Song Meaning Baba O’Riley – The Who

There are several popular misconceptions associated with this composition. Many fans of rock music are sure that it is called Teenage Wasteland, and attempts to interpret the meaning of the song cause even more confusion. The Vietnam War, drugs, the Woodstock festival are just some of the versions.

Let’s look at the history of the creation of Baba O’Riley step by step and try to figure out what this composition of The Who is about.

History and meaning of Baba O’Riley song

As planned by the author, Baba O’Riley was supposed to open the rock opera Lifehouse, which was never completed. Its main characters were supposed to be English farmers from the future, as well as young people from the poor.

Here is how Pete Townsend explained the essence of Baba O’Riley’s song in the context of a rock opera:

A self-sufficient and secluded farming family in a remote region of Scotland decides to return to the South to test the rumors of an anti-government concert. This event promises a shake-up and an awakening to an apathetic, intimidated British society.

Ray is married to Sally. They hope to contact their daughter Mary, who ran away from home to attend that concert. They drive in a motorhome through the ravaged wasteland of central England, with the air conditioner on, which they hope will protect them from pollution.

Directly at Baba O’Riley, Ray urges Sally to take his hand and leave the hateful land, where they would have to work hard to earn a meager livelihood until old age.

There are clear biblical allusions in the text. So, the protagonist calls their journey the Exodus, and the advice not to turn around clearly alludes to the story of Lot and his wife, who turned into a pillar of salt.

What does Baba O’Riley mean?

And now let’s try to answer the most interesting question: where did such an unusual name come from? Its origins can be traced back to 1967, when Pete Townsend became acquainted with the teachings of Meher Baba, who called himself the “Avator of the Century.” Recall that he also inspired Bobby McFerrin to write the song Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

We will not go into the details of the views of Meher Baba. Let’s just say that his philosophy captivated Townsend, who called himself a follower of an Indian guru and tried to implement his instructions in music. Undoubtedly, the word “Baba” in the title of the song is a nod to spiritual teacher Pete.

Concerning “Riley”, the researchers of The Who leader’s creativity are inclined to believe that in this way he paid tribute to the American composer Terry Riley, one of the founders of minimalism.

Release and achievements

Baba O’Riley was recorded in May 1971 at London’s Olympic Studios. Almost the entire vocal part is performed by Roger Daltrey, while Townsend sings only a short passage.

The track opens the fifth studio album of The Who, which was released under the name Who’s Next. In November 1971, the song was released as a single.

Baba O’Riley is included in Time’s 100 Songs of All Time and Rolling Stone’s famous 500 Greatest Songs. It is also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the five hundred songs that shaped the genre.

Baba O’Riley

And now you can watch the online live music video for the song Baba O’Riley by the rock band The Who.

Interesting Facts

  • The players of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team have taken to the court to this song for several years.
  • The Who performed the song at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Baba O’Riley Lyrics

Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals,
I get my back into my living.
I don’t need to fight
To prove I’m right
I don’t need to be forgiven.
Don’t cry
Don’t raise your eye
It’s only teenage wasteland.

Sally take my hand
We’ll travel south cross land,
Put out the fire
And don’t look past my shoulder.
The exodus is here
The happy ones are near,
Let’s get together
Before we get much older.

Teenage Wasteland,
It’s only teenage wasteland
Teenage Wasteland,
Oh yeah, teenage wasteland
They’re all wasted!

Baba O’Riley Lyrics

Here in the field
I fight for food
I hump to survive
I don’t have to fight
To prove you right
I don’t need forgiveness
Do not Cry,
Don’t look up
It’s just a youthful wasteland

Sally take my hand
We’ll go south across the country
Put out the fire
And don’t look over my shoulder
This is the outcome
happy people nearby
Let’s stick together
Until we’re quite old

youth wasteland,
It’s just a youthful wasteland
youthful wasteland
Oh yes, youthful wasteland
They are all lost!

Song quote

That music was about living in the present and losing ourselves in the moment… In a song like “Baba O’Riley”, the phrase “we are all ruined” just meant “we are all ruined”… We were afraid that we really missed the opportunity . I think I’m expressing the opinion of my audience when I say this.

Pete Townsend, Billboard, 2010

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