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Baba O'Riley by The Who

Album: Who's NextReleased: 1971
  • The first part of the title comes from Meher Baba, who was Pete Townshend's spiritual guru. The second part comes from Terry Riley, an experimental, minimalist composer Townshend admired - many of the keyboard riffs and sound effects on Who's Next were a result of Riley's influence. According to the Who's Next liner notes, Townshend wrote it as his vision of what would happen if the spirit of Meher Baba was fed into a computer and transformed into music. The result would be Baba in the style of Terry Riley, or "Baba O'Riley."
  • The title is not mentioned in the lyrics, so the song is often referred to as "Teenage Wasteland." The "Teenage Wasteland" section was a completely different song Townshend combined with his "Baba O'Riley" idea to form the song.
  • This is the first song on Who's Next, the most successful album of The Who's career. Although this is one of the most popular Who songs, it was never released as a single in America or the UK. It was, however, the perfect song for the up-and-coming Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format that was picking up steam on FM radio. Always played in moderation, "Baba" became a Classic Rock staple and remains on many playlists.
  • This began as part of Townshend's "Lifehouse" project, which is a film script he wrote. The playscript was published in 1999 by Pocket Books, Great Britain. In the screenplay of "Lifehouse," Townshend wrote about the composer (Bobby) setting up the concert: "An experiment Bobby conducts in which each participant [in the concert] is both blueprint and inspiration for a unique piece of music or song which will feature largely in the first event to be hacked onto the grid." Townshend subsequently decided to actually pursue this, and he announces the experiment toward the end of the playscript Intro referenced above. The project ran on lifehouse-method.com.
  • Townshend was never able to convince anyone to do the Lifehouse film, and he more or less gave up on that - but he never gave up on having it produced. He revised the script to be more relevant to the world of the Internet (which had caught up with his 1971 concept of a global grid), and to incorporate thoughts and insights he'd had in the ensuing 25+ years, and it was performed on BBC3 on December 5, 1999. A recording of that performance (along with a lot of additional material) is available from Townshend's mercantile website eelpie.com.
  • This marked one of the first times a synthesizer was used to form the rhythm of a song. Until then, just about everyone using a synthesizer was using it as a lead instrument. The synthesizer part was played from tape at their concerts because it was too difficult to reproduce live.
  • Regarding the phrase "Teenage Wasteland":
    Lifehouse is set in a time where most of England is a polluted wasteland. Townshend described it as: "A self-sufficient drop-out family group farming in a remote part of Scotland decide to return South to investigate rumors of a subversive concert event that promises to shake and wake up apathetic, fearful British society. Ray is married to Sally, they hope to link up with their daughter Mary who has run away from home to attend the concert. They travel through the scarred wasteland of middle England in a motor caravan, running an air conditioner they hope will protect them from pollution."

    As for the "teenage" bit, Townshend said: "There are regular people, but they're the scum off the surface; there's a few farmers there, that's where the thing from 'Baba O'Riley' comes in. It's mainly young people who are either farmer's kids whose parents can't afford to buy them experience suits; then there's just scum, like these two geezers who ride around in a battered-up old Cadillac limousine and they play old Who records on the tape deck... I call them Track fans." So basically, teenagers traveling across the wasteland to attend this concert. (thanks to The Seeker)
  • The famous violin part was performed by Dave Arbus of the group East of Eden, who created what many consider the first Celtic Rock song with Jig a Jig.
    According to Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, this violin jig at the end was drummer Keith Moon's idea. In concert, Roger Daltrey would play the jig on harmonica. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
  • The final version of the song runs 5:01, but Townshend's instrumental synthesizer demo of the song was a healthy 9:48. This demo was released in 1972 on a Meher Baba tribute album called I Am.
  • This is the theme song for the TV show CSI New York. The original CSI uses "Who Are You," and CSI Miami uses "Won't Get Fooled Again."
  • Spike Lee used this in his movie Summer of Sam, and a fully orchestrated version was used at the beginning of the movie Slackers. It was also used in an episode of the TV show House. (thanks, Brennan - Columbia, SD)
  • This was used in commercials for the 2000 Nissan Pathfinder, and also appeared in ads for Cisco. The Who lost a lot of money on bad business deals in their early years and decided to cash in when they were offered big bucks for commercials.
  • This song was used for part 3 of the VH1 special The Drug Years about drug use in the 1970s. It showed how drugs went from a religious experience in the '60s to just getting "Wasted" in the '70s. (thanks, Ben - cincinnati, OH)
  • This quickly became a concert favorite for The Who. Live versions of this song can be found on the albums The Kids Are Alright (1978), Concerts for the People of Kampuchea (1979), Who's Last (1982), The Blues To The Bush (1999) and The Who & Special Guests Live at the Royal Albert Hall video (2000). (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
  • This was used at the end of the trailer for the film The Girl Next Door. The movie encompasses some of the dramas of teenage life. (thanks, Cody - new york city, NY)
  • In 2007, the song was covered by The Blue Man Group for the TV show America's Got Talent. Since then, it has become a staple at Blue Man Group shows. (thanks, Cliff - Burkesville, KY)
  • While Townsend's keyboard playing is legendary and brilliant, it's not quite what it seems. When the song was recorded, the band's newly purchased Lowry organ came with a very special feature: a pedal that, when depressed, would repeat each note played three times in succession. (Source: interstitial on 97.1FM The Mountain, Denver, Colorado - thanks, S.D. - Denver, CO)
  • In an interview with Billboard magazine carried out in February 2010 Townshend discussed how he feels now that 40 years on this and other Who songs take on a deeper meaning. He explained that when he wrote the band's classic tunes, "the music there was about living in the present and losing yourself in the moment. Now that has changed. Boomers kind of hang on to that as a memory. When I go back and listen to those songs, the Who songs in particular of the late '60s and early 70s, there was an aspiration in my writing to attune to the fact that what I could feel in he audience was - I won't say religious - but there was certainly a spiritual component to what people wanted their music to contain. There's definitely a higher call for the music now which is almost religious. U2, for example, are hugely successful with songs about inner longing for freedom, ideas.
    A song like 'Baba O'Riley,' with 'we're all wasted,' it just meant 'we're all wasted' - it didn't have the significance that it now has. What we fear is that in actual fact we have wasted an opportunity. I think I speak for my audience when I say that, I hope I do."
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Comments: 219

