This is the first song on Who’s Next, the most successful album of The Who’s career. Although this is one of the most popular Who songs, it was never released as a single in America or the UK. It was, however, the perfect song for the up-and-coming Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format that was picking up steam on FM radio. Always played in moderation, “Baba” became a Classic Rock staple and remains on many playlists.
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 idea to form the song.
Pete Townshend spent a few weeks in his home studio putting together the part that sounds like a synthesizer on a Lowry organ. His goal: to create “a replication of the electronic music of the future.”
When The Who perform this live, the processed organ is played from a recording, since it would be nearly impossible to replicate on an instrument. The guitar doesn’t come in until 1:40, giving Pete Townshend some time to reflect on his work. “There is this moment of standing there just listening to this music and looking out to the audience and just thinking, ‘I f–king did that. I wrote that,” he told Rolling Stone. “I just hope that on my deathbed I don’t embarrass myself by asking someone, ‘Can you pass me my guitar? And will you run the backing tape of ‘Baba O’Riley’? I just want to do it one more time.”
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