I Can See for Miles

"I Can See for Miles" is a song by the English rock band the Who, recorded for the band's 1967 album The Who Sell Out. Written by guitarist Pete Townshend,[5] it was the only song from the album to be released as a single. It remains the Who's biggest hit single in the US and, after debuting on the Hot 100 at number 72 on 14 October 1967, their only one to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, at number 9 on 25 November – 2 December 1967.

"I Can See for Miles"
Single by The Who
from the album The Who Sell Out
Released18 September 1967 (US)[1]
13 October 1967 (UK)[2]
Format7-inch single
Songwriter(s)Pete Townshend
Producer(s)Kit Lambert
The Who singles chronology
"The Last Time"
"I Can See for Miles"


Recorded in several separate sessions in studios across two continents, the recording of "I Can See for Miles" exemplifies the increasingly sophisticated studio techniques of rock bands in the late 1960s, such as those used for the Beatles and the Beach Boys. The backing tracks were recorded in London, the vocals and overdubbing were performed in New York at Talentmasters Studios, and the album was mastered in Los Angeles at the Gold Star Studios.[6] The initial UK mono pressing (Track Records) and the US Decca single has an overdubbed second bass line mixed upfront, whilst the drums are mixed slightly lower.

It reached number 10 in the UK and number 9 in the US. Though these figures would seem successful to most bands, Townshend was disappointed. He had written the song in 1966 but had held it back as an "ace in the hole", believing it would be The Who's first number-one single.[7] He is quoted as saying, "To me it was the ultimate Who record, yet it didn't sell. I spat on the British record buyer."

The song may have inspired the Beatles' "Helter Skelter". Paul McCartney recalls writing "Helter Skelter" after reading a review of The Who Sell Out in which the critic claimed that "I Can See for Miles" was the "heaviest" song he had ever heard. McCartney had not heard the song but wrote: "Helter Skelter" in an attempt to make an even "heavier" song than the one praised in the review.

"I Can See for Miles" was rarely performed live by the Who during the Keith Moon era; the complex vocal harmonies were difficult to replicate on stage, as was the percussion style found on the original recording. The song was performed on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in September 1967, but it was mimed. It was performed more regularly beginning in 1979 when Kenney Jones became the band's drummer, albeit in a much more straightforward rhythm. It was also played at nearly every show of the group's 1989 tour with Simon Phillips on drums and has been performed a handful of times with current drummer Zak Starkey.

Roger Daltrey has played this song with his band No Plan B since 2009. It is a regular encore for his Tommy show.

The 1979 compilation/soundtrack album The Kids Are Alright has a 2:45 abridged alternate mix of this song, as heard in the September 1967 mimed performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The 1984 compilation album The Singles on both LP and CD releases has the 4:02 initial UK mono single version with the overdubbed second bass line mix.

Critical reception

The song is ranked number 40 on Dave Marsh's "The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made",[8] number 37 on NME's "The Top 100 Singles of All-Time",[9] number 162 on Pitchfork Media's "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s",[10] and number 258 on Rolling Stone magazine's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[11] Writing on AllMusic, Richie Unterberger called "I Can See for Miles" "one of the greatest Who songs", adding that it also features "one of Keith Moon's greatest performances" and "one of the best drum parts ever on a rock record".[12]


References in pop culture

  • The intro to the song was used in the film The Boat That Rocked during the unsuccessful police raid scene.
  • The song was on the 2004 re-issue soundtrack album of the 1969 Dennis Hopper film Easy Rider. However, it was not on the film's soundtrack.
  • Big Jim Sullivan, under the name "Lord Sitar", recorded an instrumental version that was eventually released as part of the Ultra-Lounge series.
  • The opening segment combined with the chorus part at 1:03 was used for an automobile headlights advertisement, by Sylvania.
  • Featured in a Jiffy Lube TV ad campaign of the 1990s, "I can drive for miles and miles".
  • This song is included in the Apollo 13 soundtrack.
  • "I Can See for Miles" was also included in a commercial for American Honda Motors in September and October 2007.
  • The song is part of the soundtrack of Rock Band 3.[15]
  • The song was used during the opening and closing credits of the BBC sitcom Supernova.
  • The song is used at the beginning and end of the CSI episode "Kitty" that also served as backdoor pilot for CSI: Cyber, and has subsequently become the theme song for its spin-off series.


  1. "The Who – I Can See For Miles". Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  2. "The Who – I Can See For Miles". Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  3. Casey Harison (6 November 2014). Feedback: The Who and Their Generation. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-4422-4010-0.
  4. Unterberger, Richie (7 May 2012). "I Can See for Miles". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  5. "Show 49 – The British are Coming! The British are Coming!: With an emphasis on Donovan, the Bee Gees and the Who. [Part 6] : UNT Digital Library". Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  6. Charlesworth, C. "The Who Sell Out Liner Notes". thewho.net. Archived from the original on 10 December 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  7. Atkins, John. The Who on record: a critical history, 1963–1998. McFarland. p. 89.
  8. The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made Archived 4 February 2002 at the Wayback Machine
  9. "Rocklist.net....NME Greatest Singles Lists..." www.rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  10. "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  11. "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Archived from the original on 25 June 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  12. Unterberger, Richie. "The Who | 'I Can See for Miles'". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmQNo8xtcAg
  14. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/i-can-see-for-miles-feat-chelsea-davis-single/1396122742
  15. Reilly, Jim (20 August 2010). "Rock Band 3 Set List Revealed". Retrieved 6 September 2017.


  • Kent, Matt and Andy Neill. The Who: The Ultimate Collection (liner notes). MCA Records, 2002.
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