Did Pete sing the 'Don't cry' part?Dave - Wheaton, Il
Holy crap. 1000 years of comments. Teenage wasteland indeed.Jim - West Palm Beach, Fl
So I'm doing this project on the song and I need to know a few things about it. Like the lyric meanings and such, would you all be willing to help me out soon? Thanks so much! I really love the song!Elizabeth - Clover, Sc
I can be wrong. But it feels like Woodstock '69... it's a teenage wasteland, out here on the fields we don't need to fight to prove we're right. just works perfectly :3Lindsay - Brampton, On
I became a Who follower after watching the movie Quadrophenia,[sorry if i mispelled it],The soundtrack was all The Who,but their early work,didn't like much,of course after buying their greatest hits,all are appreciated equally,,Too bad never got a chance to see them play Live,Keith Moon in BabaO'Reilly drums sound so great.Jorge - Bronx, Ny
I got a question about the Bowie-centric BBC hit "Life On Mars" w/John Simm and Philip Glenister. In the second episode -- Sam Tyler and WPC Annie (Liz White) are in a record store in Manchester with a Who tune on the turn table. What was the tune? [By the way, if there ever was a British wasteland, it was somewhere near Manchester in the early 70s.]Pelle - Pruitt-igoe, Mo
"Baba O'Riley" is remembered (sometimes) for its opening riffs used in the background to some horse manure commercial on Top40 AM. We're way back in the 60s and early 70s mind you -- before cars came with FM radios. I'd fry the dashboard putting in my own FM, or when I did get one in it'd be ripped off in a week. Either way, and just to rub it in even further, the AMs made a point of playing short stanzas of top rock tunes just to remind you what a slob you really werePelle - Pruitt-igoe, Mo
The Lifehouse play was developed for radio by BBC Radio Drama in collaboration with Eel Pie. The first broadcast took place on 5 December 1999 on BBC Radio 3. The recorded version of the play is included in the 'Lifehouse Chronicles'.Zhang - Tianjin, China
lifehouse-method.com has come to an endZhang - Tianjin, China
Paragragh 3 "Although this is one of the most popular Who songs, it was never released as a single."but the Wikipedia ""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."Zhang - Tianjin, China
the 'Summer of Sam' a great 'Spike Lee' movie features agreat montage & linking them together was this song - it is agreat movie but I bought the DVD just for that piece ~ sorry spikeSteve - Bradford, United Kingdom
It is released as a single. I have one with picture sleeve, released on Polydor.Robert - Fredericia, Denmark
A lot of great comments. I'm an old guy from way back; saw these fellows in Boston Garden in 1979. When The Who played this song, Townsend was bouncing around the stage, and the audience was stomping with him. I thought the plce was going to collapse! Great song, great band, and to coin a phrase: Long Live Rock!Derek - Great Barrington, Ma
I love this song and especially the music with violin at the end (thank you Keith Moon!). I loved this song so much when I first heard it at age 12 that I chose the violin section for my floor music when I was a competitive gymnast. It was the first year we were allowed to use music other than classical for floor routines. It was so cool! I paid $20 to have it mixed to USGF (US Gymnastics Federation) standards at a studio. It still gives me goose bumps to hear it today (at age 41) and brings back memories of all the great tumbling skills I used to be able to do. :) I'm so glad to learn that the lyrics have nothing to do with a bunch of teenagers being wasted! Glad to find this forum with so many Baba O'Riley fans!Kelly - Northumberland, Ny
Personally, this song speaks to me because of this time in my life. I am in my mid 20s and have a health condition that has made it impossible (for the time being at least) to accomplish the dreams I had in my school years. I feel like my life is wasted and, perhaps even all the work I did do in high school to get good grades. I feel like it was all for nothing and that I should have had more fun and lived in the moment. Maybe lots of people go through this - not because of their health, but maybe because of other reasons as well.
As for the theories about the Vietnam war, I do think it is a possibility that this song is referring to the war, even though it was meant for a rock opera and had to do with a specific plot. Movies and musicals often comment on issues in society, so I think it is very possible that he wrote the film to comment on the war and how it affected those who fought and the generation that followed. It makes sense to me that the song could have lyrics that have one meaning in relation to the plot but a second meaning in relation to what is going on in the world.
Melissa - Windsor, Canada
This song was played at the 2010 SuperBowl.Ryan - Anahola, Hi
Thought the song was about the band's 1969 Woodstock experience. No? Townshend sort of lamblasting the whole situation with the thought that the assembled hippies aren't fomenting any sort of revolution, they're just getting wasted, while the band went to work.Kevin - Philly, Pa
I'm amazed at this song. Calling it a reovltionary piece of genius bestowed to us by gods of rock is an understatement, it's that good! I swear tho, if I had a nickel for every time somebody called this song Teenage Wasteland...Michael - Staten Island, Ny
this song is the tenage renegade anthemm. every time i get a chance to listen to it i will. i am propaly listening to it right nowKeith - Princeton, In
This was our teenaged anthem. We would get all buzzed up listening to in my best friends basement. In retrospect, lyrically, TO ME, I interpreted the words as one man's fight against poverty, and his pride in his work ethic. The "all wasted" part was never taken to mean alcohol or drug abuse even though there was plenty of that going on where we were. It was a wasted generation. Going nowhere. But that's just my opinion.Jeff - Toronto, On
I kind of want to stab something when someone calls this song "Teenage Wasteland".Chloe - St. Louis, Mo
Read, think, then post -

"The beginning of this song is from Pete's Arp 2600, The same instrument used by Edgar Winter in Frankenstein!
- Dennis, Oklahoma City, OK"

"while recording the album, pete townshend found a synthesizer that could translate a persons characteristics into keyboard notes. so he took all of meher baba's personal information and uploaded it into the synth and the opening keyboard part is what came out.
- Timmy, Mukilteo, WA"

http://www.thewho.net/whotabs/equip-baba.htm
Liam - Bahrain
This song is also in The Summer of SamRoberta - Carleton, Mi
The Who's imagination & creativity, absolutely amazes me!Roberta - Carleton, Mi
This song is featured on Guitar Hero:World Tour.Austin - Smallsville, New England
brilliant song...... absolutely......Rahul - Chennai, India
this song is awesome. I love that they use it for CSI:NYDara - Barnesville, Oh
No one's mentioned that part of this song is at the start of the movie blackhawk down.Colin - Auckland, New Zealand
just a note --- c in the beautiful city of montreal --- thought of that after i posted --- after who are you and wont get fooled again were used on first 2 wondered whatould be used for ny --- tnx richRichard - Pittsburgh, Pa
richard, pittsburgh, PA

It's actually not the csi miami theme... it's the csi new york theme
Connor - Montreal, Qc
just a note---for those of you not hearing im paired and do not use cc on your tv---on csi miami the song is listed in beginning as teenage wasteland---just a noteRichard - Pittsburgh, Pa
while recording the album, pete townshend found a synthesizer that could translate a persons characteristics into keyboard notes.
so he took all of meher baba's personal information and uploaded it into the synth and the opening keyboard part is what came out.
Timmy - Mukilteo, Wa
This is a good song. It was used on (my) show,
House, MD.
Greg House - Los Angeles, Ca
I believe the song is about television, its a song that weaves a tale, story, and all the psycidelic sounds are radio waves transmitting thru the tube, colors, light, sound, and how it transfixes us into illusions about what is real and what is fantasy, it is a teenage wasteland and Mr. Townsend is telling us to get out and experience the real world, think about it !!!Marty - Bullhead City, Az
The coda of this song (the violin solo at the end) is based on Indian classical music. This was Pete's homage to his guru Meher Baba.Roger - Summit, Nj
The version played at The Royal Albert Hall in 2000 featured Nigel Kennedy on the violin and in my opinion, is one of the greatest moments in rock history. Buy the DVD just for this track, (although the rest is awesome too,) or possibly find it on youtube. You won't regret it.Jon - Great Yarmouth, United Kingdom
The beginning of this song is from Pete's Arp 2600, The same instrument used by Edgar Winter in Frankenstein!Dennis - Oklahoma City, Ok
This song is clearly not about Vietnam, although I can see a few lines that could sound like it would be. The "Teenage freedom" thing is more likely, although I just consider it a part of the Lifehouse.

Also: There are four versions of this song or something on Pete Townshend's CD "The Lifehouse Chronicles", one "Instrumental" version, one "Live" (Not really, I think) version, and a version that actually drops the synth and just adds violins and other gorgeous instruments, and the original-ish one, only slightly longer and with Pete's vocals.

Interestingly enough, the first song on the Lifehouse Chronicles CD set is named "Teenage Wasteland" and is a even longer version, a different melody even, and again, Pete's vocals.
Simen - Trondheim, Norway
I respect Pete Townshend as one of the greatest guitarists ever, but I have to admit that I have to cover my ears when he starts singing in this song.Bob - Dumbsville, Belarus
I remember this album cause it was the first album my brother brought. We must of listened to it over a hundred times. At the time my father had recently came back from Viet Nam and thought all that music was "hippy Sh--". One night my father and brother got in to it pretty bad. When the yelling and fighting stoped my brother played that song. That part where they say "out here in the fields I work for my meals...I put my back into my living" and on and on my father listened quitely. When it was done I saw tears come down his face. Me and my brother were quite. It was one of the few times I had ever saw my father cry. Yes...this song means what we all want it to be. Thanks for this gift of music.Joe - Laredo, Tx
Emily, Aurora - I have come to love this song via the Blue Man Group. I think their version is awesome (though of course I love the Who's original too) I have the BMG on cd - if you google Blue Man Group - go to their website, they have a shop - you can get the dvd and cd in one box. Enjoy!Maggie - Norwich,
Another example of Pete Townshend making a T.S. Eliot reference. Eliot published a famous poem titled "The Wasteland" in 1925. It is a spiritual wasteland.Jim - Tampa, Fl
So, what was old Baba O'Riley doing out in the fields? Did he FARM for his meals or FIGHT for them? On the show Don't Forget the Lyrics, they say FARM, on the show CSI: NY the closed caption of the theme they say FIGHT. It seems to be a toss-up on other websites too. Which is it?????Rod - Saint Louis, Mo
Its alrightKendra - Sacramento, Ca
I think the greatest tribute I Could give this song is my teenage kids love it. Loh these many years later and it still hits the wasteland that teenagers call home :)Mark - Worcester, Mi
Endless love for this song.Kate - Burnaby, Canada
One of the Who's top 3 all time songs, off one of the two best albums ever made (Moondance is the other)Ken - North Augusta, Sc
great song, The Who did everything right on this song, great bass, great guitar, great synths, great violins, the best part is when Daltrey screams "They're all wasted"Nick - Cleveland, Oh
my cousin made a video for this song with some family photos and home videos. it was great. he pretended to play the instruments and everything. my uncle helped him with it, too. awesome song, and has a great melody!!!Matthew - Calgary
The Who is one of the greatest bands of all time!!!! and this is my favourite song by them.Melanie - Seattle, Wa
Joel from glen ellyn, where did you hear that it was a viola solo at the end?? Everywhere I've seen says its a violin, and I think it sounds like a violin. I play viola, so I can recognise the sound, but I could be wrong. That would be the coolest thing ever if it was a viola!!Melanie - Seattle, Wa
Frickin cool jam.Max - Laconia, Nh
whatever the meaning, the song is so moving. you can imagine whatever you want and still feel how powerful it is. being a teenager, you can completely get in touch with it.

