|Single by The Who|
|from the album Who's Next|
|Recorded||May 1971 at Olympic Studios in London, England|
|Genre||Art rock, hard rock|
|Producer(s)||The Who, Glyn Johns|
|The Who European singles chronology|
"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. The song was included in Time magazine's list of the All-Time 100 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 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!'"
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. 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 Who performed "Baba O'Riley" at the close of the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony.
"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 of 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 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. 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 (though the recording is slightly higher pitched at the standard pitch of 446 hz), and uses a I-V-IV chord progression.
"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 plays in the opening segment of the second season episode of Miami Vice, "Out Where the Buses Don't Run". 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.
Since 2003, "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. It is also the official theme song of competitive eater Joey Chestnut. One of the working titles of That '70s Show was "Teenage Wasteland," a reference to the repeated lyric in the song. 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. 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". The song is also used in a trailer of The Peanuts Movie (2015).
- Roger Daltrey – lead vocals, harmonica (live versions only)
- Pete Townshend – lead vocals (middle eight), synthesiser, piano, guitar
- John Entwistle – bass guitar
- Keith Moon – drums
- Dave Arbus – viola (studio recording)
|Chart (1972)||Peak position|
|Dutch Singles Chart||11|
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