #48
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