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Happy Jack by The Who

Album: A Quick OneReleased: 1966Charted:
  • Pete Townshend based the "Happy Jack" character on the strange and not-too-intelligent guys who used to hang around English beaches and play with the kids. Townshend would play on the Isle Of Man beach as a kid.
  • This was featured on The Who's second album, A Quick One. In the US, the album title was changed to "Happy Jack" due to record company fears that the original title was a reference to sex.
  • In 1966 The Who were slotted to film a television series in much the same vein as the Monkees series. For the pilot episode, the band filmed a clip to go along with this song. It featured the 4 of them as robbers attempting to rob a safe. They get distracted, however, by a cake sitting close by and wackiness ensues as The Who smear themselves from head to foot with frosting. Finally a cop busts in and foils their plan, chasing them out of the room. The show never aired, but the clip can now be found in the Kids Are Alright DVD. The clip is light years ahead of its time for what other bands of the '60s were doing.
  • A live version can be found on the expanded Live at Leeds album.
  • At the tail end of the song, you can hear Townshend yelling the phrase "I saw yer!" to Who drummer Keith Moon. Apparently, Moon had been banished from the studio and was trying to sneak back in. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Phillip - Louisville, KY, for above 4
  • This song was used in an ad campaign for the Hummer H2 in 2004. The commercial featured a boy in a wooden car rolling straight down a hill to win a soap box derby instead of taking the winding road down like everyone else. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Joe - Cherry Hill, NH
  • Roger Daltrey recalled to Uncut magazine: "I remember when I first heard 'Happy Jack', I thought, 'What the f--k do I do with this? It's like a German oompah song!' I had a picture in my head that this was the kind of song that Burl Ives would sing, so 'Happy Jack' was my imitation of Burl Ives!"
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Comments: 37

Maybe this will clear up some of the lyric mystery. Apparently donkey rides were a popular attraction at some beaches in the UK. So "Rode on his head on/in their furry donkey" makes perfect sense. Check out this video clip of kids riding on their "furry donkey" http://www.bbcmotiongallery.com/gallery/clip/1B011737_0041.doAndyb - Vancouver, Bc
Cannot Jack be the furry donkey seen on the sands of holiday venues such as Scarborough. When viewed through this lens, it seems to gel....Elmo - Polichar, United Kingdom
... and the waters are most certainly lapping (lap,lap,lap,lap) !!!!John - Auckland, New Zealand
The lyrics line line 4 are still a mystery Emul. The line is definitely "...HIS HEAD..." not "AHEAD", and goes on "... IN THEIR..." - so it's still up for grabs. Maybe we can find Pete or Roger to ask?John - Auckland, New Zealand
Sounds like you got it right Emul. Haha I always thought it was "So they wrote on his head I'm a furry donkey." Also: "the water lapping," "thwart his laughing"... you are The Lyric Master!Jack - Mesa, Az
I know that everyone thinks the lyric is "furry donkey" (on ALL of the lyrics sites), but that makes as much sense as the Jimi Hendrix lyric "scuze me while I kiss this guy." Just listen to it and you'll hear a lyric that makes perfect sense: "They rode on ahead in a hurry on Quay." Note the Quay is pronounced "Key" and it is the main road along the beach on the East side of he Isle of Man. It is quite clear that this is the correct lyric. --- I also wonder about the line "They couldn't stop Jack or the water's lapping", as it makes more sense as "They couldn't stop Jack or thwart his laughing." The latter line makes perfect sense in light of the song's theme. However it does sound more like "lapping" but that could be due to the liquor or pot in Roger's system when he was singing it.Emul - St Petersburg, Fl
That's the link if any one wants to see that ad.
