|Single by The Who|
|from the album Who's Next|
|Recorded||May 1971 at Olympic Studios in London, England|
|Genre||Hard rock, progressive rock, art rock|
|Producer||The Who, Glyn Johns|
"Baba O'Riley" is a song written by Pete Townshend for the English rock band The Who. Roger Daltrey sings most of the song, with Pete Townshend singing the middle eight: "Don't cry/don't raise your eye/it's only teenage wasteland". The title of the song is derived from the combination of the song's philosophical and musical influences, Meher Baba and Terry Riley. The song was ranked number one on the Snoozer magazine's 250 Greatest Rock'n'Roll Songs.
Townshend originally wrote "Baba O'Riley" for his Lifehouse project, a rock opera that was to be the follow-up to The Who's 1969 opera, Tommy. The song was derived from a nine minute demo, which the band reconstructed. "Baba O'Riley" was going to be used in the Lifehouse project as a song sung by Ray, the Scottish farmer at the beginning of the album as he gathers his wife Sally and his two children to begin their exodus to London. When Lifehouse was scrapped, many of the songs were released on The Who's 1971 album Who's Next, with "Baba O'Riley" as the first track. The song was released as a single in several European countries, but in the United States and the United Kingdom was only released as part of the album.
Pete Townshend stated in an interview that "'Baba O' Riley' is about the absolute desolation of teenagers at Woodstock, where everyone was smacked out on acid and 20 people had brain damage. The contradiction was that it became a celebration: 'Teenage Wasteland, yes! We're all wasted!'"
Drummer Keith Moon had the idea of inserting a violin solo at the coda of the song, during which the style of the song shifts from crashing rock to a folk-style beat. Dave Arbus plays a violin in the studio recording. In concert, lead singer Roger Daltrey replaces the violin solo with a harmonica solo. The Who has produced a live version of the song with a viola, provided by Nigel Kennedy, during their 27 November 2000 concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
The violin solo in the coda of the song is based on Indian classical music as homage to Meher Baba, the Indian mystic who inspired this song.
The song's backing track was derived from deep within the Lifehouse concept. Townshend wanted to input the life information of Meher Baba into a synthesiser, which would then generate music based on that information. That music would have been the backing track for "Baba O'Riley", but in the end, the frenetic sequence was played by Townshend on a Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1 organ using its marimba repeat feature. This modal approach used for the synthesiser track was inspired by the work of minimalist composer Terry Riley. The names of Riley and Meher Baba were incorporated into the song title as a tribute by Townshend. Although they never actually did it in concert, The Who considered pulling a person from the audience and programming their vital statistics into a synthesiser that would, in effect, translate that person into a musical theme around which a song could be built, an idea later resurrected as The Lifehouse Method.
A cover of Baba O'Riley "The Road Goes On Forever" by High Contrast was used for the one minute countdown films at the very beginning of both Opening Ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. The Who performed Baba O'Riley live at the close of the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony, the song thus providing bookends to the start and finish of the London 2012 Olympics.
"Baba O'Riley" was initially 30 minutes in length and was planned to be used during the concerts at the Royal Festival Hall in London, England. When Who's Next was being arranged "Baba O'Riley" was edited down to only the "high points" of the track. The other parts of the song appeared on the third disc Pete Townshend's Lifehouse Chronicles as "Baba M1 (O'Riley 1st Movement 1971)" and "Baba M2 (2nd Movement Part 1 1971)".
"Baba O'Riley" is often mistakenly called "Teenage Wasteland" after the phrase repeated throughout the song. "Teenage Wasteland" was in fact a working title for the song in its early incarnations as part of the Lifehouse project, but eventually became the title for a different but related song by Townshend, which is slower and features more lyrics. A version of "Teenage Wasteland" is featured on the Lifehouse Chronicles, a six disc set of music related to the Lifehouse project, and on several Townshend compilations and videos.
Accolades, cover versions, and use in popular culture
"Baba O'Riley" appears at No. 349 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The song is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for being one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. A remixed version of the song was used as the theme song for the popular television series CSI: NY. Each CSI series used a Who song as its theme. The song was also used in respective episodes of the original BBC Life on Mars (Episode 1), the corresponding episode of the ABC remake ("Out Here in the Fields" which takes its title from a lyric in the song), and House. The live version of the song, taken from the album Who's Last, was used in one episode of Miami Vice ("Out Where the Buses Don't Run").
"Baba O'Riley" is played during player introductions for the Los Angeles Lakers during home games at the Staples Center. The song is played prior to live UFC events during a highlight package showing some of the most famous fights in the mixed martial arts company's history. An instrumental version of the song was used in the teaser trailer for the film Resident Evil: Retribution. It is also the official theme song of competitive eater, Joey Chestnut.
The song is used in the American television series The Newsroom in its season finale, "The Greater Fool" in 2012.
In 2004, the intro of the song was used in a Hewlett Packard commercial.
On an episode of Dawson's Creek, Jen Lindley (played by Michelle Williams) played Baba O'Riley loudly while dancing around the living room.
The song was featured in an episode of season 4 of One Tree Hill at the end of the episode the characters where coming together after spending time to do projects to get to know each other.
Episode #241 of the American legal drama/police procedural Law & Order is titled "Teenage Wasteland."
A pivotal montage sequence in the Spike Lee film Summer of Sam is set to the song, which the character Richie apparently uses both as a cover with his rock band and as background music to his dancing at a gay theater.
At both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, the synthesiser opening was used during a countdown to the start of the proceedings. The song was then performed by The Who as their first number during the last musical segment at the closing ceremony, with Daltrey singing a changed lyric of "Don't cry/Just raise your eye/There's more than teenage wasteland".
Blue Man Group licensed the song for use in their theatrical performances. It was included on their CD/DVDs How to Be a Megastar Live! (2008) and The Complex Rock Tour Live (2003) featuring vocalist Venus Hum.
The opening to Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III begins with Emperor Palpatine narrating his own life story, using the song as background music.
The song opens and closes the film Premium Rush.
The intro for the song was used as the main character's ringtone in the 2012 UK drama serial "The Fear".
Freeskier Sean Petit used this song during his segment in the Matchstick Productions movie "In Deep."
- Roger Daltrey – lead vocals
- Pete Townshend – lead vocals (middle eight), synthesiser, piano, guitar
- John Entwistle – bass guitar
- Keith Moon – drums
- Dave Arbus – violin
|Chart (1972)||Peak position|
|Dutch Singles Chart||11|
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