“Boris the Spider” is a song written by The Who’s bass guitarist, John Entwistle. It appears as the second track of their 1966 album A Quick One. This song is claimed to be Entwistle’s first composition, and became a staple of live shows. This song, along with “My Wife”, “Heaven and Hell” and “The Quiet One”, were Entwistle’s biggest songs to perform live. “The Quiet One” was written to replace this song and “My Wife”, which Entwistle had become quite tired of singing. Though this song was popular, it was not released as a single in the US and the UK. In Japan, “Boris the Spider” was released as the B-side to “Whiskey Man” in 1967.
“Boris the Spider” was written after Entwistle had been out drinking with The Rolling Stones’ bass guitarist, Bill Wyman. They were making up funny names for animals when Entwistle came up with “Boris the Spider”. The song was written by Entwistle in six minutes and is considered a horror song.
The chorus of “Boris the Spider” was sung in basso profundo by Entwistle, mimicking a popular Spike Milligan character, Throat, from The Goon Show, (which possibly helped give birth to the “death growl”), with a middle eight of “creepy crawly” sung in falsetto. These discordant passages and the black comedy of the theme made the song a stage favourite.
According to Pete Townshend in his song-by-song review of Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy for Rolling Stone, it was Jimi Hendrix’s favourite Who song.
Subsequent to A Quick One, the central riff appears again as an encore to The Who’s rendition of Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King recorded during the sessions for The Who Sell Out, but Entwistle sings “Radio London” instead. Although not released as part of the original listing of The Who Sell Out, the track appears on both the 1995 and 2009 reissues.