"THE ROCK IS BACK"
Lucy - Philly, Pa
A couple of comments

Jimmy from Texarkana, get your hands on a copy of the "Classic Albums" DVD about the origins and creation of Who's Next, and you can check your theory (I don't know enough to say). Pete demonstrates on the equipment he actually used.

Amber from Phila, it depends on what you mean by "produced." If you're referrng to he role of record producer, probably; but other than recruiting his friend Dave Arbus to play on the song, he didn't (AFAIK) have any direct role in creating the part
J - Wynnewood, Pa
Regarding The Synth Sound: Facts suggest that Pete got the arpreggio idea while making a demo for the Arp, but ulimately used his '68 Lowry Berkshire TK0-1 and a feature called "Percussion Repeat." Folks, I have a '67 Lowry Heritage with the same percussion repeat feature, and let me assure you... this is the sound's origin. There are plenty of pics out there of Pete with this organ. It's not hard to reproduce the sound on this thing, but the reason they used a recording/sequence live is prob because the organ is just too heavy.Jimmy - Texarkana, Tx
One more: According to Dave Arbus, he was a friend of Mppn's, was playing in his own band (East of Eden), and Moon asked him if he'd like to play on The Who's record. So I don't know if Moon _produced_ the violin part -- I'd have assumed that Glyn Johns had -- but he was definitely responsible for Arbus's being brought in.J - Wynnewood, Pa
Oh, one other factiod: according to Glyn Johns, Associate Record Producer for Who's Next -- who is sitting at a mixing console bringing different tracks in the intro up and down -- the synth part in Baba O'Riley "is not a loop. This actually is played. It actually does make the changes of its own. A lot of people think maybe it's a loop but it isn't at all." I honestly don't know what he means, but he's pretty emphatic that it's not a loop.J - Wynnewood, Pa
Just finishing watching the "Classic Albums" DVD about the origins and creation of Who's Next. There have been several discussions here about what constitutes "facts" when talking about meanings and origins. Well, this DVD provides *the* facts, as far as they're available: Townshend, Daltrey, Entwistle, and members of their management, production, etc. team from the recording sessions all talk at length about the making of the songs. First of all, both Glyn Johns (the producer) and Dave Arbus (the violinist) state unequivocally that it's a violin, not a viola. Second, here is what Townshend, live on camera, says about "teenage wasteland" (as closely as I can transcribe it); words bracketed with asterisks are given STRONG emphasis as Pete speaks: "For me, y,know, that notion of teenage wasteland it is about *waste* -- it's not about getting *wasted* -- it is about *waste*. Its about wasted life, wasted opportunity, wasted years, and I take full responsibility for the fact that my generation complained about the state of the planet and did *nothing to change it." Jonothan from Adelaide, Australia was right on the mark, and everyone else -- bzzt, you get the consolation prize.J - Wynnewood, Pa
Keith Moon actually produced the violin bit of Baba O'Riley. :)Amber - Phily, Pa
This song is one of my personal favorites. The song is about how people survive during wars. I think the line "I'm here in the fields! I've fought for my meals! I'm gon' need to be forgivin'!" means that the soldiers were fighting just to eat. I still don't understand what they mean by saying, "They're all wasted!" means.Mike - St. Louis, Mo
Debra, from New York, the song is NOT about getting wasted, or teenagers getting wasted, it's about waste - as in wasting your life. There's not really any double meaning there, its about a heatfelt sentiment of the tragedy of not fulfiling one's potential.

But whatever it means to you, its a great song, one of The Who's best.
Jonothan - Adelaide, Australia
This song is great!
I love the cover that Blue Man Group does of it, but does anyone know where I can find the actual song version of it (I know that Blue Man Group came out with a DVD of their concert in which they play the song but I can't find it through ITunes or anywhere else that I can purchase it).

By the way, whoever said that "If you're a true Who fan you wouldn't say this song is the best"?
If you're a true fan of any group, it doesn't matter which song actually is the best;
what matters is how much you love the song.
This song, in my own opinion, is their best, because it is my favorite.
I'll acknowledge if you like another song better, and I won't argue with you about it, so long as you acknowledge that I like this one better.
So there. :P
Emily - Aurora, Il
omg i love this song... i listned to it when i was 10 and i remember its the first song i ever really loved!6 years later its my all time favorite song and im obsessed with the who... my dad got me into the who and we just went to a concert together... it was SO awesomeSage - San Fran, Ca
Despite numerous comments about the "violin" solo, that instrument on B O'R is a viola, without a doubt, the greatest (perhaps only) Viola solo of the Rock Era.Joel - Glen Ellyn, Il
Great intro! thought had some chorus effects too.Bhoomika - Kathmandu, Other
The Tubes used to do this song in combination with The Who's "The Kid's Are Alright' in concert. Fee did a good job with it. I used 'combination' because I'm not sure combining two songs is a 'medley'Lester - New York City, Ny
The lyrics in this song are so accurate as to what was going on during that time. Its true "They're all wasted!"Ameer - La, Ca
This is a great song. I love how Pete has a solo in it. He sings great on his own too. Rock on Who!!!Shannan - Wilmington, De
I love this song--one of my favorite from The Who. In my American History class, my friend and I had to do a project to do on Vietnam War protests, and this was a class that most people didn't even try in. We started a powerpoint with a slide that just said "Teenage Wasteland" and had the end of this song ("Teenage Wasteland--it's only teenage wasteland) blaring! Everyone in the class jumped out of their seats!Sarah - Leesburg, Oh
baba o,riley is my favourite its never off my car c/d player, my wife goes mental when she is in the car with me so i just turn the volume to max, fantasticBrian - Uk, England
Oh and by the way,IT'S NOT CALLED TEENAGE WASTELAND!My stupid History teacher calls it that all the time,it's drives me crazy!Chelsea - Wichita, Ks
God this song is amazing,even if they do play it in every movie that's set in the 70's,yeah,i'm more of a Led Head too,but The Who is a close second,fallowed by AC/DC.Chelsea - Wichita, Ks
Whats the story behind the violin part? Did they travel to easten Europe to get the influence?Mecc - Alberta, Canada
I think Won't Get Fooled Again is their best song. Though I prefer Led Zep over The Who, this is my second favorite band from another country.Spog Zallagi - Blue Hill, Me
great song but not the whos best a true who fan would never say baba or pinball wiz are the bestJeeves - Dc, Dc
This is directed to just about everyone except Brian, Grand Forks, ND, who clearly knows the difference among fact, opinion, and rumor, and who clearly has done his homework (reading the "Lifehouse" script, etc., without which speculation about the song's meaning is pointless).

It's all very well, gang, to theorize about what this song "means" -- but doing it without knowing the context is a bit misguided. You can certainly talk about what it means *to you*, but the only person who can say what it meant to Pete Townshend in 1971 is...well, Pete Townshend.

Townshend is very clear that it was written as part of his (recently completed) "Lifehouse" project, and the events described in the song parallel the events in the original film script.

As s few other commaentators have said, Ray, a farmer ("Out here in the fields/I farm [not *fight*]for my meals"), lives "in a remote part of Scotland." He and his wife Sally ("Sally, take my hand") "decide to return South...in a motor caravan [RV]" ("We'll travel South cross land").

