Fans of The Who, try this one: what was it that the band achieved in Britain in the spring of 1965, that it took them two and a half years longer to achieve in America? The answer is have a top ten single, which they finally enjoyed on the Hot 100 of 25 November 1967. The song in question was ‘I Can See For Miles,’ which had entered the US chart on 14 October.
The Who reached the top ten in their own country with their first hit single, when ‘I Can’t Explain’ climbed to No. 8 in April 1965. That reached a meagre No. 93 in the US, and three more chart singles in the next two years hardly tore up any trees, either. ‘My Generation’ petered out at No. 74, ‘Happy Jack’ at least gave them a top 40 entry by reaching No. 24, and ‘Pictures Of Lily’ topped out at No. 51.
Billboard’s 30 September 1967 issue reported that ‘Miles’ was said to have one of Decca’s largest advance pressings. The single was rush-released in the US to capitalise on the infamous performance of it by The Who on the Smothers Brothers’ CBS network TV show.
They entered the Hot 100 at No. 72 (one place below Elvis Presley’s ‘Big Boss Man’) with ‘I Can See For Miles,’ which made steady progress, hitting the top ten on 18 November and then, a week later, spending the first of two weeks at No. 9. It was listed in Billboard’s year-end issue as the 96th biggest hit of the year; in Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, ‘Miles’ came in at No. 258.
The most remarkable thing about the story, though, is that The Who have never returned to the top ten of the Hot 100 — and the single that came closest is one that wasn’t a chart record at all in the UK: ‘See Me Feel Me,’ which reached No. 12 in 1970.
Purchase ‘I Can See For Miles’ on the Who Hits 50! compilation here.