Ugh. There has probably been a time when we realized we were somebody’s substitute for another person — and we were not happy about it. “Substitute” was written by written by Who member Peter Townshend. The Who released the single in 1966, and it charted well internationally but not in the U.S. It went to #5 in the UK and Australia, #2 in The Netherlands, #13 in Germany, and #3 in New Zealand. The song was released later on their 1971 Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy album, and that compilation album went to #11 in the U.S. and became a platinum record.
The story is that “Substitute” was inspired by the song “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. There’s a line that says: “Although she may be cute/ She’s just a substitute.” And Townshend’s mind took it from there. The American single had a lyric change. The line “I look all white but my Dad was black” became “I try walking forward but my feet walk back.” Also the track was shortened.
“Substitute” is classified as power pop, which is a form of hard rock with a pop melodic line. There have been numerous covers of the song, including versions by The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and Blur.
The Who at that time were Peter Townshend (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Keith Moon (drums, percussions), John Entwistle (bass guitar, vocals), and Roger Daltrey (lead vocals). They are considered to be one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century.