If you’ve ever caught The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, you probably count The Who’s performance of “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” among the highlights. By then, The Who had lived with the mini-rock opera for two years, and they arrived in peak form. When he caught an earlier performance of the song, Jimi Hendrix hadn’t been too impressed with it.
Speaking with the Los Angeles Free Press in August ’67, Hendrix seemed to admire the theatrical effort by songwriter Pete Townshend. But Hendrix, the consummate showman, thought The Who could have staged “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” more effectively.
Jimi Hendrix thought The Who should ‘jump into’ ‘A Quick One (While He’s Away)’ more on stage
In his interview with the Free Press (reprinted in Hendrix on Hendrix), Hendrix mused about getting into music for theater pieces. “Can you imagine taking Othello and putting it on in your own way?” he asked. “You’d write up some real groovy songs, wouldn’t necessarily have to say the exact lines … Great!”
Then he turned to The Who, with whom he’d played at Monterey Pop, where the Experience topped what had been an impressive set by Townshend and his band. “The Who is doing theater pieces like ‘A Quick One (While He’s Away),'” Hendrix noted. “But golly, man, they just stand there when they sing it. They should jump into it.”
Looking back, that sounds like honest feedback from a legendary performer. Yet Hendrix might have been getting in a subtle dig at The Who. After all, the two groups had battled to see which band would follow the other. (Both had wanted to perform first at Monterey.) They were competitors at the time. And everyone knows who won that round.
Either way, The Who did improve the presentation of “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” by the time the group accepted the invitation to perform at the Rock and Roll Circus in December ’68.
Hendrix likely missed The Who’s ‘A Quick One’ at ‘The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus’
By the close of ’68, Hendrix was basking in the success of Electric Ladyland and looking ahead to his next move. It’s unlikely he had any great interest in The Who, who hadn’t yet released Tommy (1969). And since Rock and Roll Circus didn’t air at the time, he almost certainly missed that rendition of “A Quick One.”
It would have been interesting to know what Hendrix thought of that performance. For many years,
people Townshend insisted the Stones kept the film in the vaults because The Who had upstaged their hosts. (It finally came out in the ’90s.)
The Who definitely “jumped into it” and pulled off some stage moves at the Circus. But they didn’t quite get to Hendrix’s level (See: His Maui performances). Jimi was simply the toughest act to follow.