They are searching for their daughter Mary, who has gone to find a young composer who is planning a concert (called the Lifehouse) that will liberate the attendees from the oppressive and repressive regime ruling England. They get to the concert, at which the participants all disappear. Townshend is clear about the fact that he "simply wanted to demonstrate [his] belief that music could set the soul free, both of the restrictions of of the bod, and the isolating impediments and encumbrances of the modern world."

"Lifehouse" never appeared as a film, but on December 5, 1999 it was performed as a radio play on BBC Radio 3; the playscript was also published in 1999 (by Pocket Books, UK -- look it up on Amazon), and this is what I've been quoting from.

In the playscript -- and presumably also in the film script -- the biblical book of Exodus is mentioned several times ("The Exodus is here"), and the parallels with the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah -- in which Lot's wife is turned to a pillar of salt for looking back as they escape ("don't look past my shoulder") -- should be obvious. "The happy ones" who are near are, presumably, those who have been (or are about to be) liberated by the Lifehouse concert (although this is admittedly an inference on my part).

I haven't seen a specific reference to "teenage wasteland," and it's not as clear as the Sodom and Gomorrah reference, but once you know that the population of Britain have been turned into a nation of "couch potatoes" who never leave their protective suits, and have 24x7 "entertainment" pumped into those suits by the establishment, it's not hard to imagine what "They're all wasted!" might mean.

So the song has nothing to do with Vietnam, drugs, or Woodstock, or any of the things you folks have been speculating about. It's also not about "growing up in the postmodern West" (Matt, Durham, NH) or "The Cather in the Rye." As far as its being about "foolishness and futility of the 60s counterculture" or "wasting your life on what you should really be doing like giving to the poor and focusing your attention the real problems in the world" -- this *is* consistent with Pete's mature evaluation of his early career, but keep in mind that in 1971 he was, what, 26? Conflating his adult evaluation of his younger self's behavior with his attitude at the time is not really justifiable, as any of you who is out of your teens or tweens know. At 56, things look very different from the way they looked at 26.

All of this said, one thing that distinguishes great art from run-of-the-mill schlock is that it evokes images and feelings across time and generations, and inspires discussion and thought, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing. Townshend was and is a great songwriter because his music speaks to my 22-year-old son as much as to my 56-year-old self, and it speaks to me differently than it did to my 22-year-old self, and probably speaks to my son differently from the way it spoke to me when I was his age. And I predict (and hope to be around to see) that my son will still be listening to The Who in 30 years, and that his eventual son will find that Townshend's music speaks to *him* when he's 22.

So yourselves a favor: buy a copy of "Lifehouse"; then think about the song (and others from Who's Next) in that context.
J - Wynnewood, Pa
This song is not about getting wasted or even getting killed its is about how a generation of teen became a lost generation similar to after WWI because thier lives ere so torn by the war returning to normal life was near impossible.

similar to the theme in the book "all quiet on the western front"
Zach - Marcellus, Ny
i yell at everyone who call it teenage wasteland. cause this is my fav who songClaire! - Kansas City, Nj
its funny when you look at the lyrics and theresa like 3 words :)Stephen - Claymont , De
Flew from New Zealand to the UK to see The Who in concert @ the Royal Albert Hall (2hours 20 minutes)Baba O'Riley was included And the violin solo was Nigel Kennedy. The drummer was Zac Starkey (Ringo's Son) good Drummer the best after Keith Moon even two base drums like Keith. Good DVD's to get are The Who live at the Royal Albert Hall. Also Pete Townhends DVD Lifehouse where Gabby Lester does the violin solo. Im 67 years old now but still go hunting around the shops looking for The Who stuff. But when all said & done so are both Pete & Roger in their 60's. If anybody ever gets a chance to go to a The Who concert GO because you will enjoy it.Noel - Christchurch, New Zealand
The Who's best song.Steve - Wayne, Pa
your all wrong, this song has nothing to do with drugs or alcohol or any war. It has to do with wasting your life on what you should really be doing like giving to the poor and focusing your attention the real problems in the world. Pete Townshend said this in a concert that i attended a few days ago and he said the same thing on vh1 on classic albums of who's next.David - Chicago, Il
Baba O'Riley is simply one of the greatest songs around. Despite being in the somewhat complicated lifehouse it is extremely simple. I also do want to know why Pete Townshend is not knighted.Bryan - New York, Ny
Fantastic! props to Pete Townshend for the great song! Fantastic!Joe - Bellingham, Wa
I think that the song is the intro song to the movie Sweet November - at least the synthesizer percussion lead in.Hen - St. Louis, Mo
This song's distinctive synth line was adapted to a different key for "Fragments", the opening track on The Who's 2006 comeback album Endless Wire. An abbreviated version of that song, "Fragments Of Fragments", is also part of the Wire & Glass rock mini-opera on the same album.Joshua - Twin Cities, Mn
Hands down, this is the greatest song under 6 minutes ever written. EVER. I saw The Who in concert this year, and they had just played a few new songs and people were starting to sit down, and all of the sudden, the synthesizer starts, EVERYBODY jumps right out of their chair, the crowd roars, it was just amazing.Nathan - Austin, Tx
I just put this on the iPod that I got for Christmas.Mike - Germantown, Md
hahaha of course it wasnt done by the beatles hahaha gd times n0000000000000000000000000000000bsMat - Stoke On Trent, England
Nick from Boston...Baba O'Riley was never done by the Beatles. The Who wrote it.Fintan - Manchester
This song is not about what most people say. This was one of the songs meant for Pete Townshend's never finished Lifehouse project, a rock opera about a wasteland being turned back around with a rock show. This song was supposed to described the main character's past and setting in the town he lives.Sam - Portsmouth, Wa
Can you verify if this was done by the Beatles? I would really like to hear it if it was.Nick - Boston , Ma
This song was originally done by the beatles
and is obviously on about the second boer war
Mat - Stoke On Trent, England
or it could be refering to "the feild" as a warzone.Pete - Gatwick, England
Never mind your right it could be about Vietnam. That was a stupid thing to post. Sorry. I mean john Lennon wrote about that war. That was dumb. I take that back.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Also, whoever said "The Who were British, why would they write about Vietnam?" ... The Rolling Stones were British, w+f do you think "Gimme Shelter" was about??Squad - Hartford, Ct
The song also appears in the film 'The Summer of Sam" with Adrian Briody and Jennifer Esposito..Ronan - Dublin, Ireland
i really liked the way this song was included on one episode of House MD (the series).Stink - Male'
My band covered this song, and its pretty dang good.Bob - Rio Vista, Ca
Thanks Steve. About that line I thought it was "I fought for my meals" instead of "I fight..." or "I farm..." Thanks for the facts though.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Actual Facts about Baba O'Riley

The name almost certainly originates from two of the song's influences; Meher Baba, an Iranian-Indian spiritual leader by whom many The Who songs were inspired, and Terry Riley, an American minimalist composer. It is also often misidentified as "Teenage Wasteland."
Originally to be included in a rock opera and film, "Lifehouse." This somewhat clarifies the meaning of the song; a farmer named Ray and his wife, Sally, living in a futuristic Scotland, must travel to the Lifehouse to find their daughter, Mary, who has run away to see a concert.
Though often transcribed as "I fight for my meals," this second line can be argued to be "I farm for my meals," which does make more sense in the context of the rest of the stanza. Also, one should note the articulation in the fourth line, "I don't need to fight," where a clear "t" sound can be heard that is absent from the second line.
The violin in the song is similar to Klezmer, which is a Jewish music tradition. It was Keith Moon who had the idea to include the violin, and the part was played by Dave Arbus.
Was released as a single, though not in the US or the UK.
Common in film and television.

All of these have reputable sources, excepting the statement that the violin part is similar to Klezmer. This is based on my own analysis as a graduate student of music education. Also, if you don't like the meaning I presented of the song, that's perfectly acceptable. Make it mean whatever you'd like, but please don't state it as "fact."
Steve - Portage, Mi
This song was played on the TV Show House MD, starring Hugh Laurie.Merm - Df, Ct
This song was on House!Merm - Df, Ct
yeah. the song is about woodstock. when the who went to woodstock, they were pissed off at all the kids. all the kids were supposed to come to woodstock for the music, but most of came to get hi and wasted. hence the name teenage wasteland.

