Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Who - Baba O'Riley

The British Invasion in the music industry is among one of the best things to ever happen. When we think of the British Invasion of the sixties we typically think of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but they were hardly the only two rock bands coming out the United Kingdom at that time, in fact the obvious third band that should be remembered and acclaimed for the movement is The Who. There is a reasonably strong argument that despite failing to capture the sort of dominate commercial success The Beatles and The Stones enjoyed during the sixties The Who might be the best of the three. Taste is subjective so however anyone chooses to rank these titan bands of classic rock is rather arbitrary. What makes The Who special, even in comparison to The Beatles and Stones, was everything that made The Who special in the first place. They were a progressive band, arguably more so than anyone at that time. They wrote controversial songs all of which seem super innocent today. They experimented with sound and song perhaps more so than any popular band at the time. They dared to arrest people’s attention by being the loudest band on Earth (at the time, all hail Manowar) and they destroyed their instruments at the end of the set in what was considered an almost unholy act of rebellion. The Who were just more badass then just about anyone else in the sixties, and that makes them, in my opinion, important to include when talking about Great Britain’s dominance as the greatest rock and roll country in history.

The Who are very British
The Who had success right from the beginning but it was not until 1969 when Pete Townshend wrote the rock opera “Tommy” that The Who really took over. As good as an album as “Tommy” is the general consensus, and I agree, is that The Who’s next album “Who’s Next” (1971) was and is The Who’s very best work. The entire album of “Who’s Next” is loaded with hit songs including, “Bargain,” “Love Ain’t for Keeping,” “Getting in Tune,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and my favorite “Baba O’Riley.”

When answering the classic question, “if you were on a deserted island and could only bring ten albums what would you bring?” I always include “Who’s Next.”

The song “Baba O’Riley” is uniquely famous. It is like a piece of classical music that everyone has heard a multitude of times and everyone really likes but comparatively few know the artist or the correct name of the song. The most common incorrectly believed name for the song “Baba O’Riley” is “Teenage Wasteland” this is because the ending bridge of lyrics has Roger Daltrey singing;

“Teenage wasteland.
It's only teenage wasteland.
Teenage wasteland.
Oh, yeah,
Teenage wasteland.
They're all wasted!”

This inspired me to nominate “Baba O’Riley” as our highschool gradating theme, because after all many of us would be wasted and we were naturally teenagers. Alas I was not part of any extracurricular group and no one took me very seriously then... or now. Still it would have been awesome if The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” was our class song.

When you think about it, “Baba O’Riley” seems like a completely illogical name for this song, but apparently it is named after Meher Baba and Terry Riley. Baba was a spiritual leader who believed himself to be the “Avatar” and Riley was an American composer and musician, so I guess we can assume The Who was influenced directly by these two. If I am being honest I do not know much of anything about either gentleman. At least we know where the title “Baba O’Riley” comes from now, it was bothering me for years.

Meher Baba and Terry Riley.
The other way in which “Baba O’Riley” is famous is void of lyrics and is purely instrumental. The opening keyboard is fast paced and intriguing. The guitar solo in the middle is a perfect bridge between verses and a great accompaniment later during the final verses. Lastly the outro is just as memorable as the intro. Because the keyboards, drums and guitar all stand out as incredibly catchy, instantly identifiable and infinitely memorable “Baba O’Riley” was used a lot for movie trailers when I was young, but the only one that I can distinctly remember is “American Beauty.”

Great movie, great song, good trailer:

The Who have a lot of really good songs, and one of the reasons they were among the greatest of the greats was that every member of The Who was a big deal. Roger Daltrey was an excellent singer, surprisingly good actor, and among the very best front men of all time. Pete Townshend is one of the very best guitarist ever, and an incredible song writer. Somewhat forgotten in the shadows of his friends John Entwistle was a solid bass player, and keyboarder, case in point “Baba O’Riley” is among some of his best work, in fact without John on keyboard the song would be nowhere near as good as it is. Lastly we have crazy man Keith Moon on drums, everything Keith Moon did was extraordinary and with a well listened ear you can discover that just about ever Who song has much activity going on in the drums then any typical rock song. When we pause and look at the individual elements of a song like “Baba O’Riley” we see a heroic performance by all four men, we see an amalgamation of great talents coming together in perfect harmony for what most should consider a perfect song.

- King of Braves

1 comment:

  1. In my mind, Baba O'riley stand out as THE song of the year 1971.Perhaps the most creative and the most genuine piece of rock ever to be recorded. The Who will always be the best rock band ever.
    BTW, if there is only one record that can take with me to a deserted would be Live at Leeds. It's definetly the best live recording ever.