June 20, 2021

Baba O’Riley

Reduced from a 9-minute ARP synthesizer demo by Pete, which the band then restructured, this was recorded at Olympic in May 1971. Not played onstage by The Who until much later in the year, when it became a live favorite. [All versions of this track are 5’01 except for the 1995 reissue CD that has six additional seconds at the beginning. According to R. Rowley, the background musical sequence is not played on an ARP synthesizer but rather on a 1968 Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1 electric organ. Click here for more information.

The title refers to the electronic-transfer device described in the Lifehouse plot synopsis above. Pete wrote a piece of music in the style of American Minimalist composer Terry Riley. Pete wrote it as an example of what might result if the biography of his avatar, Meher Baba, was fed into a computer and turned into music. The music would, therefore, be Meher Baba in the manner of Terry Riley or “Baba O’Riley.” The song as The Who recorded it is actually a combination of this music, which Pete called “Baba O’Riley,” and a quite different song called “Teenage Wasteland”.An edited version of Pete’s instrumental demo (9’48) was released in January 1972 on a rare Meher Baba tribute album called I Am. Subsequent demo versions released on bootlegs run longer than 13 minutes. The edited version also appears on Pete’s 1999 solo LP Lifehouse Chronicles along with the demo for “Teenage Wasteland”. In Lifehouse, the song is sung by Ray, the Scottish farmer at the beginning of the film as he gathers his wife Sally and his two children to begin their exodus to London. “Baba O’Riley” was released as a single in February 1972 throughout the world except for the U.S. and U.K. The track, like so many on this album, became a favorite on the new album-oriented Rock radio stations in the U.S. where it received a great deal of airplay. Live versions by The Who appear on The Kids Are Alright (1978), Concerts for the People of Kampuchea (1979), Who’s Last (1982), the Who Rocks America video (1982), The Who/Live featuring the rock opera Tommy (1989), The Blues To The Bush (1999) and The Who & Special Guests Live at the Royal Albert Hall video (2000).]