The Who's 50 Greatest Songs

From power-pop anthems to operatic epics to stadium-size rockers and beyond

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22. "The Seeker" (Non-album single, 1970)

This anthem of spiritual questing wasn't born in an ashram; Townshend wrote it during a night of hard partying during a U.S. tour, in a "mosquito-ridden swamp [in Florida] at three in the morning, drunk out of my brain .... Quite loosely," he once said, "'The Seeker' [is about] what I call Divine Desperation." In lyrics predicting John Lennon's "God" (released later that year), Daltrey name-checks the Beatles, "Bobby Dylan" and Timothy Leary, but none of them have the answers he needs. "We're looking at each other," he concludes, "and we don't know what to do." Unusually, the band self-produced the track, as producer Kit Lambert was laid up with a broken jaw. But the sound mix roared, and it became the first single the Who released after the triumph of Tommy. "The Seeker" was an underperformer on the pop charts, but it remained a potent statement. Townshend played it acoustic at Meher Baba gatherings, and the Who's live performances of the song were overpowering – "an elephant," said Townshend, that "finally stampeded itself to death on stages around England."

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