This song is sung from a perspective of a man who sings in a band called Hero Ground Zero. Pete Townshend originally wrote it as the opening orchestral track for an opera titled Age of Anxiety. He had sent the tune to Roger Daltrey back in 2016, and The Who vocalist loved it, so Townshend decided to include the tune on their 2019 eponymous album.
He explained to Mojo magazine: "I wanted that on the album to create a link between what I'm doing with Roger and The Who and what I plan to do next."
The Age of Anxiety is a novel, an opera and an art installation, which has been gestating since 2008. According to Townshend, the story is about "art and madness and inspiration, the psychic nature of being a creative artist, opening yourself up to an audience."
The Hero Ground Zero band in this song lie, according to Townshed, "somewhere between ELO, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac. They were a huge prog rock band. He wanted to be in a movie, which he confesses in the song lyrics."
The Who premiered the song when they made their return to Wembley Stadium on July 6, 2019. The tune received its US debut when the band kicked off the second North American leg of their Moving On! tour on September 1, 2019 at New York City's Madison Square Garden. Before playing "Hero Ground Zero," Pete Townshend dedicated the song to Robert Blacker, who helped write the book for the Tommy stage musical.
Townshend explained to the crowd that Blacker had once described the character of Tommy to him as a "hero, ground-zero" - and that inspired the song's title.