The song was written by group member Pete Townshend. It was produced by Shel Talmy, an American record producer who worked in England with groups such as The Who and The Kinks. The single was released in December 1964 in the U.S. and January 1965 in the U.K. This was their first single released as The Who. For their previous single, they had called themselves The High Numbers. “I Can’t Explain” went to #8 on the U.K. Singles Chart and #93 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It is a good explain of Sixties British invasion music.
Townshend was 18 years old at the time he wrote “I Can’t Explain.” He said it was about awkwardness in telling his girlfriend that he loved her. In Rolling Stone magazine, Townshend claimed he was tongue-tied because he was on Dexedrine, but then it was the Sixties, and that sounded cool, and maybe it was true and maybe it wasn’t.
The band members for the track were Roger Daltrey (lead vocals, tambourine), John Entwistle (bass guitar, handclaps), Keith Moon (drums, handclaps), and Pete Townshend (lead and rhythm 12-string guitar, handclaps). Backing vocals were by the Ivy League (session musicians John Carter, Ken Lewis, Perry Ford). Jimmy Page was on rhythm guitar, but there’s talk about whether or not his work made it to the final cut.