It’s well known that one of the few achievements missing from the epic career of The Who is a UK No.1 single. But there is a chart-topping release in their history that some of their latter-day fans might not know about. On December 17, 1966, the band climbed to the top of the EP chart in their home country with the five-track Ready Steady Who disc.
Released in November, the EP was a forerunner of their second album A Quick One and the new single “Happy Jack.” That came out at the same time as that LP, but wasn’t included on it. Ready Steady Who was issued by Reaction Records to maximise the publicity from The Who’s recent appearance on their own special edition of the hit pop TV series Ready Steady Go! The EP didn’t actually feature those performances, but studio re-recordings done soon afterwards.
EP releases often gave bands the chance to experiment and have fun, beyond the discipline of their singles and album commitments, and that was certainly the case on a record that had The Who remaking a TV theme and even covering the Beach Boys.
The A-side featured two new Pete Townshend songs, “Disguises” and “Circles,” while the flip had the band covering Neal Hefti’s theme tune from the popular American Batman series of the time. They also did Jan & Dean’s “Bucket T” and “Barbara Ann,” the latter first done by the Regents but known to The Who and to their British fans in the Beach Boys’ version.
The disc entered the EP charts — a Top 10 list — at No.7 at the end of November, ironically when the Beach Boys were not only at No.1 with Hits, but also No.3 with God Only Knows. The Who release climbed to 3, then 2, and made the top on a mid-December chart with some other interesting releases.
They included country legend Jim Reeves’ posthumous A Christmas Card From Jim, novelty act the Singing Postman’s First Delivery and British instrumental greats the Shadows’ Thunderbirds Are Go. That EP was inspired by the appearance of the marionette versions of the group in the feature film version of Gerry Anderson’s puppet adventure series Thunderbirds. The Shadows as puppets and The Who doing Batman. Anything went on the UK pop scene of 1966.
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