“Substitute” is a song by the English rock band The Who, written by Pete Townshend. Released in March 1966, the single reached number five in the UK and was later included on the compilation album Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy in 1971. In 2006, Pitchfork ranked “Substitute” at number ninety-one on the “200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s”.
“Substitute” was primarily inspired by the 1965 soul single “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Pete Townshend became obsessed, particularly, with the line, “Although she may be cute/She’s just a substitute.” This had then led Townshend “to celebrate the word with a song all its own.”
For the American single, released in April 1966, the line in the chorus “I look all white but my dad was black” was amended to “I try walking forward but my feet walk back.” The complete second verse and chorus were also erased from the US release, reducing the track’s length to two minutes and fifty-nine seconds.