I'm A Boy

Album: Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy (1966)
Charted: 2
Play Video


  • 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."
  • 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."
  • At one point in his life, Pete Townshend was happy to sleep with anyone, regardless of their gender. Speaking to The Daily Star's Wired column about the origins of this song he said he wrote it, "about the idea of masculinity and the way that men are seen to be at a time when I often forget, to be homosexual, to be pansexual, as I think I probably was, but not anymore."

    Townshend added that he penned the song before the British government decriminalized homosexuality, "so these adventures had to be couched in vignettes of humor and irony."

Comments: 15

  • Oliver from None Of Your Businesstransmasc teen here. this encapsulates my feelings pretty well, albeit a bit simplistically. wonderful song and surprisingly progressive for the sixties :)
  • Ben from AustraliaAs a trans man, this song hits really close to home. Really captures the s--ttiness of being misgendered by your own mum.
  • Clemence from New YorkI always wondered if this song was autobiographical for Pete Townsend. Sounds like it wasn't.
  • Scott from New York, NyChris, it's a French Horn. That was John's first instrument and he plays it on various who songs such as My Wife.
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaThis is a great song! I grew up one boy with four sisters, so I could always relate to it. I didn't have the extreme issues portrayed in the song, but it always cracked me up and I felt like it was one of my theme songs. It pays to have a sense of humour. Pete Townshend wrote about real psychology like no other rocker!!
  • David from Boerne, TxThis lyric is surprisingly touching. Especially to an adult who might've had "gender identity issues" as a kid, which I understand Townshend did.
  • Tomcat from Richmond, VaReply to Zack:
    I think that this means that if the poor kid tries to assert himself, his parents whack the living tar out of him.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScThe description of "Quads" in the above mensioned songfacts sounda little like what happens in the movie "Gattica". has anyone else noticed that?
  • Chris from Elk River, MnOne of the few rock songs I am aware of that uses a tuba. At least I'm pretty sure it's a tuba, at the end of the song.
  • Zack from Burnley, EnglandCan anyone else here a voiceover on "...but if I say I am I *get it*"?
  • Fintan from Cheltenham, EnglandThe family in "Quads" had ordered four girls but had instead gotten three girls and one boy.
  • Eddie from Petaluma, Cathis song rocks. the lyrics rock and so does the actual song. god bless the who and pete townshend for coming out with such a great song
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScWow pete Townshend was definitely ahead of his time. I mien, I dould the song was about a boy whose mother wanted him to be a girl, but noone else would have written about that in the '60's. Would they have?!
  • Ryan from Albion, Nyi thought this song was kind of the opposite..like a girl who acts like she's a boy or something..oh well
  • Shana from Detroit Rock City, Canadahaha this song is cool...it starts to rock out a bit into it and I think they should have stuck with that for the rest of the song, or at least made it into a chorus type thing...
see more comments

Editor's Picks

The Punk Photography of Chris Stein

The Punk Photography of Chris SteinSong Writing

Chris Stein of Blondie shares photos and stories from his book about the New York City punk scene.

Little Richard

Little RichardFact or Fiction

Was Long Tall Sally a cross-dresser? Did he really set his piano on fire? See if you know the real stories about one of rock's greatest innovators.

Sam Phillips

Sam PhillipsSongwriter Interviews

Collaborating with T Bone Burnett, Leslie Phillips changed her name and left her Christian label behind - Robert Plant, who recorded one of her songs on Raising Sand, is a fan.

90210 to Buffy to Glee: How Songs Transformed TV

90210 to Buffy to Glee: How Songs Transformed TVSong Writing

Shows like Dawson's Creek, Grey's Anatomy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the way songs were heard on TV, and produced some hits in the process.

Five Rockers Who Rolled With The Devil

Five Rockers Who Rolled With The DevilSong Writing

Just how much did these monsters of rock dabble in the occult?

Church Lyrics

Church LyricsMusic Quiz

Here is the church, here is the steeple - see if you can identify these lyrics that reference church.