Behind Blue Eyes

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"Behind Blue Eyes"
The Who Behind Blue Eyes.jpg
Belgian single sleeve
Single by The Who
from the album Who's Next
Released6 November 1971
Format7-inch single
RecordedMay–June 1971[1]
StudioOlympic, London
  • 3:41 (album version)
  • 3:28 (original version)
Songwriter(s)Pete Townshend
The Who singles chronology
"Baba O'Riley"
"Behind Blue Eyes"
"Join Together"

"Behind Blue Eyes" is a song by the English rock band the Who, recorded in 1971. It was the second single from their fifth album Who's Next and was originally written by Pete Townshend for his Lifehouse project.[2][3] The song is one of The Who's best-known recordings and has been covered by many artists.


"Behind Blue Eyes" originated after a Who concert in Denver on June 9, 1970.[4] Following the performance, Townshend became tempted by a female groupie, but he instead went back to his room alone, possibly as a result of the teachings of his spiritual leader, Meher Baba.[5] Upon reaching his room, he began writing a prayer, the first words being "When my fist clenches, crack it open..." These words later appeared as lyrics in the "climactic rocking section" of "Behind Blue Eyes."[5]

When "Behind Blue Eyes" was to be released as part of the aborted Lifehouse project, the song was sung from the point of view of the main villain, Jumbo. The lyrics are a first-person lament from Jumbo, who is always angry and full of angst because of all the pressure and temptation that surrounds him, and the song was intended to be his "theme song" had the project been successful. Pete Townshend said of the song's lyrics:

"Behind Blue Eyes" really is off the wall because that was a song sung by the villain of the piece [Jumbo], the fact that he felt in the original story that he was forced into a position of being a villain whereas he felt he was a good guy.[5]

The version of "Behind Blue Eyes" released on Who's Next in 1971 was the second version the band recorded; the first was recorded at the Record Plant in New York on 18 March 1971 and features Al Kooper on Hammond organ.[6] The original version was released as a bonus track on the 1995 CD reissue of Who's Next.

"Behind Blue Eyes" was initially considered for a UK single release, but Townshend claimed that the song was "too much out of character" for the British singles market.[5] However, the song did eventually see a single release in France, Belgium, the United States and the Netherlands. Backed with "My Wife" in the US and "Going Mobile" in Europe, the song reached #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #24 on Cashbox.[4]

Pete Townshend has also recorded two solo versions of the song. The original demo of the song was featured on the Scoop album. The demo along with a newer recording of the song featuring an orchestral backing was featured in The Lifehouse Chronicles.


The song starts with a solo voice singing over an arpeggiated acoustic guitar in the key of E minor, and a bass guitar and ethereal harmonies are added. Eventually, the song breaks out into a full-scale rock anthem, with a second theme being introduced near the end, before a brief reprise of the quieter first theme. Songs written in alternating sections were a feature of Townshend's writing of the period, going back at least to Tommy, where the technique was used in "Christmas" and "Go to the Mirror!". The guitar riff at the end of the rock anthem section is also used after the bridge during the song "Won't Get Fooled Again", perhaps serving as a link between the two songs when both were intended to be parts of a single rock opera.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1971) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[7] 34
US Cashbox[4] 24


In other media[edit]

A cover was used in the FX television series, Legion, in season 2, episode 11. The show's creator, Noah Hawley, sings the track with Jeff Russo on backing vocals as well as any instruments used in the song. However, in the context of the show, Dan Stevens and Navid Negahban sing the song in English and Persian.[8][9] There are parallels between the protagonist, David Haller, and Townshend's character of Jumbo from the original concept of the song as well.

Limp Bizkit cover[edit]

"Behind Blue Eyes"
Limp - BBE cover of the single for the cover.jpg
Single by Limp Bizkit
from the album Results May Vary
ReleasedSeptember 23, 2003
  • 4:28 (without hidden track)
  • 5:58 (album version with hidden track)
Songwriter(s)Pete Townshend
Producer(s)Fred Durst
Limp Bizkit singles chronology
"Eat You Alive"
"Behind Blue Eyes"
"Home Sweet Home/Bittersweet Symphony"

"Behind Blue Eyes" was covered by American rap rock group Limp Bizkit. It was released in November 2003 as a single from their album Results May Vary. Limp Bizkit's arrangement is notable for featuring a Speak & Spell during the bridge.[10] This, together with a new verse and an extra chorus, replaces the rock theme of The Who's version. The song is followed by a hidden track titled "All That Easy", after a few seconds of silence, making the total length 5:58. However, the hidden track is not featured in the single release.

