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I Can See For Miles by The Who

Album: The Who Sell OutReleased: 1967Charted:
9
10
  • Pete Townshend wrote this shortly after meeting his future wife Karen. It was a reminder that even though he was on the road, he could still keep an eye on her from miles away.

    The song was inspired by the jealousy and suspicion that would well up inside him when he left to tour, but the song is written in character as a vindictive type who wants to get back at a girl. It's a little creepy:

    Well, here's a poke at you
    You're gonna choke on it too
    You're gonna lose that smile
    Because all the while
    I can see for miles and miles


    He's warning her that she can't get out of his sight.

    In real life, Townshend married Karen Astley in 1968. They were together until their divorce in 2009.
  • Townshend's guitar was overdubbed in the studio. They rarely played this live because it was impossible to recreate the sound with one guitar.
  • The Who Sell Out is a concept album that makes fun of radio commercials. Fake ads were inserted between songs on the first side of the album.
  • Pete Townshend considered this some of his best songwriting, calling it "a remarkable song." He thought it would be a huge hit and was disappointed when it wasn't.
  • The word "Miles" is said 57 times in the song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brad - Chicago, IL
  • This was covered in a lighter, easygoing, and rather corny manner by Vegas lounge lizard Frankie Randall (who sang the lyric "There's magic in my eyes" as "There's magic in your eyes", thus rather confusing the song's meaning). It is included on the Golden Throats CD. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada
  • Surprisingly, this was the only Who single to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Townshend's played a one-note guitar solo on this song. According to an interview he conducted with his mate Richard Barnes for the book The Story of Tommy, Townshend did this because he "couldn't be bothered." He later admitted that he felt very intimidated at the arrival of Hendrix on the London scene during that time and that he couldn't ever compete in the guitar solo stakes. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Paul - Cardiff, United Kingdom
  • Paul McCartney set out to write "Helter Skelter" shortly after reading a Pete Townshend interview, which described this track as, "The most raucous rock 'n' roll, the dirtiest thing they'd ever done."
  • This is the theme song for the TV series CSI: Cyber, which debuted in 2015. It's the fourth in the CSI franchise, with each series using a Who song as its theme. The song has some relevance to the show content, as the detectives use technology to investigate crimes that could be many miles away.
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Comments: 61

