The Who

The Seeker

Song Review by

The satisfying sound of Pete Townshend heavily strumming a bluesy riff on a Rickenbacker six-string through a Vox AC-30 amplifier begins this perfect power pop single -- the kind of song that Townshend wrote before the Who started to spread out into the album format. Taking the form of a 12-bar blues merged with pop song, "The Seeker" is Townshend's look inward, an autobiographical piece about his spiritual quest from the Christianity in which he was raised to the musical answers of Bob Dylan and the Beatles to Timothy Leary -- all of whom are mentioned by name and come up empty for Townshend -- and finally to his guru, Meher Baba, a silent Indian spiritual leader who was immortalized in Townshend's song "Baba O'Reilly." One could be forgiven to think that this all sounds ponderous, but really, the lyrics are lighthearted and a little irreverent and the Who rock it out. "The Seeker" is sort of a spiritual cousin of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" in form and lyric, a song the Who covered often. With rich and clever lines like "I've got values but I don't know how or why," Townshend manages to cover an extremely serious topic in three minutes and 25 seconds. First released as a single in 1970, "The Seeker" was included on the excellent compilation of Who singles, Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy. Other notable Who-related versions include the 1970 recording on The BBC Sessions -- released in 2000 -- and Pete Townshend's solo demo on 1972's Who Came First. "The Seeker" was put to excellent use in the 1999 film American Beauty. The song has been covered live by many rock bands, including the Smithereens, who released a raucous version in 1995 on their Attack of the Smithereens collection.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy 1971 MCA 3:11
No Image 1976
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Who by Numbers 1982 MCA
Who's Greatest Hits 1983 MCA 3:14
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B 1994 MCA 3:21
My Generation: The Very Best of the Who 1996 MCA 3:22
American Beauty [Original Soundtrack] 1999
Original Soundtrack
Dreamworks SKG 3:23
The Limey [Original Soundtrack] 1999
Original Soundtrack
Lightyear 3:25
The Ultimate Collection 2002 Universal Distribution 3:12
The Early Collection: Magic Bus/Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Who's Missing 2004 Griffin 3:11
Endless Wire 2006 Universal Republic 0:00
Icon 2 2011 Geffen 3:15
The Who Hits 50! 2014 Geffen 3:12
Maximum A's & B's 2017 MCA / Polydor 3:12
American Beauty
Various Artists
Geffen 3:20
Aquarius [Music from the Original Series]
Various Artists
Universal 3:23
Maximum BBC [Bootleg]
The Seeker Geffen / Universal 2:26