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"I Can See for Miles" is a song by the English rock band the Who, recorded for the band's 1967 album The Who Sell Out. Written by guitarist Pete Townshend, it was the only song from the album to be released as a single.
|"I Can See for Miles"|
|Single by the Who|
|from the album The Who Sell Out|
|Recorded||May & 6–7 August 1967; 10 September 1967|
|The Who singles chronology|
Recorded in several separate sessions in studios across two continents, the recording of "I Can See for Miles" exemplifies the increasingly sophisticated studio techniques of rock bands in the late 1960s, such as those used for the Beatles and the Beach Boys. The backing tracks were recorded at CBS Studios in London, the vocals and overdubbing were performed at Talentmasters Studios in New York, and the single was mixed and mastered at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. The initial UK mono pressing (Track Records) and the US Decca single has an overdubbed second bass line mixed upfront, whilst the drums are mixed slightly lower.
As far as the chart showing both in the US and UK, the song did well. Though such figures seemed successful to most bands, Townshend was disappointed. He had written the song in 1966 but had held it back as an "ace in the hole", believing it would be The Who's first number-one single. He is quoted as saying, "To me it was the ultimate Who record, yet it didn't sell. I spat on the British record buyer."
The song may have inspired the Beatles' "Helter Skelter". Paul McCartney recalls writing "Helter Skelter" after reading a review of The Who Sell Out in which the critic claimed that "I Can See for Miles" was the "heaviest" song he had ever heard. McCartney had not heard the song but wrote: "Helter Skelter" in an attempt to make an even "heavier" song than the one praised in the review, "to be the most raucous vocal, the loudest drums, et cetera".
"I Can See for Miles" was rarely performed live by the Who during the Keith Moon era; the complex vocal harmonies were difficult to replicate on stage, as was the percussion style found on the original recording. The song was performed on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in September 1967, but it was mimed. It was performed more regularly beginning in 1979 when Kenney Jones became the band's drummer, albeit in a much more straightforward rhythm. It was also played at nearly every show of the group's 1989 tour with Simon Phillips on drums and has been performed frequently since 2014 with current drummer Zak Starkey.
The 1979 compilation/soundtrack album The Kids Are Alright has a 2:45 abridged alternate mix of this song, as heard in the September 1967 mimed performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The 1984 compilation album The Singles on both LP and CD releases has the 4:02 initial UK mono single version with the overdubbed second bass line mix.
The song is ranked number 40 on Dave Marsh's "The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made", number 37 on NME's "The Top 100 Singles of All-Time", and number 162 on Pitchfork's "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s." Billboard described the single as a "compelling off -beat number full of excitement and drive," stating that a "strong dance beat supports smooth vocal blend with top production work." Cash Box said that it's a "solid, thumping, hard-driving, discotheque-styled rock stand" that's a " a real powerhouse." Writing on AllMusic, Richie Unterberger called "I Can See for Miles" "one of the greatest Who songs", adding that it also features "one of Keith Moon's greatest performances" and "one of the best drum parts ever on a rock record".
It was ranked number 262 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list in 2010. It is also ranked number 2 on the magazine's list of the band's best songs. According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 350th most celebrated song in popular music history.
"I Can See for Miles" remains the Who's biggest hit single in the US and, after debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 72 on 14 October 1967, their only one to reach the Top 10 of the Hot 100, at number 9 on 25 November – 2 December 1967. Outside the US, the song reached number 10 in the UK and number 4 in Canada.
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