100 Great Songs From The British Invasion: 1963-1966: ‘Substitute’- The Who. The Who had some fantastic singles- before they had their first Top 40 hit in the US with ‘Happy Jack’ in early 1967- ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’, ‘My Generation’, ‘Substitute’, ‘A Legal Matter’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and ‘I’m A Boy’–all of which you can find on the great compilation Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. Why the lack of early success? Did they sound too British at that time? Pete was inspired to write this song by the great Smokey Robinson and The Miracles song ‘The Tracks Of My Tears.’ In the United States- on the single which failed- the line ‘I look all white but my dad was black’- was changed to ‘I try walking forward but my feel walk back’- pretty lame- but the censors found the original line too ‘dangerous’ in the US. In 2006 Pitchfork- named ‘Substitute’ the 91st in their 200 Greatest Songs Of The 1960’s list.
Single: ‘Substitute’- The Who/ Written by Pete Townshend/ Record Company- Atco/ Time: 2:59/ Produced by Pete Townshend/ Recorded February 12, 1966/ Released March 4, 1966 in UK, April 5, 1966 in UK/ Peaked at #5 in UK Singles Chart. Did not chart in US Billboard Hot 100.
Straight up rocking early Who. What’s not to like- unless you’re an overly sensitive censor back in the USA, circa 1966?
Great song by a great band.
I didn’t even remember the racial lyric in there until reading this. I thought this song had a generally “bad attitude” which is what young people revel in. I can see why it would be a hit and I could see why it would make adults of that time nervous. I personally love the song.
I cant help chiming in on this stuff Hans. Pete and Ray Davies wrote these different kinds of tunes that work well with me.
Amazing that none of these singles made it in the states – very strange
Always loved that tune. One of my favorite early songs by The Who!
All of these early songs by the Who are so under rated in the States… they still hold up.
Only thing missing was them wrecking their equipment, they could have at least put a picture of that happening. Happy Jack was a good tune. Bass and lead guitar hitting the same licks, very cool. I didn’t get the album cover at the time, Pork n Beans, etc., but now I understand it was a poke in the eye for the groups that sold out to “the man.” But, if it hadn’t been for “the man,” these guys would have still been playing pubs and teen dances in Liverpool and living at home with the folks. As usual Hans, great stuff.
Thanks Phil. Yes- it is funny how acts/ people who are critical of ‘the man’- end up playing on his team sooner or later.
Yep, all us musicians had to conform or not play at all.