The Who song that Roger Daltrey found “very, very difficult” to sing

With a groundbreaking approach, The Who redefined what an album could be, transforming it from a mere collection of tracks into a rich tapestry of complex narratives and characters, evoking a wide range of emotions. Albums were no longer just musical compilations; they became immersive experiences.

However, the intricate albums The Who crafted were rivaled only by the complexities of their relationships and their music. Despite enjoying a string of top ten singles in 1966, internal tensions simmered as the band feared their sound was becoming too mainstream.

Pete Townshend openly expressed his growing disdain for the band, questioning their musical integrity. He famously remarked that he didn’t believe The Who possessed any real musical quality, attributing their success to “musical sensationalism” rather than true artistry. Public spats on stage were not uncommon, and both Roger Daltrey and Keith Moon had moments when they considered leaving the band.

It seemed The Who was on the verge of disbanding. Yet, instead of throwing in the towel, they channeled their frustrations into creating one of their most iconic songs. “Substitute” emerged as a powerful response to critics who labeled The Who as mere “substitute Rolling Stones.”

“Substitute” is a quintessential three-chord rock anthem, brimming with energy and complexity. Despite one controversial line where Daltrey sings, “I look all white, but my Dad was black,” the track received widespread acclaim and remains one of the band’s most celebrated releases. However, the creation of the song wasn’t without its challenges.

Keith Moon, amidst his heavy pill consumption, had no recollection of recording “Substitute.” Upon hearing it on the radio, he angrily accused the band of recording it behind his back. Additionally, Roger Daltrey struggled with singing the song. It wasn’t a matter of vocal capability—Daltrey was adept at conveying the multifaceted emotions present in their music. The problem was his inability to connect with the song’s pop sensibilities.

“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,” he admitted. “I couldn’t identify with it, whatever the hell it was. Pop was alien to me. I didn’t find my voice until we got to Tommy.”

Despite these hurdles, The Who’s perseverance paid off. They went on to create groundbreaking albums like “Tommy,” which showcased their narrative prowess and solidified their status as one of the most thrilling rock bands of their era. But before they could achieve their full potential, the band had to navigate through a period where everything nearly fell apart.

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