You might never have heard of British session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan, the man behind the moniker of Lord Sitar, but you’ll certainly have heard him playing on over fifty number one singles from the sixties and seventies, ranging from Sandie Shaw’s Puppet on a String to Serge Gainsbourg’s Je T’aime. If you’re a follower of this blog, you might have even unwittingly seen him playing guitar for the James Last Orchestra on this cover of Hawkwind’s Silver Machine.
I Can See For Miles was written by Pete Townshend for the Who’s 1967 album The Who Sell Out. Townshend believed it would be the Who’s first number one single yet it peaked at number 10 in the UK charts. Townshend was disgusted: “To me it was the ultimate Who record,” he said “yet it didn’t sell. I spat on the British record buyer.”
I Can See For Miles was also reportedly the inspiration for the Beatles’ Helter Skelter. Paul McCartney recalled writing Helter Skelter after reading a review of The Who Sell Out in which the critic claimed I Can See for Miles was the ‘heaviest’ song he had ever heard. Helter Skelter was McCartney’s attempt to one up the Who by making an even heavier track with “the most raucous vocal, the loudest drums, et cetera”.