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Music

The Who song that blew away The Rolling Stones

@TylerGolsen

The Rolling Stones devised what sounded like the perfect plan to promote 1968’s Beggars Banquet which consisted of a live concert staged as a three-ring circus, complete with some of the band’s contemporaries to fill out the run time. The whole thing would be filled for either a television special or a film, with the Stones at the centre of it all. This was all well and good until The Who showed up.

Having emerged from the London mod scene of the mid-1960s, The Who built a reputation on explosive unpredictability and insane energy. No band had played as fast, as loud, or as manically as The Who did, and their power was only honed by years on the road. Songs that started out as nebulous and sloppy soon became well-rehearsed piledrivers, and Pete Townshend’s interest in expanding the band’s material to incorporate narratives, different sections, and influences from opera began to make The Who stand out among their peers.

When The Who were extended an invitation to join The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus, the band were expected to be a loud and exciting, if somewhat slapdash, opening act that would warm up the crowd for the Stones. Instead, fresh off a recent concert tour, The Who came out guns blazing with an enthusiastic take on the titular ending track to their recently released album A Quick One, ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’.

Featuring cannon-blast drumming from Keith Moon, monster power chords from Townshend, and even a sleazy vocal performance from John Entwistle in character as “Ivor the Engine Driver”, ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’ decimated the stage and blew away all the other acts, including the Stones themselves. The Stones hadn’t played live in well over a year, and their own subsequent performance failed to live up to the high standard that The Who set.

In the years that followed, it would be rumoured that The Who were unwittingly responsible for the shelving of the Rock and Roll Circus footage due to upstaging the Stones at their own show. It was more likely that the Stones were more upset at their own performance and quickly turned a page from that incarnation of the band once Brian Jones died in 1969 than it was The Who beating them at their own game, but when footage eventually did surface of ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’, it became obvious that The Who were the best performers that day.

Check out The Who playing ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’ at The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus down below.