Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé article
fromheadtoheart flag England - Full Moon 224 - 12/06/14

From head to heart
The Who's "I Can't Explain"

Following our retroscope series of latter years, here we go again! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth we are doing a fifty-year rewind, to a seven inch single of late 1964 (or early new year 65...). They were young, they were high on life, they were jokers, and they were restless. They spoke for a generation. Their own. They were alright (still are, even if half of them have passed away). They were loud, quick, happy, cocky and spastic. Windmills. Jumpsuits. Nudity, obscenity, and insanity - following the alcohol and drug bonanza. They were wizards (on the pinball game, as well as in pop life in general). Later they sold out, they smashed up their gear (again), and they could see for miles. They were on the magic rock bus for years, they showed pictures, and they were pop/rock doctors. They could fool their audiences, but wouldn't get fooled themselevs. In the beginning they operated in mono, but went stereo, as well as quadrophenic. They did dirty jobs, they were wild and frantic. You'd better, you bet!


The Who
I Can't Explain b/w Bald Headed Woman
Decca Records/Brunswick Records

The 'Oo was originally called The Detours, but changed the name in early 1964. By spring their manager at the time, Peter Meaden, persuaded them to change again, to The High Numbers, to cash in on the mod movement that rode high at least in southern England at the time. He rewrote two American songs and made The High Numbers record them as their first and (so far) last single "Zoot Suit"/"I'm The Face", released in June 1964. It didn't stir any foundations. The band was taken over by a couple of new managers and changed the name back to The Who soon after. Who guitarist and frontman Pete Townshend started to write his own songs at this time. "I Can't Explain" was his second successful attempt to complete a song. After the management had met up with Kinks producer, American Shel Talmy, Pete tightened it up 'to make it sound as much like The Kinks as I could so that Shel would like it'. The Kinks was riding high at the time with their hit single "You Really Got Me" and especially the opening guitar riff of "I Can't Explain" owes a lot to The Kinks. Talmy was impressed an signed them to his production company. Pete's song was recorded in November. Unlike rumours about the recording of "You Really Got Me", Shel really brought along session guitarist and future Led Zeppeliner Jimmy Page to the studio this time. Pete Townshend didn't appreciate, but allegedly Jimmy's efforts didn't make it to the final mix because the guitar solos bu the two sounded so similar. Also present was the newly formed vocal trio The Ivy League for backing vocals. This was in fact their first recording session. They gave the song a popier touch than the average Who number at the time. Pete: 'Shel Talmy got a good sound, tight and commercial, and although there was no guitar feedback I was willing to compromise to get a hit. We wouldn't know if the gamble would pay off until after the New Year.'

The single was first released in America according to Wikipedia, fifty years ago this moonth because Shel Talmy had a label deal with Decca Records over there. It saw the light of day on 15 January 1965 at home in Britain, on the subsidiary Brunswick, that British Decca used for American artists. The B-side of the single was a lot rougher, a cover of a traditional blues number "adapted" and credited to one Sheldon Talmy to earn him a slice of the royalty pie. It had also been recorded for the Shel Talmy produced debut album by The Kinks released a couple of months prior to The Who single. The recordings sound pretty similar, very slow at the start and gradually gaining speed, but unlike Kinks' version Who vocalist Roger Daltrey squeezed in a short bluesy harmonica solo. After a couple of appearances at BBC television the single climbed to no. 8 in the British charts in April and even made it to no. 93 on American Billboard Hot 100. The Who was established as one of the promising young new acts, and the rest is history.

Although half the original members of The Who have passed away, the band is still with us. But the youthful teenage torments of the autumn 1964 are by now long gone...

Got a feeling inside (Can't explain)
It's a certain kind (Can't explain)
I feel hot and cold (Can't explain)
Yeah, down in my soul, yeah (Can't explain)

I said (Can't explain)
I'm feeling good now, yeah, but (Can't explain)

Dizzy in the head and I'm feeling blue
The things you've said, well, maybe they're true
I'm gettin' funny dreams again and again
I know what it means, but

Can't explain
I think it's love
Try to say it to you
When I feel blue
But I can't explain (Can't explain)
Yeah, hear what I'm saying, girl (Can't explain)

Dizzy in the head and I'm feeling bad
The things you've said have got me real mad
I'm gettin' funny dreams again and again
I know what it means but

Can't explain
I think it's love
Try to say it to you
When I feel blue
But I can't explain (Can't explain)
Forgive me one more time, now (Can't explain)

I said I can't explain, yeah
You drive me out of my mind
Yeah, I'm the worrying kind, babe
I said I can't explain

The quotes are taken from Pete Townshend's (disappointing, really) autobiography Who I Am (HarperCollins 2012).

Copyright © 2014 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Who articles/reviews: Endless Wire, My Generation, Quadrophenia - Different Deluxe versions, Who's Next.

© 2014 Luna Kafé