In their busy year of 1966, The Who were just unveiling their second album, A Quick One, when their legions of British fans found there was a new single for them to buy that wasn’t on the record. On 15 December, the band had a new entry on the UK singles chart for the fifth time that year with the standalone A-side ‘Happy Jack’.
The Pete Townshend song has often divided opinion among Who fans, and was certainly stylistically at odds with their four previous chart entries that year, ‘Substitute’, ‘A Legal Matter’, ‘I’m A Boy’ and ‘The Kids Are Alright’.
But in chart terms, it became one of the band’s biggest UK hits. After entering the charts at No.30, ‘Happy Jack’ climbed through the holiday period and came to rest at No.3 in late January 1967, outsold only by The Monkees’ ‘I’m A Believer’ and Tom Jones’ ‘Green, Green Grass Of Home’.
What’s more, ‘Happy Jack’ was the song that gave The Who their first top 40 hit in the States; issued with a Ralph Steadman-designed picture sleeve in the US, it climbed to No. 24 the following June. Indeed, A Quick One was renamed for the single on its American release, and the success of ‘Happy Jack’ was further fuelled by the group’s belated live US debut, in New York, during March 1967.
Back at home, the success of ‘Happy Jack’ was helped by The Who’s appearance, on 23 December, on the final edition of the long-running pop show Ready, Steady, Go! The much-loved series was coming to an end after a run of three years and four months, and the band appeared alongside the Spencer Davis Group, Donovan, Alan Price, Paul Jones and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich.
‘Happy Jack’ appears on the career-spanning Who collection Maximum As & Bs. Featuring all of The Who’s A- and B-side single releases across five CDs, the collection can be bought here.