Sophie - Invercargill, New Zealand
I Love The Drummer It Goes From Slow To Fast.Joey Freer - Kingston, Ny
What an outstanding recording! Classic rock from one of the BEST rock and roll bands of their time and ahead of their time. I named my new Triumph motorcycle "Happy Jack", being British and all. (the bike, not me)Estevan - Tsawwassen , Bc
Not sure if you were joking around Skip, but the *Monkees did not write all their own music..Andrea - Waterloo, On
And by the way, when you speak of deceased great rock drummers, don't forget Karen Carpenter.Rob - Detroit, Mi
Baker wins, Kristen. He's still alive.Rob - Detroit, Mi
The question of the ages is bonham, moon or baker? Don't forget baker.Kirsten - New York, Ny
My girlfriend and I associate this song with the golfball-sized foam-rubber clown heads that are given out by Jack-in-the-Box (a West Coast, Mountain state and Southwestern fast-food chain) and are found on my 1992 Alfa Romeo 164 Quadrifoglio "Cloverleaf" sport sedan, my 1994 Chevy Astro LT and my girlfriend's 1978 Renault Le Car. "Smilin' Jack" is, bar none, THE BEST antenna topper!Darrell - Eugene
Roger, Pete and John were trying to record the backing vocals onto the otherwise finished track. Back in their early days, Keith Moon's voice was not considered good enough for vocals, so he was sitting in the control room watching the rest of the band in the studio through a glass window. Each time the recording started, Moon would distract the band with his antics in an attempt to crack them up. After several attempts, the guys became annoyed and the producer demanded that Moon sit on the floor below the glass, so the vocals could be completed without further interuption. At the very ending of the successful take, Moon popped his head up and down through the window. Townshend shouted out the famous "I saw Ya!" that was left on the finished recording.Michael - Kearny, Nj
Moon wasn't banished from the studio, just part of it. He wasn't "allowed" to be heard singing in many of the recordings. Ever heard him sing? It's not truly awful, but it's not truly great. I believe it was the recording room itself that he was not supposed to be going into, but being the playful joker he was, he would sneak in there. He got caught, but I'm sure that was half the fun of it.Susan - Npr, Fl
this song sure makes me happyKika - Nyc, Ny
Bart, I think the lyrics are : "So they rode on ahead on their furry donkey"Jaym - The Dark Side Of The Moon
I think I know what you're hinting at, Bart...Fintan - Cheltenham, England
everyone seems to comment on the drms but as a beginner bassist... i love the bass line, its simplicity makes it recognizable; even little pop crazed pre-teens tend to "know it from somewhere"Jared - Westmont, Nj
does the movie "jack" have anything to do with this song because the lyrics suggest that.Rick - Humboldt, Ia
does anyone get the "So they rode on his head with their furry donkey" line?Bart - Amityville, Ny
The Hummer ad did the same thing to the Who what Nike did to the Beatles.Nathan - Defiance, Oh
awsome bass, drums and so fourth. Same her Maya, i thought the line was "Happy Jack wasn't tall, but he wasn't fat.", damn you Moonie for druming over Daltrey. Great song!!!!
David Corino - Hawley, Pa
The picture sleeve of "Happy Jack" has a caricature of The Who by artist Steadman. The peculiar "I saw yer!" at the end of the master recording was again used by Pete Townshend in live performances.Rick - San Juan, United States
I think this is a good song, but that hummer commercial ruined it... now everytime I hear this, I think of that danged commercial. Stupid hummers...Jeffrey - Bethel, Ak
Moon was banned from singing in the studio (ause of her bad singing voice) , not playing drums, it was a game for him to sneak into the studioTom - Toronto, Canada
The pilot tv show thing doesn't have them all smearing the icing on themselves from "head to toe", it's only pete and keith who get icing on themselves, AND it's only on their faces. Also when the policeman comes he doesn't chase them out of the room, they splat him with 'frosting' then run away. I like it tho, shame it isn't longer.Helen - Oxford, England
Hey Tim, even today's pop stars sound like they have a tiny bit of talent when recorded from a studio. I'll bet you think Mel Gibson realy IS the son of God, and Spinal Tap IS a band from the early 60's. Oh ya, the Monkeys wrote all their own music. I could do this all day.Skip - Anytown, Wy
I don't get it, if Moon wasn't in the studio, who did the drumming?Tim - Dalton, Ma
i can hear the "i saw yer" bit =DHelen - Oxford, England
i don't know norman what do you think/ Bonham or moon/ They both rocked!Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
the question of the ages... bonham or moon?Norman - Detroit, Mi
great song. the drumming is awesome. keith is the best rock drummer ever.Eddie - Petaluma, Ca
btw, I love the drums in that song, and the guitar and the singing! It creates such a raw , and it almost seems like somwthing thwy moght have created out of a jam session, or something you might hear live at a concert or a club.soundStefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
I can never hear the "I saw yer!" part...
Also, I always thought at the beginning it was "Happy Jack wasn't tall, but he wasn't fat."
Hmm =S
Anyway, this is one of my favorite Who songs. I love how the drums take such a big role in it, clackety-clacking like no other band ever thought of doing before Keith Moon, the untrained, took over drums for the Who.
RIP Keith and John =)
Maya - San Francisco-ish, Ca
whata great song. the tempo, beat, structure...it all comes together to make a beautiful sound.
why can't groups, today, make music like they did 40 years ago? forget the techno crap, nd using hi-tech machines...keep it simple and real...great music w/ great lyrics.
Andrew - Ny, Ny
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