Substitute (The Who)

4 MARCH 1966


The Who released their single ‘Substitute’ on this day. It reached #5 on the UK charts, but did not chart in the US (where even 'My Generation' had only reached #74).

This song shows off the Who's strengths really well. Moon's drumming, Entwistle's loud, bouncing bass lines, Pete Townsend's guitar work, and Daltrey does a decent job with the vocals. Most of all though, it's the songwriting. Townsend wasn't one for 'I-love-you-la-la-la' songs and almost always came up with interesting lyrics, be they about pinball, Lily Langtree, or generational conflict. Substitute has a lot of brilliant lines, such as 'I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth', and 'Substitute, you for my mum, I'll least I'll get my washing done'. You couldn't get away with 'I look all white but my dad was black' nowadays, and even back then that line was changed to 'I try walking forward but my feet walk back.' for the US release.

Surprisingly, the Who never had a UK #1 single.

B-side: 'Circles (Instant Party)' (UK); 'Waltz for a Pig' (US)
Recorded: 12 February 1966, Olympic Studios, London
Released: 4 March 1966 (UK), 5 April 1966 (US)
Highest chart position: #5 (UK)
Length: 3:47, 2:59 (US)
Label: Reaction (UK), Atco (US)
Writer: Pete Townshend
Producer: Pete Townshend


'You think we look pretty good together
You think my shoes are made of leather

But I'm a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I'm just back-dated, yeah

Substitute your lies for fact
I can see right through your plastic mac
I look all white, but my dad was black
My fine-looking suit is really made out of sack

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth
The north side of my town faced east, and the east was facing south
And now you dare to look me in the eye
Those crocodile tears are what you cry
It's a genuine problem, you won't try
To work it out at all you just pass it by, pass it by

Substitute me for him
Substitute my coke for gin
Substitute you for my mum
At least I'll get my washing done

But I'm a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I'm just backdated, yeah

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth
The north side of my town faced east, and the east was facing south
And now you dare to look me in the eye
Those crocodile tears are what you cry
It's a genuine problem, you won't try
To work it out at all you just pass it by, pass it by

Substitute me for him
Substitute my coke for gin
Substitute you for my mum
At least I'll get my washing done

Substitute your lies for fact
I can see right through your plastic mac
I look all white, but my dad was black
My fine-looking suit is really made out of sack'

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