Deep Cuts From 1971: ‘ Baba O’Riley’- The Who. My favorite song by The Who- is the lead off track on my favorite album by The Who- 1971’s Who’s Next. While it is Roger Daltrey singing the song it is Pete Townshend singing the middle eight the ‘don’t cry/ don’t raise your eyes / it’s only teenage wasteland.’ Townshend said he was inspired to write the ‘teenage wasteland’ part of the song after the 1969 Isle of Wight festival- with the field where the festival was held being covered with rubbish. ‘Baba O’Riley’ made Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Songs list and Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs Ever list– and finally the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs Which Shaped Rock and Roll list.
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.