The Best Songs: Baba O’Riley by The Who

“I don’t need to fight to proove I’m right”.

I always think back to my teenage years whenever I hear this song.

Who’s Next (the classic rock album) starts with a synthesizer-heavy (yeah I know it’s a tape loop in an era before actual synths) “Baba O’Riley”, a lament about the “teenage wasteland” that is arguably the greatest album-opener in rock history.

Baba O’Riley” is  written by Pete Townshend.

It’s a phenomenal song, the way the intro builds up into the main melody, and then the great singing makes this song feel like a breath for new air. But the real kick comes 1.50 into the song, when Pete hits the guitar, that sound, the sound of all 70’s rock distilled into one glorious riff.

Really powerful stuff that has only gotten stronger with time.

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”. 

From Wikipedia:

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. “Baba O’Riley” became the first track on Who’s Next. 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.

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 an Irish 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 names of Riley and Meher Baba were incorporated into the song title as a tribute by Townshend.

“Baba O’Riley” appears at #349 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”

Lyrics Baba O’Riley:

Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals
I get my back into my living.

I don’t need to fight
To prove I’m right
I don’t need to be forgiven.

Don’t cry
Don’t raise your eye
It’s only teenage wasteland

Sally, take my hand
We’ll travel south cross land
Put out the fire
And don’t look past my shoulder.

The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let’s get together
Before we get much older.

Teenage wasteland
It’s only teenage wasteland.
Teenage wasteland
Oh, yeah
Its only teenage wasteland
They’re all wasted!

– Hallgeir

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