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Baba O'Riley

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"Teenage Wasteland" redirects here. For the films, see Teenage Wasteland (film) or Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland
"Baba O'Riley"
Single by The Who
from the album Who's Next
B-side "My Wife"
Released November 1971
Format 45 R.P.M.
Recorded May 1971 at Olympic Studios in London, England[1]
Genre Art rock, hard rock
Length 5:08
Label Decca/MCA(US)
Polydor (UK)
Writer(s) Pete Townshend
Producer(s) The Who, Glyn Johns
The Who European singles chronology
"Let's See Action"
"Baba O'Riley"
"Behind Blue Eyes"
Who's Next track listing

"Baba O'Riley" (sometimes incorrectly called "Teenage Wasteland") is a song written by Pete Townshend for the English rock band The Who. Released in November 1971, it is the opening track to its fifth studio album, Who's Next. Roger Daltrey sings most of the song, with 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.[2] The song was included in Time magazine's list of the All-Time 100 Songs.[3]


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.[4] "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 Kingdom and the United States it was only released as part of the album.

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 irony was that some listeners took the song to be a teenage celebration: 'Teenage Wasteland, yes! We're all wasted!'"[5]

Drummer Keith Moon had the idea[citation needed] 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 (from the progressive band East of Eden) plays a violin in the studio recording.[citation needed] In concert, lead singer Roger Daltrey replaces the violin solo with a harmonica solo.[citation needed] The Who produced a live version of the song with a viola, provided by Nigel Kennedy, during its 27 November 2000 concert at the Royal Albert Hall.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[6] This modal approach used for the synthesiser track was inspired by the work of minimalist composer Terry Riley[citation needed]. The names of Riley and Meher Baba were incorporated into the song title as a tribute by Townshend[citation needed]. 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.

The Tubes performed the song on 9 September 1978 at the Knebworth Festival in tribute to Keith Moon, who had died two days earlier.[citation needed]

A cover of "Baba O'Riley", "The Road Goes On Forever" by High Contrast, was used for the one-minute countdown films at the beginning of both Opening Ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.[citation needed] The Who performed "Baba O'Riley" at the close of the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony.[7]

Lifehouse concept[edit]

"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.[8] The other parts of the song appeared on the third disc of Townshend's Lifehouse Chronicles as "Baba M1 (O'Riley 1st Movement 1971)" and "Baba M2 (2nd Movement Part 1 1971)".

"Teenage Wasteland"[edit]

"Baba O'Riley" is often mistakenly called "Teenage Wasteland" after the phrase sung in 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.[9] 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.


The song is composed in the key of F major, and uses a I-V-IV chord progression.[10]


The Who performing Baba O'Riley live at Manchester Arena in 2014

"Baba O'Riley" appears at No. 349 on Rolling Stone '​s list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[11] The song is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for being one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.[12] 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.[13] The band Pearl Jam regularly plays a cover of the song during concerts, and a readers' poll in Rolling Stone awarded this cover as #8 in their Greatest Live Cover Songs.[14] It was also played by Blue Man Group during the Complex Rock Tour Live with the Lowwrey organ part being performed on the Blue Man Group's signature PVC pipe instruments, and the vocal and viola solo performed by Tracy Bonham. Dropkick Murphys recorded a cover of the song with a mandolin taking the place of the organ, while Those Darn Accordions recorded a cover with accordions playing all of the organ and guitar parts.

Since 2003, "Baba O'Riley" is played during player introductions for the Los Angeles Lakers during home games at the Staples Center.[15] 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.[16] It is also the official theme song of competitive eater Joey Chestnut.[17] One of the working titles of That '70s Show was "Teenage Wasteland," a reference to the repeated lyric in the song.[18] At both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, the track "The Road Goes On Forever" by High Contrast is used during a countdown to the start of the proceedings, this song samples Baba O'Riley with a higher tempo as a 120bpm dance track.[19] Baba O'Riley 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".[20]

Other appearances[edit]



Chart (1972) Peak position
Dutch Singles Chart 11[24]


  1. ^ Who's Next 1995 Remastered Liner Notes Page 17
  2. ^ The Who: The Ultimate Collection (Media notes). The Who. MCA Records. 2002. p. 12. 
  3. ^ "'Baba O’Riley' - 100 Greatest Popular Songs: TIME List of Best Music -". 
  4. ^ Who's Next 1995 Remastered Liner Notes Page 17
  5. ^ Guitar World Vol. 30 No. 9 pg. 76
  6. ^ "Pete's Equipment, Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1". 
  7. ^ "Olympics closing ceremony playlist". 
  8. ^ "The Hypertext Who " Article Archive — The Who Puts the Bomp (1971)". Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  9. ^ Lifehouse Chronicles box set
  10. ^ "Baba O’Riley Guitar Lesson – The Who". Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  11. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2006-12-09. Archived from the original on 2006-08-15. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  12. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Archived from the original on 2008-07-07. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  13. ^ Duboff, Josh (2010-02-07). "The Who Performs CSI Medley". New York. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  14. ^ "Readers' Poll: The Greatest Live Cover Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  15. ^ McMenamin, Dave (2010-10-04). "London Called, But Lakers Don't Figure to Be Back Any Time Soon". ESPN. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  16. ^ "Q&A with local MMA announcer Ray Flores". Post-Tribune. 2011-08-23. Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  17. ^ Heilpern, John (July 2011). "The Fastest Mouth on Earth". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  18. ^ "DVD Verdict Review - That '70s Show: Season One". Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  19. ^ "High Contrast’s Olympic Story: Part 3 - Highly Contrasting". 
  20. ^ "Did Roger Daltrey Forget the Lyrics to "Baba O'Riley"?". CBS News. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  21. ^ "Mazda6 ‘High Jump’ Commercial – What's the Song?". Ultimate Classic Rock. 2013-05-04. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  22. ^ "Premium Rush Soundtracks". Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  23. ^ "The Girl Next Door Soundtracks". Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Baba O'Riley". ung Medien / Retrieved 28 November 2011. 

External links[edit]