-Me :)
Dylan - New York, Ny
I was also going to say... It reminds me in a lot of ways of the rebelous teenage rock anthem megahit that I grew up with... "Smells Like Teen Spirit."Gill - Texas, Tx
I have just recently discovered this song, and up until last night did not know much about The Who. I spent the night reading up on them, getting stoned and trying to figure out this song. As unqualified as I may be, I am going to give you my interpretation.
I believe that the first verse is very straight forward. It is not referring to war, but to the surprising simple and often rebellious alterative of working hard, being true to oneself, and not needing to prove it to anyone. This is the feeling I got the moment I heard this verse.
I think the second verse is also pretty straight forward. On the surface it is about running off with a lover, but it has overtones that relate the need to let go, and live in the moment.
I have trouble tying the first verse to the second first, because it seems to have a much more mature and responsible message than the latter ?teenage wasteland? I suppose, given the time it was written in, the type of teenage rebellion that was going on was viewed by many people who were involved as altruistic and righteous. This helps me tie the two verses together. We all deal with these basic issues as we are coming of age. I agree with both the person who said "for me expressed the struggles of getting through the teen years... ...is truly ageless" and the person who said "It's simple in its complication".
This song, like life, is full of contradictions. I think that the course Pete's life and music took allowed him to see past the romance of it all and understand the futility as expressed in the phrase teenage wasteland. I can certainly see how it was dedicated to his spiritual mentor
Gill - Texas, Tx
This is one of my all-time favorite songs, and it has one of my favorite quotes in it, "I don't need to fight to prove I'm right and I don't need to be forgiven."Parker - Boulder, Co
I was probably 17 when this song came out. I still love it, especially the violin at the end. I was surprised to read all the different interpretations of it. Some of these I had never considered. Most of The Who music for me expressed the struggles of getting through the teen years. I still remember what it felt like to be only 17 and think just getting to 19 would never happen. It seemed so far away, and I wouldn't go back to that time for anything. But it's funny how listening to The Who now brings me to terms with those feelings. I listen now, remember the awkward struggle of those years, and think now, "I survived it." Our own experiences, personal or cultural, influence our interpretations of art, music, literature, and the world around us. The Who's music, Townshend's lyrics included, is truly ageless, classic.

Check out petetownshend.com, and read through his personal diaries (blog), which are updated frequently. It's quite interesting. Also check his link for TowserTV. He has a weekly show, or rather his wife does, but he is on it with her, along with other guests. There are also recordings of old Who concerts.
Susan - Npr, Fl
one of the Who's greatest songs especially with the first few lines, out here in the fields i fight for my meals...Nathan - From The Country Of, Canada
Like other Who songs, I find the synthesizer work in this song fascinating... especially considering it was done on an ARP 2500 (I believe). I was young, but I remember being enamoured with electronic instruments such as the MiniMoog, EML's ElectroComp 400, the Buchla 200, and of course the ARP. At the time, that was about it as far as synthesizers went.

I remember thinking how there was no end to the the possibilities. I also remembered how so many of my peers - musicians and classmates - thought it was just a fad that synthesizers would die off in a couple years. Many professional musicians felt the same way. In fact, I believe that was one of the reasons the original keyboardist for Yes got fired; he didn't want to take the plunge into synthesizers... or some such hear-say :-)

I digress...
I think it would be difficult to recreate the synth track(s) in this song even using today's advanced instruments (*without* sampling or taping). I doubt it would be easy by any measure.
Lunar Tic - Fagbooty, Ca
wow what a great song!Scott - Montgomery, Al
The intro to this song gets played on desks (air-band style) by television characters on two shows - FOX's "House, MD" (Episode 1x14) and ABC's "What About Brian" (Episode 1x01)...the scenes are similar enough to suggest a certain amount of--shall we say--indebtedness on the part of ABC's show, which aired more than a year after the episode of "House".Tim - Toronto, Canada
VERY popular track in movie trailers. "American Beauty" and "A Bug's Life" trailers use it to excellent effect.Simon - Reading, England
A crazy old man once told me the intro part was based on a classical piece of music.

Although i am sure (may have made this part up) that townsend based the piece on the audiences weight/height/vital stats in an attempt to join the band with the audience. Like in 'Join Together'
Lauren - London, England
Running throughout the song are complex, cyclic tones: intended as an homage to the electronic, tape-manipulation and "real-time delay" innovations of the Cage-influenced modern-classical genius, Terry Riley. In turn, Riley (a contemporary of LaMonte Young, with whom he briefly collaborated) influenced the work of countless other minimalists. / "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" incorporate what are, effectively, the first uses of sequencers in rock music. Technically, a sequencer was not used. However, the principle is similar: these are not notes played on a keyboard, but a series of pre-programmed frequencies. / The result is neither melodic in a conventional sense, nor atonal. The repetitive yet slowly-changing patterns act as counterpoint. / Listeners fond of the use of electronic sounds on Who's Next are likely to enjoy Terry Riley's composition In C, and Steve Reich's masterpiece Music for 18 Musicians. / On an off-topic note: don't waste much time seeking recordings by LaMonte Young, who fiercely defends the integrity of his work, yet refuses to allow any of it to be made accessible to eager, would-be listeners. This perverse attitude is typified by his angry response to the release, on the Table of the Elements label, of Inside the Dream Syndicate (featuring Young, John Cale, Tony Conrad, Angus MacLise and Marian Zazeela), a challenging group improvisation described by Pitchfork Media reviewer S. Murray as "the Big Bang of Minimalism." Young contends he owns a recording of the same work, but which is more complete and of superior sound quality. Fair enough, but why not prove the point by making the tape available, giving the public an opportunity to decide?Charles Wallace - Portland, Or
Vietnam sounds right.I never really thought about it that way. It makes a lot of sense, teenage wasteland...all the teens getting killed in the feilds...we fight for our meals. But what is the exodus reference?
Anyway, its a great song. When i first heard the first part i thought my cd was screwed. I love the beginning.Classic.
Mr. Pitters - Funky Town, Ca
Er... You are all right and all wrong, I guess. Pete Townshend is only writing songs about himself. "Behind blue eyes" for example: he's got a couple of beautiful blue eyes. And "Baba" it's a sort of second part of "My Generation". Well, I'm not sure but I think that The Who (and The Kinks!) are the best one-man-band ever. Obviously, Moon, Daltrey and Entwistle are "the best Townshend army" he could dream of. In any case, "Baba" is one of the best songs I've ever listened to. And today (April the 14th) is the 75 aniversary of the Spanish Republic. Salud a todos, amiguitos.Julian Hernandez - Cambre, Spain
Wait a minute, Lifehouse is a book? I thought it was like a failed movie project. Anyway, freakin sweet song. I'm kind of just getting into The Who because my dad was huge into them when he was a kid, and I think they're awesomeFrankie - Engine, In
I love this song. It pumps me up. Truly one of The Who's best.Jon - Oakridge, Or
What's that weird instrument in the beginning?Mike - Germantown, Md
I recently saw Towsend perform this song on a DVD called 'Music from Lifehouse'-great version i thought of one of the all time great rock songs. I always thought the song was about teenagers from his generation being wasted by dope when they could have been pursuing something like Pete attempted to, in a spiritual way, such as Meher Baba and his philosophy: whatever it's a spine tingling song!
ken. Australia
Dweebstick - Melbourne, Australia
The title is "Baba O'Riley" on The Who's albums. Townshend himself has said that the title is a tribute to Meher Baba and Terry Riley. 'Nuff said.

