The Who

I'm One

Composed by Pete Townshend

Song Review by

"I'm One" yet again proves the Who's distinct ability to shift from the most delicate of ballads to hard-nosed rock within a blink of an eye. Townshend has a unique talent as a sort of rock & roll alchemist, tirelessly exploring new ways to combine varying elements of emotion into his songcraft, filtering them through the firm-muscled rock of his band with brilliant results. "I'm One" is one of the more direct, introspective character studies found on the the Who's rock opera and dramatic film, Quadrophenia. The first half of the song is a folk-flavored ballad, with gentle acoustic guitar with electric slide guitar notes floating in the background. Townshend takes the lead vocal duties here, singing with a vulnerable plaintive timbre, "Every year is the same/And I feel it again/I'm a loser, no chance to win/Leaves start falling/Come down is calling/Loneliness starts sinking in." The band enters for the second verse, the atmosphere turning to something akin to hard-edged country-rock, with Townshend's electric, twanging guitar riffs in between the vocal lines, the lyrics turning from self-pity to envy as he asks, "Where do you get those blue, blue, jeans/Faded, patched, secret so tight?/Where do you get that walk, oh so lean?" For the following chorus the band digs in, rocking harder as Townshend, his defiance building, bites down on the lyrics, proclaiming, "I'm one!/I am one!/And I can see/That this is me/And I'll be/You'll all see/I'm the one." The band then drops out again, as Townshend returns to the self-conscious character, painfully aware of his awkwardness, desperate to be heard or make his mark in some way. The tender ache in his voice is beautifully augmented by an overdubbed high harmony as he sings, "I got a Gibson (without a case)/But I can't get that even tanned look on my face/Ill-fitting clothes/And I bend in the crowd/Fingers so clumsy/Voice too loud." Drummer Keith Moon comes thundering in for the final chorus, spraying tight, speedy fills as Townshend repeats the chorus vocal with increased verve, chopping at his guitar as if determined to make the character's final impression through the power of his instrument.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Quadrophenia 1973 MCA 2:37
No Image 1974 Trademark Of Official Quality
Quadrophenia [Music from the Soundtrack of The Who Film] 1979 Polydor 2:43
Freaks and Geeks 2004
Original TV Soundtrack
Shout! Factory / Sony Music Distribution 2:39
Maximum A's & B's 2017 MCA / Polydor 2:41