Who – I’m A Boy

My name is Bill, and I’m a head case

Now THAT is a lyric worth exploring.

Pete Townshend wrote this for a Rock Opera he was composing called “Quads,” which was about a future where parents could choose the sex of their children. That opera never happened. I have to wonder if Townshend had this old title in mind when a few years later he came up with the title for “Quadrophenia.”

I’m A Boy was released as a single in 1966. The song peaked at #2 in the UK and #2 in New Zealand. The song was not heard much in America or Canada at the time. Many of their singles would finally come to the light when the great compilation album Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy was released in 1971. They did a live version and included it on the live album Live At Leeds released in 1970.

Released as the B-side of the single was “In the City”, the first and last song credited to the songwriting collaboration of John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Entwistle referred to it as rip-off of Jan and Dean, a group that was a favorite of Moon’s.

Roger Daltrey: “I always thought The Who went through a weird period after ‘My Generation’ (November 1965) that lasted until we did ‘Magic Bus’ (October 1968). I thought it all went a bit sloppy. But ‘I’m A Boy’ and ‘Pictures Of Lily’ were from that period when I’d been allowed back into the band (Daltrey had been asked to leave after beating up Keith Moon over his heavy use of amphetamines). My ego had been crushed. I was insecure and it showed in my voice. When I first heard those songs, I was like, ‘Oi, what’s this all about?’ I didn’t think I could find the right voice for them. You can hear it when you listen to them now, but my insecurity made those songs sound better. It was a happy accident.”

From Songfacts

This is about a boy whose mother wants him to be a girl, while the boy longs to assert his real sexual identity. The controversial subject of cross-dressing was probably the reason why this failed to reach the American Top 100.

Daltrey told Uncut magazine: “On ‘I’m A Boy’, I tried to sing it like a really, really young kid, like an eight-year-old. Not the voice of an eight-year-old but the sentiment – and I think that came across.”

I’m A Boy

One girl was called Jean Marie
Another little girl was called Felicity
Another little girl was Sally Joy
The other was me, and I’m a boy

My name is Bill, and I’m a head case
They practice making up on my face
Yeah, I feel lucky if I get trousers to wear
Spend evenings taking hairpins from my hair

I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But my ma won’t admit it
I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But if I say I am, I get it

Put your frock on, Jean Marie
Plait your hair, Felicity
Paint your nails, little Sally Joy
Put this wig on, little boy

I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But my ma won’t admit it
I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But if I say I am, I get it

I want to play cricket on the green
Ride my bike across the street
Cut myself and see my blood
I want to come home all covered in mud

I’m a boy, I’m a boy
But my ma won’t admit it
I’m a boy, I’m a boy, I’m a boy
I’m a boy, I’m a boy, I’m a boy, I’m a boy
I’m a boy, I’m a boy, I’m a boy

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

26 thoughts on “Who – I’m A Boy”

  1. I’ve mentioned it before-probably a couple times but when I hear this song I think of when I first heard it- when I discovered one of my favorite Greatest Hits- Best Of- compilations- Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy…. perfection.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Roger’s backstory on this song is quite revealing. It’s really amazing how the band stayed together and kept getting better and more innovative. The song is not one of my faves, but probably only because of its awkwardness.

    Like

  3. Great pick, Max, and interesting background story about Roger Daltrey.

    I’ve always loved this tune. If I recall it correctly, I heard it for the first time in the ’80s when I got a Who compilation titled “The Singles”. According to Wikipedia, this collection from November 1984 wasn’t released in the U.S. or Canada and skipped some of the band’s early singles – ironically, perhaps the biggest omission is “I Can’t Explain”! 🙂

    Still, I think it’s a great compilation. More importantly, it marked the beginning of my Who journey. Before then, I had only known a handful of their songs like “Pinball Wizard” and “Substitute”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a greatest hits package called Holigans and it had a few early songs but then I got Big Meaty…etc and it had all of their early singles.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. don’t think I’d ever heard this one before, but it’s not bad. Probably four decades or so ahead of its time…now a story of a boy who’s pressured to be a girl would fit in. I recently heard their “In the City”- that’s rather good. to me, probably should’ve been the a-side

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Have never heard this one before, and I can understand why American radio stations didn’t want to play it (the U.S. was then, and still is to a large degree, a silly conservative society hung up on sexuality and sexual topics).

    Liked by 1 person

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