The Who's 'Substitute': Born from Band Tension in 1966

The Who created their hit song "Substitute" in 1966 amidst internal conflicts and tension, with guitarist Pete Townshend criticizing the band's musical quality. Despite challenges in its creation, "Substitute" was met with critical acclaim and remains one of The Who's most popular songs.

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The Who's 'Substitute': Born from Band Tension in 1966

The Who's 'Substitute': Born from Band Tension in 1966

In 1966, The Who found themselves amidst internal conflicts and tension, even as they enjoyed a string of top ten singles. Guitarist Pete Townshend openly criticized the band's musical quality, attributing their success more to "musical sensationalism" than genuine artistry. The band members were seen fighting on stage, with singer Roger Daltrey and drummer Keith Moon even attempting to quit at one point.

It was against this backdrop of turmoil that the band created one of their most enduring hits, "Substitute." The song was a defiant response to media outlets dubbing them a "substitute Rolling Stones." A classic three-chord rock track, "Substitute" showcased The Who's ability to craft music that was both energetic and intricate. However, the song's creation was not without its challenges.

Keith Moon, who was taking a cocktail of pills at the time, had no memory of recording "Substitute" and initially thought the band had made the track behind his back. Roger Daltrey also struggled to connect with the song's pop style, finding it difficult to sing. "I still couldn't find that voice on songs like 'Substitute'. I found it very, very difficult to sing pop. My voice was very gravelly... I couldn't identify with it, whatever the hell it was. Pop was alien to me," Daltrey later recalled. It wasn't until the band's groundbreaking rock opera Tommy that Daltrey felt he truly found his voice.

Despite the challenges in its creation, "Substitute" was met with critical acclaim upon its release and remains one of The Who's most popular songs. The track's success helped pave the way for the band's future artistic triumphs, including the ambitious Tommy, which further demonstrated their knack for crafting compelling narratives through music. "Substitute" stands as a testament to The Who's resilience and ability to create iconic music even in the face of internal strife, solidifying their status as one of the most dynamic and exciting rock bands of their generation.

Key Takeaways

  • The Who's 1966 hit "Substitute" was created amidst internal conflicts and tension.
  • The song was a response to being dubbed a "substitute Rolling Stones" by the media.
  • Keith Moon had no memory of recording "Substitute" due to his pill use.
  • Roger Daltrey struggled to sing "Substitute" due to its pop style.
  • "Substitute" remains one of The Who's most popular songs, despite its challenging creation.