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Magic Bus (song)

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Magic Bus (song)

"Magic Bus"
Single by The Who
from the album Magic Bus: The Who on Tour
B-side "Someone's Coming" (US)
"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (UK)
"Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand" (Norway)
"Bucket T"
Released 27 July 1968 (US)
18 September 1968 (UK)
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 29 May 1968 at Advision Studios, London and mixed at Gold Star Studios, Los Angeles sometime between 30 June and 7 July 1968
Genre Blues rock, psychedelic rock
Length 3:15
Label Track 604024 (UK)
Decca 32362 (US)
Writer(s) Pete Townshend
Producer(s) Kit Lambert
The Who singles chronology
"Dogs"/"Call Me Lightning"
"Magic Bus"
"Pinball Wizard"

"Magic Bus" is a song written by Pete Townshend during the time that My Generation was being recorded in 1965. However, it was not recorded by The Who until 1968 and officially released in the US in July of that year.[1] It has become one of the band's most popular songs and has been a concert staple, although when released, the record only reached number 26 in the United Kingdom and number 25 in the United States.[2]

The song's arrangement uses a Latin percussion instrument known as claves. These are pairs of small wooden sticks that make a distinctive high pitched clicking noise when struck together. The Who previously used this same instrument on the song "Disguises", which was recorded in 1966.

The song makes use of the Bo Diddley beat.[3]


  • Background 1
  • Live performances and other uses 2
  • Chart performance 3
    • Weekly singles charts 3.1
    • Year-end charts 3.2
  • Cover versions 4
  • References 5


The song was not recorded by The Who at the time it was written, but the band's management and music publisher circulated a Townshend demo recording of the song in 1966. A version was released as a single in the UK in April 1967 by an obscure band called The Pudding, in the UK on Decca and in the US on London's Press label. It was not a hit.[4][5]

The song is usually performed as a duet, where the "Rider", usually singer Roger Daltrey when live, is riding on the bus every day to see his girl. In the song he asks the "Driver", usually Townshend, if he can buy the bus from him, with the driver's initial answer being no. After haggling for a while, the driver finally lets him have it and he vows to drive it to his girlfriend's house every day.[6]

The original LP and cassette of the Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy compilation album featured a 4:28 longer alternate vocal take of "Magic Bus" in fake stereo which was not included on the original compact disc version because the true stereo or mono source could not be found for the long version of the song. [7] However, on 25 July 2007, Universal Japan re-released the album in a mini-LP sleeve that includes the long alternate version of "Magic Bus" in fake stereo, as on the original album. This longer mix features an alternate vocal track, an extended middle section, and does not fade out at the end. (The original single length version did appear in true stereo only on the US "Magic Bus" LP.)

The song appeared in the band's 1979 film The Kids Are Alright taken from the 1968 single performance. It was subsequently released on The Kids Are Alright film soundtrack. That version is the mono single version, but slowed down, resulting in the song being a semi-tone lower in pitch and slightly longer at 3:21. The Polydor CD Remaster of "The Kids Are Alright", issued in 2000, mistakenly states "Remixed stereo version", and should state "Remixed mono version". The 2014 compilation "Hits 50!", has the alternate vocal long version at 4:34 in mono.

Live performances and other uses

This was first performed in 1968 and was part of the regular set from 1971 to 1976. (It was performed frequently in early-mid 1969 and less often in 1970.) It made less frequent appearances starting from 1979. It made an appearance as the show closer of many shows on The Who Hits 50! tour. The live version was often a lengthy jam lasting much longer than the studio version, with some performances lasting over 15 minutes.

One of its most legendary performances can be heard on Live at Leeds.[8] This version stretches out to nearly eight minutes, with Roger Daltrey joining the jam playing harmonica. The Leeds recording has been used during the musical montage sequence in the final act of Martin Scorsese's film Goodfellas as well as the opening sequence in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire. John Entwistle reportedly hated playing the song, as most of the bass part consisted of a single note played ad nauseam. This statement can be found on the 30 Years of Maximum R&B DVD. In 1985, Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song for their TV series episode "The Prize Isn't Right".[9] Another notable performance of the song took place at The Vegas Job concert in 1999. The rhythm and beat of the song was significantly altered to a slower groove, and Townshend and Daltrey ad libbed a few verses. The harmonica jam returned again, and the song stretched out to nearly ten minutes.

It was stated on several occasions during their 2009 tour of Australia and Japan that they were unable to play the song, with Townshend stating, "We can't play Magic Bus right now.... But if you shout loud enough... We definitely won't play it."

Chart performance

Cover versions

Swervedriver made a cover of the song, which is featured on the Forces of Nature Soundtrack.

The song was featured on "Driver Ed", an episode of the television series Veronica Mars.[16]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Who Discography by Ed Hanel, included in booklet to box set Thirty Years of Maximum R&B
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  7. ^ CD 1990 MCA Records (MCBBD-31333) Canadathe Who - Magic BusDiscogs -
  8. ^
  9. ^ [1]
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  16. ^
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