Saw the song performed by the Who in Bloomington Indiana, in 1975. Baba O'Riley was the first song. The lights went out in the arena, and someone started the tape with the synthesizer music (synths played with a normal keyboard were rare in those days). The crowd was beginning to clap along with the synth in the dark. Pete hit the first power chord, spots came on, and a multicolored laser displayed on the wall behind the band. We went nuts, and so did the Who. Pete played power chords, The Ox held down the rhythm with his bass, Keith played maniacal drums, and Roger sang--for about 3 hours. Probably the best concert I've ever seen in person, and I saw a lot in those days.
Pat - Albuquerque, Nm
It features on the US show "Rescue Me" starring Denis Leary as a NY fire fighter struggling to cope post 9/11Alex - Dublin, Ireland
My unit used to listen to this song constantly in Vietnam, and, yes, we occasionally got wasted!Lucus - Mount Airy, Nc
This song was also used in the theatrical trailer for the movie American BeautyJamie - Short Hills, Nj
You are right, of course, in saying that Holden loves Jane, and not Sally in Catcher in the Rye. But you seem to forget he asks Sally, not Jane to run off with him. There were times when he had himself convinced that he loved her (Sally) though, even though she gave him a "pain in the a**"

"Sally, take my hand
Travel south cross land"

Whether or not this Sally here is Holden's Sally, though, I can not say.
Joey - Brooklyn, Sd
I have never read "Catcher in the Rye." I probably should though.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
This is a road trip song for me...I don't know why...Kevin - Grosse Pointe, Mi
Probably the best song ever written and performed, at leats in my eyes!Alex - Hamburg, Germany
Ok if anyone has ever read "Catcher in the Rye" they'd know that Holden is not in love with Sally, he thinks shes callow and selfcentered. He only takes her out on a date because he's lonely and she goes just to "show off her cute ass" at the skating rink. If you wanted the song to be about "Catcher in the Rye" then the lyric should be Jane (Holden's ideal girl) This comment is dedicated to my English Teacher Mr. KenigMaurice - Philly, Pa
Michael from Bolton:
"House" is not a UK show...it is American. It has a British actor playing the lead role, but he is playing an American, in an American hospital, in America.
Christine - Slidell, La
The greatful dead does a good cover.Deo - Annandale, Va
BEST WHO SONG EVER!!!!Deo - Annandale, Va
this is my favorite song, it just amazes me so much.Dookie - Pittsburgh, Pa
Sorry, I meant some deep and mysterious meaning?Ben - Nyc, Ms
This was part of Pete's unfinished lifehouse opera. Along with Behind Blue Eyes, Won't get fooled again and a few others. The opera was basically about outsiders, hippies if you will that lived outside the cities run by corrupt governments and corporations. This song is sung from the outsiders perspective, looking at the insiders and what they valued. Behind Blue Eyes is an introspective ode, sung by the corrupt leader of the insiders. Won't get fooled again is obvious in this context. BBC did a brilliant radio documentary of the Who's work.Paul - Cypress, Tx
I've heard that as well... The Blue Man Group actually does a cover of Baba O' Reilly(not Riley)... And they explain the reason for the alternate spelling... They said that they called Pete Townshend for permission to use the song and he said sure but you have to spell it correctly... Pete did intend to spell the song O' Reilly after a cousin with the same last name... The record execs misread his messy handwriting and printed the album Baba O' Riley... By the time Pete could fix it... The song had hit the FM airwaves and the rest is history... Despite the intended spelling by Townshend... Terry Riley was the inspiration... The Coincedence of a Cousin named O' Reilly was just something that Pete Could play with...Brian - Grand Forks, Nd
Great verision on the kids are alrightDavid Corino - Hawley, Pa
Pear Jam's cover is kind of cool, but nothing lives up to the original.Dan - Lee, Nh
Brian: I admit there are legitimate sources on the internet that one can find although there are likely a lot more untrustworthy ones; my point there was just to combat your suggestion that comparing google search results might be proof of the fact. Mostly though, besides bringing thought and attention to what can actually validate fact, I was just being lazy and wanted a sited source to quickly verify this info so as to see what the truth as to the origins of the song title really is. The sources that are usually accepted as verification of truth in academia include a trusted publication (i.e. a book, journal, magazine, or website authored by a credible source in this area of knowledge). The main problem here is what you define as a credible source, and really only members of the band would know the real origins of the song. Beyond them, we can only speculate based on what they may have told others or from possible similarities between the song title and people close to them and even these things may not really be the truth. Given that everyone realizes this, I would certainly believe a good source if provided one. What makes me unsure as to the validity of the O'Riley coming from Terry Riley is that supposedly it was actually meant to be spelled O'Reilly by Townsend and it was miscoppied onto the label. Assume for the moment that this story is true, then I'm not sure what the motivation for Townsend to specifically want the spelling to be O'Reilly if it came from Terry Riley. You see what I'm getting at here? Maybe the O'Reilly spelling is actually wrong though. I don't know, maybe you guys do.Jeff - New York City, Ny
Jeff from New York City, Here's the thing, I agree with you. You are making my point, there is no documentation and less importantly no internet chatter that mentions that O'Riley came from the name of the JIG at the end of the song. As for your challenge to me to prove my point using REAL documentation for accepted sources. Well, that can be a little tricky over the internet. I could provide you with web links but you distrust those sources so that would be pointless. My word means nothing so that won't get anywhere. I'm not going to drive or Fly to New York to go over things in person with you so that Option is out. So let's do this in stages. First go to allmusic.com and under name type in TERRY RILEY... not TERRY O RILEY... Click on the Discogrophy tab... Let's just select the first album listed because it is perhaps his best known(and I use that term "best known" loosely) Now click on the the speaker button and listen to the sound clip of "A Rainbow in Curved Air" after listening to the song... It should be clear that can hear the similiarities between what Terry Riley is doing and the synth loops in Baba O' Riley... (Careful because I admit I read an interview on the net with TERRY RILEY himself that Rainbow in Curved Air was the inspiration for Baba O' Riley and Won't get Fooled Again) 2nd... Do some reading... Go to the library if you don't trust the internet... Read up on the lifehouse concept that Pete Townshend was working on... There is a lot of stuff out there... You could even read the Book titled "Lifehouse" by Pete Townshend with Jeff Young... It's an unedited Script of the whole she-bang... This takes a little while but the pieces will fall together for you once you tackle the thoughts behind the lifehouse project like I have... And feel free to ignore anything that you think comes from questionable sources... But, whatever you do Please read about it... It shows how complicated the project was... From Live Shows... A Movie... A concept album to entering in vital statistics of audience members to create personalized music and enhancing the concert experience. The Story of Ray and Sally... The Farmers... The Grid... The Lifesuits... Jumbo... And how music can save or change the World... These are just a couple of things that you can do... Once you do this... We can continue this conversation right here... But, all in all, I agree with you.... Let's not use questionable sources and list them as FACT... I think that was my point all along... Thanks for everyone who is tolerating my lenghty diatribe on the subject.Brian - Grand Forks, Nd
This is in response to the comment from Brian, Grand Forks, ND. Saying that there is a bunch of documentation and that you've heard Pete Townsend say that O'Riley is from Terry O'Riley is not proof of fact either. If you want to prove a point as fact, you need to provide references to actual documentation, NOT from internet chatter, but REAL documentation from accepted sources. A comparison of google searches is most definitely not a valid method for proving factual information, because anyone can claim whatever they want on the internet. That google search would just show that maybe more people adhere to the rumor that the song title came from Terry and not the jig, not that there is actually a factual element to that claim. You need to site some sources if you want to be taken seriously when contesting information so that everyone else can verify the validity of your argument.Jeff - New York City, Ny
Has anyone here read more along this line of thinking? "The opening track on 1971's Who's Next, "Baba O'Riley" used to be a very serious song that denounced the Woodstock concert as a "teenage wasteland," paid musical tribute to an avant-garde composer (Terry Riley), and based the chords of its glittering synthesizer part (B alternating with A) on the holy name of Baba (as in Mehr Baba, Townshend's spiritual guide at the time). http://www.notbored.org/townsend.html.Georgia - Atlanta, Ga
You can barely hear it but theres the sound of a lighter or match being struck at about 2:39 on the cd recording of it. You can hardly hear it but its there.Tom - Toronto, Canada
The songfacts also state that the Reilly part came from Terry Reilly too.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Alright... When it comes to this site... To my understanding... The Stuff mentioned under Songfacts is stuff that is supposed to be true...
And the Stuff listed under comments... Is opinion... Guesses or stuff that COULD be correct... But, I must admit that I'm losing a little faith in the accuracy of the stuff under songfacts on this site when it says that "O'Riley is the name of the jig(violin part)at the end of the song"...
There is a ton of a documentation that clearly state that the Riley part of the Title comes from Terry Riley... I've heard Pete Townshend say it himself... Just to prove the point furthur... Do a simple Google search... Type in "Baba O' Riley Terry Riley" and then start reading the many pages on the subject... Then do a simple Google search... Type in "Baba O' Riley Violin Part Jig" whatever you want... And you only get the same comment on this website LISTED AS FACT and other pages of stuff that talk about the Violin part at the end and also point out that the Riley part of the title comes from TERRY RILEY...

