The Who

Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand

Composed by Pete Townshend

Song Review by

On the Who's early recordings, Pete Townshend seemed endlessly fascinated with the thoughts and actions of over-excited adolescents, and in this context, "Mary-Anne With the Shaky Hands" on The Who Sell Out sticks out as a rare example of Townshend attempting that standard pop-song gesture, the benign song of praise for a pretty girl. Of course, in Townshend's world, dominated as it was by messed-up teenagers, we are not visited by a Venus in blue jeans, but a girl whose most notable attribute is a physical tremor. "Linda can cook/Jean reads books/Cindy can sew/But I'd rather know/Many-Anne with the shaky hands/What they've done to a man, those shaky hands," Townshend and Roger Daltrey harmonize in their most boyish tenors, and while we're also told "Mary is so pretty/The prettiest in the land," we never find out just what she looks like. No blonde hair, blue eyes, or winning smile here, just a girl who can't keep her hands still (read into that what you like). While the tune is charming, it's also so slight that if it weren't for Keith Moon's drum breaks, it might just blow away in a gentle breeze, and despite a guitar-and-percussion interlude near the end, the song just barely breaks the two-minute mark. Given the context of The Who Sell Out -- which was meant to replicate a day's programming on a pirate radio station -- "Mary-Anne With the Shaky Hands" was doubtless meant to represent teenage pop at its most disposable, though even when he was on his best musical behavior, it's significant that Townshend would come up with something just slightly subversive, not to mention a tune you couldn't forget even if you tried.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Who Sell Out 1967 MCA 2:29
Direct Hits 1968 Classic Records
Odds & Sods 1974 MCA 3:23
Who's Missing 1985 MCA 3:16
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B 1994 MCA 2:07
No Image 1994 Universal International
Live at the Royal Albert Hall 2003 Steamhammer 4:12
No Image Hiwatt 3:15
blue highlight denotes editor's pick