Classic Rock Wiki

"Behind Blue Eyes" is a song by English rock band The Who. It was released in November 1971 as 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 most well known recordings and has been covered by many artists.



  • 1 Background
  • 2 Composition
  • 3 Chart performance
  • 4 Personnel
  • 5 In the media
  • 6 Covers
    • 6.1 Limp Bizkit cover
      • 6.1.1 Chart performance
      • 6.1.2 Year-end
  • 7 References


"Behind Blue Eyes" originated after a Who concert in Denver on June 9th, 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:

The version of "Behind Blue Eyes" on the original Who's Next album 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 first 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 America, as well as France, Belgium, 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 off with a solo voice singing over an arpeggiated acoustic guitar in the key of E minor, which remains throughout the entire song. A bass guitar and ethereal harmonies are added in later. Eventually, the song breaks out into a full-scale rock anthem when a second theme is introduced near the end - but it ultimately wraps up with a brief reprise of the quieter first theme. Songs written in alternating sections were something of a trademark of Townshend's writing of the period, going back at least to Tommy, where it 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. (There is similar thematic recapitulation in Tommy and Quadrophenia.)[citation needed]

Chart performance[edit][]

Chart (1971) Peak


France (SNEP)[7] 147
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 34
US Cashbox[4] 24


  • Roger Daltrey - vocals
  • Pete Townshend - acoustic guitar, lead guitar, backing vocals
  • John Entwistle - bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Keith Moon - drums

In the media[edit][]

  • This was the song selected for CSI: NY's opening, but the CBS director, Leslie Moonves, chose "Baba O'Riley" instead.
  • It was in the close of the season two finale of Cold Case.[9]
  • During season two of Californication, Sheryl Crow's cover plays.
  • Rupert Giles is depicted performing this song in a coffee house in the Season 4 episode "Where the Wild Thing Are" of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Anthony Stewart Head actually sang the lyrics himself for this scene.


Limp Bizkit cover[edit][]

"Behind Blue Eyes"
Single by Limp Bizkit
from the album Results May Vary
Released 28 November 2003
Recorded 2002
Genre Alternative rock
Length 4:28 (without hidden track), 6:05 (with hidden track)
Label Flip, Interscope
Writer(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 nu metal 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] The song is followed by a hidden track titled "All That Easy", after a few seconds of silence, so the total length is 6:05. However, the hidden track is not featured in the single release.

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 Durst in a relationship similar to the storyline of the film. Upon release, the video received positive reviews from critics,[who?] with many complimenting its interpolation of the film's theme.

Chart performance[edit][]

Chart (2003–2004) Peak


Australia (ARIA)[11] 4
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[12] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[13] 13
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[14] 16
Denmark (Tracklisten)[15] 2
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[16] 1
France (SNEP)[17] 17
Germany (Media Control Charts)[18] 2
Ireland (IRMA)[19] 26
Italy (FIMI)[20] 28
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[21] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[22] 5
Norway (VG-lista)[23] 2
Poland (ZPAV)[24] 3
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[25] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[26] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[27] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[28] 18
US Billboard Hot 100[29] 71
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[30] 18
US Mainstream Rock Tracks (Billboard) 11
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[31] 25


End of year chart (2004) Position German Singles Chart[32] 15