2. "I Can See for Miles" ('The Who Sell Out', 1967)
Townshend recorded "I Can See for Miles" as a demo in 1966, and the Who's managers were so positive it was a guaranteed smash that they decided to shelve it until a time when the Who desperately needed a hit. This gave Townshend time to slowly craft his masterpiece. "It was written about jealousy but ended up being about the immense power of aspiration," he said later. "I spent a lot of time working on the vocal harmonies and structuring it." He began work at CBS Studios in London and finished months later at Gold Star in L.A., the same studio where Brian Wilson created his similarly ambitious "Good Vibrations" the previous year. Wilson's efforts paid off with a song that topped the charts in both the U.K. and U.S. "I Can See for Miles" didn't do well commercially in England ("Didn't sell a single copy," Townshend said. "I was humiliated"), but it did reach Number Nine in America, making it the Who's biggest stateside hit. Despite his disappointment, Townshend knew he'd made something timeless. "One of the best songs I've ever written," he later recalled.