Good thing Townshend didn't live in a metric system country. "I can see for kilometers" just doesn't have the same ring to it.Seventhmist - 7th Heaven
On February 1, 1968, the Who appeared in concert at the Civic Auditorium in San Jose, California, it was the first stop on their third tour of North America...
A little under six weeks earlier on December 23rd, 1967 it was at #25 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, and that was also its eleven and last week on the chart...
It would peak at #9 {for 2 weeks} on November 19th, 1967; and as stated above, of their twenty six records that made the Top 100 it was the only one to make the Top 10...
Their albums fared much better; they had eight Top 10 albums on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart, with their 1978 album 'Who Are You' reaching #2.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
DJ - Vegas. Can we speak to the adults now?Luke - Manchester, Uk
On December 30th 1967, a video of The Who performing "I Can See For Miles" was aired on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
Two months earlier on October 8th it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on November 19th it peaked at #9 (for 2 weeks) and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
It was track seven of side one on their album 'The Who Sell Out', the album reached #48 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
R.I.P. drummer Keith Moon (1946 - 1978) and bassist John Entwistle (1944 - 2002).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Funniest thing about this song - the opening guitar riff is a quote from "Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers.Thegripester - Wellington, New Zealand
I always figured Alan Parsons' 'Eye in the Sky' was made with this song in mind.Esskayess - Dallas, Tx
Thia is my favorite song by the Who, and there are many, many to choose from. It is known also, as the most psychedelic song from the band.... - Seattle, Wa
this is the loudest, nastiest, sweatiest rock number i heard the who do SO FARDj - Las Vegas, Nv
I always thought this song was about Remote Viewing/clarvoyance."Magic in my eyes"..."I can see for miles"..."you thought I'd need a crystal ball".
Cheating wife/girlfriend "will lose that smile" when she realizes he could remote view her.
Michael - Eugene, Or, Or
Influential along with numerous other Who songs on hard rock, similar to their stage show at the time, and inspired rock bands like Led ZeppelinHsimpson220@yahoo.co - Mericka, Md
This is my favorite early Who song.Everything about it encapsules what the band was all about at this stage in their career. Pete's loud and distorted guitar,with power chords.Keith's loud upfront in your face drumming.Roger's ethereal vocals.And John's thunderous unflinching bass. When listening to it. I used to envision this poweful band on a huge stage. Just pushing their message to the masses.A great Who song that has stood the test of time. It is the best song from their "Sell Out" album.Wayne - Salem, Va
inspired helter skelter, which is now called the beginning of hard rock- paul mccarteny heard pete townshend bragging about the loud craziness of this song, and felt the need to song-top him. lol, modern rock came from one episode of mega-spiting....Chloe - St. Louis, Mo
I like Pete's guitar playing but take it or leave it the first half of the short solo in this song has only one note (tonic) repeated many times for 8 seconds 2:11-2:19.Mike - Boulder, Co
Ok, Pete Townshend is MY guitar hero, and it sickens me to read that there are idiots like Dirk who think that Pete is a bad lead player.
This vids prove he is one of the greatest:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YWiLExCbWw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQxqbs7vQgc
That's how it is folks.
Ian - Augusta, Me
How good is this album cover...mmmmmm Daltry in a bath of baked beans....Nady - Adelaide, Australia
To whoever made the comment about this being for his soon to be wife.
Are you sure?
It sounds like a relationship doomed to dismal failure if you start a song to your gf by saying "I know you cheat on me"!!!
The pre-nuptual would have made an interesting read!
Andy - Halesowen, West Midlands, United Kingdom
How do you folks take the line "Her's a poke at you, you're going to choke on it too..."?
I can think of one rather obvious meaning, but maybe I have been watching the wrong kind of movies ;-) Is there a less smutty meaning?
Andy - Halesowen, West Midlands, United Kingdom
What is most striking about this song is the unbelieveable drumming of Keith Moon. This just may be rock's greatest drum song ever. As for Townsends guitar capabilities, there are few if any guitar players who can play rhythm guitar like he can. He has performed some of the best right hand guitar work in rock history. He's not your typical 300 note per minute scale playing guitar hero but is more one to play leads economically and the notes he plays do fit in with the entire song, as opposed to something like taking a break in the middle of the song to showcase the virtuoso talents of the guitar player. Nothing wrong with either style, but Townsend IS a great guitar player, just not in the Page, Hendrix, Clapton, Beck model.John - Worcester, Ma
What a powerful Rock & Roll song! How can you not enjoy the way the song builds up and the chord change halfway thru just gives you the sense that it is being taken up to a higher level even. The echo effect at the end also... very innovative for the time. Pete Townshend is one of my all time favorite composers of rock music. Check out some of his solo efforts without the Who. I saw The WHO play Tommy in Detroit as the first concert I ever went to at age 17 (1970) WOW!Mark Koski - Detroit, Mi
As far as Pete Townshend, The Guitar Hero - youre correct. I dont think he has ever been accused of being one of the great "Guitar Heroes", as far as soloing is conerned. But he is, a Songwriting-Hero-God, of guitar-based rock music. He is a genius when it comes to the songwriting craft, which to me, is far more impressive than being a master guitar solo player. Pete is a "Guitar God" in that sense. And, lets not forget about the windmills and all - how cool is that ! He is an amazing composer, and performer, using the guitar fret-board as his canvas, or his primary tool. Also, if you think about it - the trend in rock music today, is leaving the classic Guitar-Solo behind. The guitar-solo is more or less out of style these days, and so in that sense, Pete was ahead of his time. Guitar Solos are more or less for the guitar player to get their rocks off, but not necessarily for the fans. Of course, there will always be a place for Eddie Van Halen - he rocks. But as far as Pete Townshend is concerned, his talent for dramatic songwriting and performance is unmatched. I mean, come on - We Wont Get Fooled Again ? Baba OReilly ? Some things in life were meant to be - for example, Vanilla Ice Cream. If whoever invented it, did not invent it - it would only be a matter of time before somebody else did stumble across it as an invention - it was meant to be invented. Songs like "We Wont Get Fooled Again" follow the same principle - they are meant to be. If Pete didnt write them, somebody else would have, eventually -because they are meant to exist, they come from a place beyond this earth, a spiritual repository or something like that, where all great artists tap into - like mediums or something.