IF YOU ARE GOING TO LIST IT AS FACT... MAKE SURE THAT IT'S FACT... THIS WAY THE WRONG INFORMATION DOESN'T GET PASSED AROUND THE GLOBE... SAY THANKS TO CHRIS FROM QUEENS IF YOU WANT BUT LEAVE IT IN THE COMMENTS SECTION WHERE IT BELONGS...
Brian - Grand Forks, Nd
This song is clearly NOT about Vietnam. And this seems to be a relatively recent interpretation. At the time it was first released people though "yeah, cool,they're singing about getting wasted!", but its not. The song is about waste, not getting wasted. "Teenage wasteland" is about depravation and a lack of opportunity and hope. That's the song's lament.Jonothan - Adelaide, Australia
So Nathan, what makes you think it sounds Jewish -- the fiddle, perhaps? If so, I suggest a heavy dose of Celtic and/or bluegrass music, where fiddles are even more prominent than in "Jewish" music. Alan - Louisville, Ky
My favorite song of all time! I bow down to The Who!!!Kim - Calgary, Canada
Anybody think this song sounds a little Jewish? The Who probably could have done a mean version of Hava Nigila though I bet.Nathan - Defiance, Oh
the harpsicord is like a piano but the the strings are pluked instead of hit. This was J.S.Bach original instrument in a time when pianos didn't existWilliam - Montreal, Canada
This is also the theme tune used on 'House' a UK tv series.Michael - Bolton
The Lowrey organ in the intro is AWESOME!!!!! can't get enough of it so much that i fond a way to recreate it on a harpsicord...on my hammond too:)William - Montreal, Canada
No one can ever know what a song is about but the person who wrote it. Nothing bugs artists more than people analyzing their songs and announcing their meaning to the world. It's hardly ever right. . a song might have special meaning to you and mean somthing completly differnt altogether...it moves somthing in me, and THATS why i love it.Ngaire - Campbellville, Canada
THE WHO dude what a great group !it will rock minds for eternity in the afterlife. Great song and great album do i prefer Tommy or Quadrophenia.Sabo - Bs.as, Argentina
This is the best song ever written. Pete townshend is a Musical Genius. along with roger daltrey gripping vocals & keith moon's UNBELIEVABLE drum playing and not to forget john entwistles bad ass bass playing this song is a sure fire hitElly - Columbus, Oh
the song may not have been about the vietnam war, but i believe was about war in general. Aren't they all the same, kids dying for money. i did like the thoughts on the catcher in the ryeRyan - Portage, In
Sorry, just wanted to mention that I love these lyrics. Of struggle and independence, and in that same vein - no need to be forgiven, since the blood of the war and other social injustices were not on the hands of the younger generation, theirs indeed.Brian - Meriden, Ct
Love the organ (thanks, Barry)/fiddle combo. So different, so innovative. Pete Townshend was the creative genius behind the band and this partially came as a result of his seeking wisdom and new musical direction throughout his career. This included his Eastern studies. It was also quite evident on his 1985 solo White City: A Novel (an album)in which he continued to make new strides in composition and musical technique through diligent study. I've always heard their name mentioned as one of the all-time great bands and this song was, I feel, their best.Brian - Meriden, Ct
The keyboard at the beginning of this song actually isn't a synthesizer, it's a VCS3 Organ. Same with WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN. The Who's Next tunes that feature the ARP Synthesizer are BARGAIN, GOING MOBILE and SONG IS OVER.Barry - New York, Nc
I saw The Who perform this at the Isle Of Wight last year,,,,,,,,,,i,m still tingling!!!Wolf Chinnery - Hemel Hempstead,,, England
This is one of the best song's I've ever heard. The Who are definitely one of the greatest bands of all time, they don't get enough recognition for that.Drew - Great Falls, Mt
What an awesome song. The Who were simply amazing, yet they aren't always mentioned when talking about the greatest bands of all time. This might be their best.Matt - Millbrae, Ca
This song is so great! The fiddle and synthesizer make you want to get up and dance.Mary C. - Chicago, Il
This could quite possibly be the best song of all time, from the opening synthesizer, to haunting choris, to the killer guitar and irish fiddle solosZola - Dublin, Oh
Big Audio Dynamite samled the synth part for their biggest hit Rush.John - Levittown, Ny
baba is obviously named after the teachings of meher baba, however, o'reilly is the name of the jig (violin part) at the end of the song. i heard this info while listening to Carol Miller on WNEW 102.7fm in NYC years ago. i will not argue with people here on this board about the validity of Vietnam, although Ms. Miller did state that as well. it's a shame that everybody equates this with getting drunk and high as a teenager.Chris - Queens, Ny
I think it fits pretty well to say this song is a response to the cries of protest and revolution in the late 60s. Some kids in the US were crying for revolution, full on. The Weatherman and such. This song is, I believe, a response to the 60s counterculture. "I put my back into my living." "I don't have to fight to prove I'm right." "Out here in the fields."

