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 10 single, which they finally enjoyed on the Hot 100 of November 25, 1967. The song in question was “I Can See For Miles,” which had entered the US chart on October 14.
The Who reached the Top 10 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” inexplicably 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.
A big pressing and a rush release
Billboard’s September 30 1967 issue reported that “I Can See For Miles’” was said to have one of Decca’s largest advance pressings. The single was rush-released in the US to capitalize on the infamous performance of it by The Who on the Smothers Brothers’ CBS network TV show.
The song entered the Hot 100 at No.72 (one place below Elvis Presley’s “Big Boss Man”) and made steady progress, hitting the Top 10 on the November 18 chart and, 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 10 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.
Buy or stream “I Can See For Miles” on the Who Hits 50! compilation.