Tommy, Quadrophenia ? GTFOOH !
Tom - Nyc, Ny
Dirk, Nashville--Pete Townshend is respected tremendously by guitarists everywhere. He played the perfect thing every time, and that doesn't mean he always had to play some blazing solo if it didn't fit the song. His playing is innovative, understated, perfect.Tom - North Attleboro, Ma
I Can See for Miles was used as a metaphor for acid trips in my hippie crowd at Sacramento State in 1967.Doug - Oakland, Ca
Just for the education of my American cousins, in the UK we use Miles not Kilometres (or even Kilometers if you cannot spell the English way). We do now use litres (not liters) in place of gallons, but back then our similarities were an illusion because the US gallon is/was smaller than the "imperial" gallon anyway. ABOUT THE WHO I think it's really interesting how important the unsumg John Entwhistle was to those early recordings, good bass playing that gave a lot to melody, perhaps to make up for Pete's limitations at the time. John Entwhistle was a "proper musician" who also played French Horn.John - Worcester, England
I love this song and the video. Pete Townshend is the best. I love his music and words. Rock On Pete!!!Shannan - Wilmington, De
I'm not sure how much this matters to some people, but I've read that this song was released in '67. Maybe '68 refers to the album?Rachel - Toledo, Oh
This song was used in a commercial. It was for Sylvania Headlights.Mikey - Boston, Ma
Even if Townshend had decided to metricate his lyrics, it wouldn't have been "kilometers" anyway. After all, in non-American English the spelling is "kilometres". Nyah.Fiona - Napier, New Zealand
Paul Mccartney wrote Helter Skelter as a result of this song. It was considered "hard rock" at the time so Paul wanted to write something harder than this, so he wrote Helter Skelter.Jeff - Sothington, Ct
This is their greatest song if you ask me.Jonathon - Clermont, Fl
"This song always reminds me of something that bothers me about "Peter Townsend, legendary guitarist".... A great writer of power-pop songs--no question. A great maker of rock records--abslutely. A great creative influence on pop music in general, yes. But one of the world's greatest rock guitar players? I hardly think so. The boy can hardly string together four notes. I love this song. It's incredibly powerful and catchy. But what about that lead guitar solo? One note? It makes you want to go back and listen to all the other Who classics (Wont Get Fooled Again, for example) to re-examine the guitar. Pete could wail out a power chord. But when it came to a lead solo, he either slashed out a couple of distorted chords, or he hit one or two notes.... Am I being a heretic?
- dirk, Nashville, TN"
Yes you are. The lead guitar solo in this song is amazing. I'd like to see anyone else play a two note solo and make it sound good. And if you want to hear some really amazing playing by pete listen to Live at Leeds, Naked Eye off of Who's Next with bonus tracks, and I can't Explain. And listen to Pete's phenominal Acoustic playing in the album version of Who are you. Outstanding
Griffin - New York, Ny
Was'nt this used in some car commercial advertising their new navigation system or something?Mike - Germantown, Md
"Not a huge hit?" It went top ten on both sides of the Atlantic for crying out loud. That sounds like a big hit to me. I'm biased though, because I always loved it. By the way, Tom, the metric system is 'Continental,' meaning that it's primarily in use on the European continent. The wacky system of inches, feet, miles and all is actually called the "English" system because they invented it. Which is, of course, how it came to be common in America, since we started out as a British colony.Dennis - Anchorage, Ak
Wait...isn't the Who english, shouldn't the song be: "I can see for kilometers and kilometers and kilometers and kilometers and kilometers", on second thought, maybe "miles" is a better choice.Tom - Dosen't Matter, Ct
This was recorded at Gold Star Studios in California (where Phil Spector recorded the majority of his Sixties output). I think this is the best sounding Who single. The instruments are clear and powerful and Roger sings with menace. The group recorded this and hung on to it, believing it would be a huge hit.Don - Newmarket, Canada
Ben I had Posted that comment, in response to the one posted by Theo from Andover England. From that comment, it still seems like the road signs in Britain are measured in miles. I get your point though. I'm confused. Can anyone clarify this?Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
despite the fact that motorists do in fact still use imperial measurements, i'd like to point out that it's actually an expression, idiomatic if you like. it's like saying "that place is miles away", in which you refer to a long distance rather than any specific length, and that's the context it's being used in here.Sam - Shanghai, China
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC

