On this day in 1965, The Who released their second single, “I Can’t Explain,” backed by the b-side, “Bald Headed Woman.” Even though it was their second single as a group, it was technically their first single as The Who since their first release, “Zoot Suit,” with b-side, “I’m the Face,” was released under the name, The High Numbers. The single eventually became one of the most beloved Who tracks, though it didn’t chart very well at the time (number 93 in the U.S. and number eight in the U.K.).
The single was written by guitarist Pete Townshend and recorded with the band’s classic lineup: Roger Daltrey (lead vocals, tambourine), Pete Townshend (lead guitar, backing vocals), John Entwistle (bass, backing vocals) and Keith Moon (drums). The song also featured guitar from Jimmy Page, vocals and handclaps from an English vocal trio called The Ivy League and piano from Perry Ford.
The Who performed the song for two consecutive nights at New York City’s Fillmore East in 1968, where they headlined with Free Spirits and also had Buddy Guy opening. This was The Who’s first run playing at the Fillmore East and it’s a great snapshot of the band’s early career. Their performance of “I Can’t Explain,” was one of the few Who songs American audiences were familiar with at the time, and this live recording has a bit more oomph than the studio version.
Earlier this week, the British rock legends announced their first new studio album in 13 years, due out in 2019, and a North American tour this spring and fall. The arena tour will include The Who’s first return to the States since their 2017 Las Vegas residency. Click here to view their upcoming tour dates and to read more about the announcement.
Listen to a 1968 performance of “I Can’t Explain” below.