Although the song reached number 71 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 11 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, it was a major success worldwide and the band's last major hit. The cover reached number one in Poland and Sweden in early 2004, becoming the band's only number-one single in these countries, and reached the top three in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Norway. Elsewhere in Europe, it became a top-twenty hit in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland, while peaking at number 18 on the UK Singles Chart and number two on the UK Rock Chart. In Australasia, the song was also a major hit, reaching number four in Australia and number five in New Zealand.

Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland, who was not in the band at the time of recording and releasing this cover, made the following comments about the song and video: "This is probably the worst cover ever, and the video is awful. It's just really embarrasing, and it's so unbelievably self-indulgent. Someone must have really worked out hard to be able to take their shirt off and have Halle Berry make out with them."[citation needed] It was also criticized by Rolling Stone magazine readers, who named it the second-worst cover song of all time.[11]

Music video[edit]

The music video features Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry. It contains scenes from the motion picture Gothika, in which Berry stars. It depicts Berry and Limp Bizkit's vocalist Fred Durst in a relationship similar to the storyline of the film. The song also appeared during the credits of the film itself and its music video was also featured as a bonus feature on the DVD release of the film.


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2003–2004) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[12] 4
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[13] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[14] 13
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[15] 16
Brazil (ABPD)[16] 3
Denmark (Tracklisten)[17] 2
France (SNEP)[18] 17
Germany (Official German Charts)[19] 2
Ireland (IRMA)[20] 26
Italy (FIMI)[21] 28
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[22] 4
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[23] 5
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[24] 5
Norway (VG-lista)[25] 2
Poland (LP3)[26] 1
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[27] 16
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[28] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[29] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[30] 18
UK Rock and Metal (Official Charts Company)[31] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[32] 71
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[33] 18
US Mainstream Rock Tracks (Billboard) 11
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[34] 25

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2004) Position
Australia (ARIA)[35] 12
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[36] 8
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[37] 64
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[38] 66
Germany (Official German Charts)[39] 15
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[40] 77
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[41] 35
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[42] 29
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[43] 14


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[44] Platinum 70,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[45] Gold 45,000^
Germany (BVMI)[46] Platinum 300,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[47] Gold 5,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[48] Gold 5,000*
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[49] Gold 20,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[50] Silver 200,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ The Who The Ultimate Collection Liner Notes
  2. ^ "Behind Blue Eyes : The Who". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
  3. ^ "The Streets lead Ivor nominations". BBC News. 11 April 2005. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Cady, Brian. "'Who's Next' liner notes". The Hypertext Who.
  5. ^ a b c d Grantley, Steve; Parker, Alan. The Who by Numbers: The Story of the Who Through Their Music. Helter Skelter.
  6. ^ Who's Next – 1995 Remastered Edition CD Booklet Page 23
  7. ^ "The Who Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  8. ^ Russo, Jeff. "Legion Cover Album Released: It's Always Blue". Jeff Russo. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  9. ^ Harley, Nick. "Legion Season 2 Episode 11 Review: Chapter 19". Den of Geek. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  10. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine (23 September 2003). "Results May Vary – Limp Bizkit | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Rolling Stone Readers Choose the Worst Cover Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 18 August 2011.
  12. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  13. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  14. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  15. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  16. ^ "Brazil" (PDF). ABPD. 6 October 2001. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  17. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Tracklisten. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  18. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  19. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 2019-05-21.
  20. ^ "Chart Track: Week 50, 2003". Irish Singles Chart.
  21. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Top Digital Download.
  22. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 51, 2003" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  23. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  24. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  25. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". VG-lista. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  26. ^ "Notowanie nr1147" (in Polish). LP3. 23 January 2004. Retrieved 10 March 2019. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  27. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  28. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  29. ^ " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  30. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  31. ^ "Official Rock & Metal Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  32. ^ "Limp Bizkit Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  33. ^ "Limp Bizkit Chart History (Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  34. ^ "Limp Bizkit Chart History (Pop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  35. ^ "ARIA Charts - End Of Year Charts - Top 100 Singles 2004". ARIA. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  36. ^ "Jahreshitparade Singles 2004" (in German). Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  37. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 2004" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  38. ^ "Rapports annuels 2004" (in French). Ultratop. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  39. ^ "Top 100 Singles - Jahrescharts 2004" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  40. ^ "Jaaroverzichten - Single 2004" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  41. ^ "End of Year Charts 2004". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  42. ^ "Årslista Singlar - År 2004" (in Swedish). Hitlistan. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  43. ^ "Swiss Year-End Charts 2004" (in German). Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  44. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2004 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  45. ^ "Danish single certifications – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". IFPI Denmark. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  46. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Limp Bizkit; 'Behind Blue Eyes')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  47. ^ "IFPI Norsk platebransje Trofeer 1993–2011" (in Norwegian). IFPI Norway. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  48. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  49. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Limp Bizkit; 'Behind Blue Eyes')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  50. ^ "British single certifications – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 15 December 2018. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Behind Blue Eyes in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.