The line "teenage wasteland" then would refer to the foolishness and futility of the 60s counterculture. As part of Lifehouse, it could be the voice of an older Englishmen, maybe someone simple. Probably not autobiographical for Townsend. Just another character in the Lifehouse arsenal.
Brian - Austin, Tx
Why do some of y'all think it's about Vietnam? That doesn't make much sense to me. I jsut think that the song is about how hard it is being a teenager, and how much trrouble it is fitting in. I never had mcuh trouble fitting in, but I'm a teenager so I can definitely relate to the song in that sense.Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
THANK YOU Taal from Australia!!! Americans get soo caught up in their own issues that we sometimes forget to look at other peoples views. I think it is about the struggles of teenage lifeZack - Hinesburg, Vt
i reckon this sings is about a skinny kid of about 13 years old, strapping on his first dodgy Gibson les paul copy and playing his first POWER CHORDS!!!! (probably D, A, G, then maybe a C or something)then bouncing around the basement like he was drunk, windmilling his arm around, eventually dinging his guitar against several objects. I didn't notice there were words for the first few months.........Jamie - Sydney, Australia
Blue Man Group did an awesome version of this when they did their Complex Live tour in 2003. You can see it on the Complex Live tour DVD. They used acoustic pipe instruments (that they call Tubulums) for the synth part at the beginning.Kd - Chicago, Il
The movie Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland is named after this song; it was one of the director's favorite songs.Jacquie - Sparks, Nv
I think this song is about "The Catcher in the Rye" by Salinger. Holden is a somewhat lost teenager, in that he doesn't want to grow up, and has a dream where he is in a FIELD, saving innocent little children from running off a cliff. He also is in love with a girl named SALLY, and at the end of the novel (in won't really ruin it) Holden, the main character, wants to go somewhere, and TRAVEL. He doesn't want to grow up, and wants to "get together" with Sally, "before we grow much older." As I write this, it convinces me even more that this song is about the novel Catcher in the Rye. If you read it, you will understand how the lyrics in this song are very very related to the book. "The Happy Ones" are the innocent little children that Holden wants to essentially save and preserve, and retain their innocense. "Teenage Wasteland" possibly refers to the how Holden feels that he is just a teenager in the large world, and everyone else besides him is a "phony" and "wasted" (doing bad, adult-like things) while he just wants to live his life as a child.
Tell me what you think about this if you've read the book
-Eddie
Eddie - Glencoe, Il
Pete intended this song about teenagers. I feel really connected to this song.
Debra...the line "they're all wasted" does not imply drug use.
This song has been overly commercialized in my opinion. But it is a good song and kinda cool, sorta, to hear it on a commercial. It could be interpreted as a song about Vietnam, but it is not a Vietnam song.
Sumner - Paragould, Ak
The drum solo is killer, especially on the live version. Totally classic Keith Moon.Rob - Santa Monica, Ca
This is song needs no comment. You only have to listen to it to understand why it is so good. This is also why Townshend deserves knighthood!Vincent - St. Davids, England
I love this song!!!!!!! The live version is the best. U can get it on itunes for a dollar. I love the sythesizer.Sam - Provo, Vt
This song was also used by Hull city AFC at boothery park(http://www.hullcityafc.net) for many years as the song played as the players ran out the tunnel. The version played was slighety remixed however with the systhiser part playing over and over until the players ran out an the song then kicked off after all the tesion had been built up.Phil - Hull, England
this is one of the greatest songs i have heard: the intro made me listen to it from that beginning to the end. As somebody commented, the synth at the beginning, everything in the middle, and the violin at the end. The lead singer has a great strong and convinsing(Spelling check please) voice besides he is one of the best front men of rock. Pinball Wizard also ROCKS!!!!!!.
I think that the song is more about the vietnam than about teenagers.
Juan - Miami, Fl
I guess it could be about 'nam, but I always assumed, like many many other songs, it's simply about that awkward fitting in stuff most of us experience in our teens.Gregmon - Intelbuquerque, Nm
I think the beauty of music is that it can mean whatever you would like it to mean, although it may have a real specific meaning you can interperate it the way you want...when I hear the lyrics I think of the book Exodus, and not just because he uses the word exodus,it's the content. Aside from the talking about adolescence and the coming of age issue. But Israel was very coming of age and alot of young people fought for the right to the state. just my own little thought... above all, yes I think it is simply about adolescent hardship.Margalit - Las Vegas, Nv
The beginning synth part was on a HP commercialTakayama - Tokyo, Japan
In my opinion this song rock's hard in the movie of S.O.S. and that all you people must be wasted to think the song is about Vietnam.That's all I got to say about that,Jenny.Gershen - Houston, Tx
Why would The Who, a BRITISH band, do a song about the Vietnam War? Wake up people!!!Taal - Brisbane, Australia
During the opening credits of the movie Slackers (2002), this song is played marvelously by the London Philarmonic Orchestra.Antonio - Orlando, Fl
I really don't think people are listening to the lyrics, as it is clearly NOT about Vietnam. Just read 'em, it makes perfect sense that this is about the frustration and confusion of being a youth. Simple as that.Andy - Annandale, Mn
I've seen a report that the frantic synth part wasn't really a synth programmed with Meher Baba's height, weight, etc...that it was a complicated effect on a Lowery home organ, heavily edited. Pete Townshend said in a radio interview that the editing he did was so comprehensive that the tape was virtually covered in splicing glue. What's more, what's used in the Who's Next version came from an edited version of an 11-minute demo recorded at Pete's home studio. Finally - and this is a real revelation - NOT EVERY SONG WRITTEN IN THE LATE SIXTIES AND/OR EARLY SEVENTIES WAS ABOUT VIETNAM!Elliott - Douglassville, Pa
Both Pearl Jam and Nirvana have covered this.Kieran - Harlow, United States
by the way this song is not just known as teenage wasteland, it is called teenage wastleand on some versions and recordings of it.Charlie - Thomaston, Dc
i always assumed this song was just about being a teenager, i also thought the opening was townsend on guitar, i just assumed he was THAT GOOD.Charlie - Thomaston, Dc
The violin is played by Dave Arbus and was credited as produced by Keith Moon. It was his idea to put it on there.Dereck - Cardiff, Wales
The fact of the matter is: the song is indeed part of Pete Townshend's Lifehouse project. The lyrics in the song directly relate to the plot, such as it was, of Lifehouse. The whole thing was way ahead of its time (and way ahead of most Who fans of the time, which is why the project didn't take off). Any other theories regarding the lyrics are people reading too much into it. Granted, Pete Townshend is a fantastic, and very deep, songwriter, and reading great depth into his lyrics is easy to do. But really, "Baba O'Riley" was about Lifehouse.Jameson - Lexington, Ky
Who plays the violin?Quinn - Hermosa Beach, Ca
The Television series "That 70's show" was originally entitled "Teenage Wasteland" and was until after the first episode was filmed.However it was changed before broadcast, the teenagers were originally rocking out to Baba O'Reilly in the opening car sequence.Producers felt it was too "powerful" and wanted a more playful approach.Peter - Providence, Ri
I agree that Songs get over analyzed too much at times... But, in the case of Pete Townshend... He's a guy who puts a lot of thought into his music and analyzing his work is only natural...

All in All... There is too much to this song to consider and try to get a handle on it...

It's part Meher Baba stating that Entertainment will replace Religion(Teenage Wasteland)... And Meher Baba's Teachings were very important to a young Pete Townshend...

It's Part Terry Riley and the Synth Riff... Which was compiled from Vital statistics from Meher Baba... (programming his age, height and other things into a computer)...

It's Part Lifehouse concept... In the Lifehouse concept... People are living in space suits or life suits that constantly entertain them and even tell them when to sleep by dosing them with gas... The suits feed them... Water them... they do everything for them... And everyone in the suits are connected to a life grid which is controlled by the Powerful... (See Won't Get Fooled Again and Behind Blue Eyes)

Yet, there are some such as Sally and her family... Who are like gypsies... Are not a part of the life grid... And Sally and and her family are going to travel (SOUTH CROSS LAND) To attend a Rock Concert... Because in Pete Townshend Eye's... Rock Music is the great Freedom... In such a controlled world...

It actually gets even more complicated and I've read a lot about it and I'm sure there are even more details that I am not grasping...

The Lifehouse project failed in part because everyone thought it was too complicated... And Pete Townshend had a nervous breakdown screaming that it was really quite simple...

I'll meet him half way... It's simple in it's complication...
Brian - Grand Forks, Nd
Actually, it's about a migrant farm worker who is constantly having to fight with his co-workers 'cause they don't like him, then he meets this girl named Sally and they go south to Mexico and get 'wasted' on tekillya.
(get a grip and quit trying to pshycoanalyze all the great rock songs, dudes!)
Tom - Alma, Ga
I'm really not getting the whole Vietnam interpretation of this song. Sure, a lot of brave young men died in that war, but this song seems to be about two youngsters who are totally lost in the ever changing world. One of the best songs I have ever heard.Andy - Annandale, Mn
This song is about the book Lifehouse that Pete Townshend wrote. Its about some dude and his wife "Sally" going to find their daughter who took of into "Teenage Wasteland".Joe D - Hamden, Ct
You people are too allegorical. It's about what it's about. It's not about Vietnam, it's not about drugs, it's (probably) not about Woodstock, but it's about all those things. It's just about growing up in the postmodern West.Matt - Durham, Nh
A lot of people died in vietnam, DON'T FORGET THAT, byzantinepiper.Larry - Aurora, Ky
This song is also played for Jason Giambi and, if I'm not mistaken, Alex Rodriguez.Paulo - New York, Ny
This one's often played live by Pearl Jam.Paulo - New York, Ny
No matter what this song is about, it is one of the best songs ever. Hands down.Spencer - South Kingstown, Ri
During some live shows, Roger would stand in for the violin solo with a harmonica at the end of the song.Robert - Chicago, Il
Probably the most perfect song ever. The synthesizer at the beginning, the violin at the end, everything in the middle. Perfect.Kelly - Los Angeles, Ca
the whole line about being "wasted" may have a double meaning. many of the soldiers in vietnam were getting addicted to drugs, in addition to getting killed.Kabrams - Dallas, Tx
This song, or a version of it was used in an episode of "Dawson's Creek". The character Jen, played by Michelle Williams, dances on her grandmother's lounge to it in order to de-stress and clear her mind.Katie - Goulburn, Australia
Paul O'Neil, former right fielder for the New York Yankees used this as the song played when he came to the plate.Kevin - Ballston Spa , Ny
The song is about Woodstock, which the Who thought was the Worst Festival Ever.Conrad - Los Angeles, Ca
This song was also used in the film "American Beauty" during the preview for the movie on television. Another song in this movie from this group is "The Seeker" during one of the film's last scenes w/ Kevin Spacey during his jogging scene.Brooke - Sedona, Az
yes most of you are right, it is about vietnam, and how the teenage american boys (18 yrs.) were gonna be wasted, not in the drugs sense, but how they would be killed ... therefore WASTEDNicoletta - Bronx, Ny
The War ended officially in 1975...it is about Vietnam.Chris - Hull, Ma
I Heard that the song was about waiting in line to get concert tickets.Ross - Palmerston North, New Zealand
Deb Baby wtf you thinking, all wasted is the teenagers getting killed in the fields!Tom - Moraga, Ca
This song is dominant. It kind of reminds me of my friend, sean(aka The Horse).Scott - Moraga, Ca
Well, a lot of people got wasted in Vietnam. Don't forget that!Erik - Davis, Ca
This song also has a clear reference to drugs at the end with the line "they're all wasted"Debra - New York, Ny
The song was also used in a public information film(UK)on motorcycle safety!Mark - Hexham, England