Cover of the 1966 Italy single
|Single by The Who|
|Released||4 March 1966 (UK)|
5 April 1966 (US)
|The Who singles chronology|
"Substitute" is a song by the English rock band The Who, written by Pete Townshend. Released in March 1966, the single reached number five in the UK and was later included on the compilation album Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy in 1971. In 2006, Pitchfork ranked "Substitute" at number 91 on the "200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s".
"Substitute" was primarily inspired by the 1965 soul single "The Tracks of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Pete Townshend became obsessed, particularly, with the line, "Although she may be cute/She's just a substitute." This had then led Townshend "to celebrate the word with a song all its own."
The riff used in the song's verses was derived from a November 1965 single by Robb Storme and The Whispers called Where Is My Girl, a fact later acknowledged by Townshend who recalled hearing the record whilst reviewing singles for the Melody Maker's 'Blind Date' column.
The guitar solo is played by bassist John Entwistle who later said: 'I played a Gibson SG medium scale bass with wire-wound strings. When it got to the solo, because we were recording and mixing it virtually live, I thought, yeah, this should be a bass solo, so I turned my volume up and they couldn't mix me out, so it ended up as a bass solo.'
For the American single, released in April 1966, the line in the chorus "I look all white but my dad was black" was changed to "I try walking forward but my feet walk back." The complete second verse and chorus were also edited from the US release, reducing the track's length to two minutes and fifty-nine seconds.
The song remains a familiar fan-favourite and was performed at most of their concerts. "Substitute", along with "I Can't Explain", have served as the group's opening numbers since 1971. It appears on the Live at Leeds album, as well as Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970.
On the album Live at Leeds, Townshend comments on the song by saying:
We'd like to play three hit singles from our past for ya. Three selected hit singles, the three easiest. There's "Substitute", which we like. [crowd cheers] Thank you. That was our first number four [crowd laughs]...
In 1976, radio pirates interrupted BBC programmes in the south and southwest of England by overpowering a feeder station in Wrotham, Kent. The fake program, which started at 11:00pm and ran for 35 minutes before government engineers regained control, fittingly began with "Substitute".
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||17|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||2|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||5|
|West Germany (Official German Charts)||13|