What is the Meaning of Baba O’Riley?

The Who

The original members of The Who were Pete Townshend and John Entwhistle. They met during high school in London, playing in their first band was Dixieland. The pair played trumpet and banjo. However, they created a band that reflected more of their style. Entwhistle took a break from this band which is where he met Roger Daltry. Pete Townsend joined this band, and the group we know as the who was starting to form. Even though success was right around the corner, Pete Townshend attended art school during their early days while the rest worked odd jobs.


They became one of the most influential bands during the 1960s and 70s were The Who. Similar to The Beatles, they were part of the British invasion. Pete Townshend’s guitar style was so unique from everything else heard on the radio. Additionally, there was a lot of improvisational sound on many of their songs. Chaotic drumming highlighted Pete Townsend’s guitar style, allowing it to be more accessible than other groups of that decade. A lot of their music was conceptual, which was reflected more in their studio sound. Pete Townsend created what people refer to as rock operas and, according to allmusic.com, was one of the most influential lyricists.

It’s not teenage wasteland

Baba O’Riley is one of The Who’s most famous songs. Although, many people call the song by the chorus. According to todayifoundout.com, Baba O’Riley was chosen as a tribute to a spiritual leader, Meher Baba, and minimalist musician Terry Riley. Pete Townshend loved Meher Baba’s work as an Indian Spiritual Guru. Baba never spoke a word to Townshend, only communicating with an alphabet board and his version of sign language. His thoughts about life were a lot of the inspiration for the lyrics in Baba O’Riley. Additionally, Townshend wrote the song thinking about what it would be like if the spiritual guru were put inside a computer and transformed into a computer. Townshend greatly admired Terry Riley’s musical compositions. Additionally, Riley’s style had a significant impact on the song. Baba O’Riley was initially slated for a project called Lifehouse that was never released. The first version was nearly half an hour.


When Pete Townshend started writing the song in his studio, he was very focused on futuristic music, so he used a synthesizer throughout a lot of the song. He took it to his producer, thinking that alternations would need to be made, but it was left untouched. There has been a lot of speculation and theory about this song. It’s a standout with its futuristic beat and storyline. Baba O’Riley was initially been the end of The Who’s rock opera Lifehouse. The story is centered on a dystopian world where rock and roll no longer exists. Teenage Wasteland is more the people and not so much the place. According to groovyhistory.com, Townshend touched on the meaning behind the iconic words. They are about young people, probably farmers whose parents cannot buy them much of the things they need. He also referred to “track fans,” referring to an older generation who ride in a beat-up car playing Who songs.


No one can deny that the sixties were a time of experimentation, much like this song. People were searching for expanded consciousness in things like drugs. Everything came to a head at Woodstock. One theory about Baba O’Riley is that it is about the tumultuous sixties. Although instead of celebrating it, Townshend is calling attention to the insanity of it all. Townshend isn’t shy about calling the song the best song he’s recorded. When he plays the song live, he tells the story of the lyrics and how much they mean.


This song was a massive departure from The Who’s earlier hit My Generation. The lyrics express contempt for the same people they sang about in their first hit. He felt that they had not lived up to the values they embraced and all the social change they said they wanted to bring about. So, the wasteland was a world not restored despite lofty promises. According to shmoop.com, Townshend stated the need for more traditional values. There is even a Bible reference when Ray tells his wife, Sally; they need to go south to find their daughter. Additionally, the song has a lot of meaning taken from the book of Genesis. Their daughter has left to seek a mythical place called Lifehouse, where music makes them whole again. Throughout the lyrics, some references sound like a play on Sodom and Gomorrah. By the end of the song, it begins to sound more like Exodus, when the couple decides to escape their lonely life and look for the promised land of Lifehouse, where restoration happens.

Beyond the song

Even though the movie Lifehouse was never released, Townshend pursued the project throughout his life. He revised the script to make it more relevant to the current time since some references were already a part of life. Additionally, he added additional thoughts he had over twenty-five years. Eventually, Baba O’Riley was performed on BBC3 on December 5, 1999. Even thirty years later, the song is still featured in many movies and TV shows. According to Forbes, When the Netflix shower Stranger Things did the trailer for the show, they added the original version of Baba O’Riley near the end to give the show a darker feel. In 2018, Digital Nas’ and Little Yachty used the classic riff from the song on their songs. According to rockandrollgarage.com (Hear Lil Yachty’s rap made over The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”, Pete Townshend revealed a program using the original metrics he used years ago. Baba O’Riley is one of the most iconic songs in rock and roll’s history. It’s been used in movies, TV shows, rerecorded, and analyzed. Because of its history and all the speculation, it’s going to be a song that will keep people thinking for years to come.

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