The Who

Boris the Spider

Song Review by

Pete Townshend once said that "Magic Bus" and "Boris the Spider" were consistently the two most requested songs at the Who's live shows, and he seemed at once amused and miffed that a pair of mere "novelty songs" were the ones that went over best with the punters. In a way, "Boris the Spider" might have been a throwaway, but it was the sort of throwaway hardly any other rock band of the time might have thought of. Written by bassist John Entwistle, always the member of the group most in touch with his morbid streak, "Boris the Spider" concerns a spider our narrator has found in his flat...and has apparently decided to call Boris. Beyond the fact that Boris is "black and hairy, very small" and seems to really enjoy crawling about, there's next to nothing to say about Boris, except that our hero appears to have taken it upon himself to end Boris's brief existence by smashing him with a book. The sheer deadpan glee with which Entwistle describes his adventures in bug squashing is at once goofy and ghoulish, and the music manages to up the ante on both counts. While Entwistle was best known for his skillful, fleet-fingered bass runs, here his descending bass figure clunks along as if he's playing a Fender Precision with a ball-peen hammer, and about the only thing around to gussy things up is a curious whammy-bar guitar sting from Pete Townsend after Entwistle croaks the refrain "Bo-or-iss the Spii-dah!" The tune sounds as if it could have been thrown together in about five minutes over a beer, and may well have been, but few groups bent on "having a laugh" would be quite so willing to sound so creepy at the same time. "Boris the Spider" was originally recorded for the Who's second album, A Quick One, though it sounded best within the context of the superb compilation LP Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
A Quick One 1966 MCA 2:26
No Image 1970 Track Record
Backtrack, Vol. 8 1970 Track Records
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy 1971 MCA 2:28
No Image 1974 MCA
No Image 1976
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Who by Numbers 1982 MCA
No Image 1983 CBS / Fox
No Image 1991
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B 1994 MCA 2:27
My Generation: The Very Best of the Who 1996 MCA 2:27
The Ultimate Collection 2002 Universal Distribution 2:28
The Early Collection: Magic Bus/Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Who's Missing 2004 Griffin 2:28
I'm a Boy 2006 Universal Distribution
The Who Hits 50! 2014 Geffen 2:29
Halloween Music
Various Artists
Universal 2:29
Halloween Party Songs
Various Artists
Universal 2:29
Maximum BBC [Bootleg]