they Don't Use Miles In England!!!!!!!!!
THey use the meter system
Ben - Nyc, Ms
This is one of my all time favorite underatted songs up there with the Baba O' RileyKendall - Thomasville, Ga
I didn't know road signs were still marked in miles in England. Interesting tidbit though.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Some people wonder about the use of the word "miles" since England was using the metric system by then. But in the UK, "miles" was the only form of measurment still used from their old system - the system the U.S. still uses today. Road signs in England are still marked in "miles" rather than "kilometers". The UK is the only country using the metric system to do this.Ken - Louisville, Ky
Number 1 hits are overrated. Great bands have never had number 1 hits, examples, the Who and Led Zeppelin. They had had #1 albums though, and that's the important thing. The Beatles are so unbelievable because they had #1 singles and albums. Zep's still my favorite though.Joe - Bethlahem, Pa
I went to Yosemite a few years ago with my dad and two brothers. We drove up to Glacier Point, where you can see far out to all of the mountains and hills and the valley, it's beautiful.
We were leaning against the rail, and the radio in my dad's Honda was playing, and this song came on. And you really could see for "miles and miles." It was awesome. I smile everytime i think of it.
Michelle - Anaheim, Ca
This one goes out to Dick from Nashville. Townshend doesent need to make a face-melting guitar solo when you got Enhwistle and Moon playing behind you or am I just being heretic?! Take my two polls while your reading this: http://www.misterpoll.com/728242186.html
http://www.misterpoll.com/4161124639.html
David Corino - Hawley, Pa
I love this song!
It is amazing as "See me Feel me"
Alfred - Sidmouth, Co
"I can see for miles and miles" sounds better then " I can see for kilometers and kilometers" Ronnie.Jeffrey - Bethel, Ak
This song always reminds me of something that bothers me about "Peter Townsend, legendary guitarist".... A great writer of power-pop songs--no question. A great maker of rock records--abslutely. A great creative influence on pop music in general, yes. But one of the world's greatest rock guitar players? I hardly think so. The boy can hardly string together four notes. I love this song. It's incredibly powerful and catchy. But what about that lead guitar solo? One note? It makes you want to go back and listen to all the other Who classics (Wont Get Fooled Again, for example) to re-examine the guitar. Pete could wail out a power chord. But when it came to a lead solo, he either slashed out a couple of distorted chords, or he hit one or two notes.... Am I being a heretic?Dirk - Nashville, Tn
But he met Karen at art school, so he must have written this song when he was like 16...are you sure?Fintan - Cheltenham, England
Lord Sitar also does a lounge version...pretty..pretty...pretty good
To quote Pete, when the record didn't sell as well as he expected..."I spat on the record buyer"
Rex Jackson - Sleze Lans, Ma
This was always one of my favorites, although I didn't quite understand it until just now!Mike - Chicago, Il
I heard somewhere that there is a mono mersion that has an extra bass part dubbed in, and that this version is really hard to find. Apparently, this version is not available on CD.Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
All the road signs in Britain are in miles, and have been for as long as there have been road signs. It was only a year or two ago that people had to sell vegetables in kilos rather than pounds and ounces. This isn't Europe damnit. Greats song from a great band though.Theo - Andover, England
I always wondered why Townshend didn't write the lyrics "I can see for kilometers" instead of "I can see for miles" since he is in fact British and they use the metric system there.Ronnie - Ft. Meyers, Fl
They made a great promotional film for this song (they weren't called videos back then). One part showed them "playing" (lip-synching no doubt)the song somewhere out of doors in London, then the camera zoomed out, and up, to show the whole of the city. Probably done from a helicopter.Steve - Hamilton, Canada
It's true. This is the only top ten hit The Who had in the US. Surprising, huh?Steven - Congers, Ny
I dont really get this song, its good but i wuld never say their best...also it is referred to in Stephen King's novel "The Stand".Shana - Pembroke, Canada
Won't Get Fooled Again made the top 10 in the UK but not here.... crazy americans. But uh... good song I can see for miles... Well going after another michigan person, I might as well take time to support the Detroit Tigers, americas #1 baseball team. Go Who!Jonathan - Ann Arbor, Mi
UMM what about wont get fooled again? that didnt get in the top 10?Tyler - Farmington, Mi
This song was the inspiration for Paul McCartney to write Helter Skelter, giving birth to modern rockMike - London, England
Well, they had a lot of top 10s in the UK but no no'1s.Tom - Trowbridge, England
The "concept album" (The Who Sell Out) did more than merely "Make fun" of commercial radio. It was designed as an homage British pirate radio stations in the late 60's. These stations were really important to the development of British rock, giving airplay to music often ignored by the BBC.Ken - St. Louis, Mo
Believe it or not, this was the only Top 10 hit The Who ever had...Brad Wind - Miami, Fl
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