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"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]



  • 1 History
  • Lifehouse concept
  • 3 "Teenage Wasteland"
  • 4 Composition
  • 5 Legacy
    • 5.1 Other appearances
  • 6 Personnel
  • 7 Charts
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links


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 theRoyal 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 UFCevents 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 eaterJoey 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][]

  • The song also appears in the TV show House at the end of episode 14, season one, titled "Control".
  • A version is heard in a 2013 U.S. television commercial for the 2014 Mazda 6.[21]
  • It was also played in the trailer for American Beauty.
  • The song's introduction is featured in the pilot episode of Life on Mars and in the Family Guy episode "Quagmire's Mom."
    • The live version of "Baba O'Riley" as featured on the 1984 album Who's Last appeared at the beginning of the Miami Vice episode "Out Where the Buses Don't Run".
  • It was featured in Spike Lee's 1999 film Summer of Sam.
  • The boy-band One Direction based the intro of its 2013 hit "Best Song Ever" on the synthesiser/piano opening of the song.[citation needed]
  • It was used as background music in trailers for the Pixar movie A Bug's Life.[citation needed]
  • It is used in the 2012 film Premium Rush.[22]
  • It was used in The Girl Next Door (2004 film).[23]
  • It is used in played trailer The Peanuts Movie.[citation needed]
  • It was used featured in 1991 film The Doors.[citation needed]
  • It is used featured in 1984 film This Is Spinal Tap.[citation needed]
  • It was used featured in 1994 film Airheads.[citation needed]
  • It is used featured in 1989 film Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.[citation needed]
  • It was featured in 1997 film The Full Monty.[citation needed]
  • It is featured in 2000 film Dude, Where's My Car?.[citation needed]
  • It was featured in 2006 film Flushed Away.[citation needed]
  • It is featured in 2005 film Chicken Little.[citation needed]


  • 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 – violin (studio recording)


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