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This is about a boy whose mother wants him to be a girl, while the boy longs to assert his real sexual identity. The controversial subject of cross-dressing was probably the reason why this failed to reach the American Top 100.
Pete Townshend wrote this for a Rock Opera he was composing called "Quads," which was about a future where parents could choose the sex of their children. That opera never happened. It is possible that Townshend had his old title in mind when a few years later he came up with the title for "Quadrophenia." (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2)
Roger Daltrey in Q
magazine March 2008: "I always thought The Who went through a weird period after 'My Generation
' (November 1965) that lasted until we did 'Magic Bus
' (October 1968). I thought it all went a bit sloppy. But 'I'm A Boy' and 'Pictures Of Lily
' were from that period when I'd been allowed back into the band (Daltrey had been asked to leave after beating up Keith Moon over his heavy use of amphetamines). My ego had been crushed. I was insecure and it showed in my voice. When I first heard those songs, I was like, 'Oi, what's this all about?' I didn't think I could find the right voice for them. You can hear it when you listen to them now, but my insecurity made those songs sound better. It was a happy accident."
Daltrey told Uncut magazine: "On 'I'm A Boy', I tried to sing it like a really, really young kid, like an eight-year-old. Not the voice of an eight-year-old but the sentiment – and I think that came across."
The good doctor shares some candid insights on recording with Phil Spector and The Black Keys.
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