This LJ name was my third or fourth pick. My favorite nicknames were taken. I’d always liked this song. It’s catchy and fun to sing, and I loved Townshend’s self-deprecating irony. I also had good memories of covers by some of my musical heroes. The Minutemen played it at the last gig of theirs I saw, in July ’85, and I remember another great 80s performance by Richard Thompson, where he did “Pinball Wizard” for a laugh mostly and then this one for serious.
I didn’t realize how perfectly I’d chosen. I’m this guy, all right. From earliest childhood I was expected to be someone else. In fact, I was told I was someone else, and not given the option of living otherwise. And like the guy in the song I was always angry as hell about it. That impostor consciousness and anger about it have haunted my relations with other people my whole life.
Eerily, the song came out in 1966, when I was not yet two years old. It was a radio hit just as I was being introduced to the insane double bind of my childhood: be someone else, or be a failure. The way it all lines up is almost too good.
There was only one way for me to keep my pride and my sense of self growing up, and that was to sabotage my parents’ master plan for my life. As soon as I moved out and went to college, I was on a suicide mission to destroy every possibility of real adult success for myself. Mission: accomplished. I am now entirely authentic, and no one can say I am my family’s creature.
I’ve been trying to undo that victory for a long, long time now without much success. Anything but failure still feels fake. Pete, you had it down from day one. It’s like you were there.
You think we look pretty good together
You think my shoes are made of leather
But I’m a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look bloody young, but I’m just back-dated
Substitute your lies for fact
I can see right through your plastic mac
I look all white, but my dad was black
My fine looking suit is really made out of sack
I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth
The north side of my town faced east, and the east was facing south
And now you dare to look me in the eye
Those crocodile tears are what you cry
It’s a genuine problem, you won’t try
To work it out at all you just pass it by, pass it by
Substitute me for him
Substitute my coke for gin
Substitute you for my mum
At least I’ll get my washing done