Writer: Pete Townshend
Producers: The Who and Glyn Johns
Recorded: May 1971 at Olympic Studios in London, England
Released: July 1971
|Players:||Roger Daltrey — vocals
Pete Townshend — guitar, synthesizer
John Entwistle — bass
Keith Moon — drums
Dave Arbus — violin
|Album:||Who's Next (Decca, 1971)|
With “Baba O'Riley” and another Who's Next track, “Won't Get Fooled Again,” the Who became the first rock band to use synthesizers in a repetitive, sequenced fashion on an album.
The song is named after two people: Meher Baba, singer-guitarist Pete Townshend's guru, and Terry Riley, an electronic pioneer whose piece “A Rainbow in Curved Air” inspired Townshend's own interest in synthesizer.
The synthesizer parts on “Baba O'Riley” are part of a longer piece that Townshend released privately on I Am, a tribute album to Meher Baba, in 1972.
Other portions of that piece appeared on his 1993 solo album Psychoderelict.
Townshend said “Baba O'Riley” “was a number I wrote while I was doing these experiments with tapes on the synthesizer. Among my plans was to take a person out of the audience and feed information–height, weight, autobiographical details–about the person into the synthesizer. The synthesizer would then select notes from the pattern of that person. It would be like translating a person into music.”
Many, of course, know the song as “Teenage Wasteland” after the Townshend-sung lyric.
The Who began recording the Who's Next album with longtime associate Kit Lambert but, dissatisfied, switched to Glyn Johns, who would continue to work with the band throughout the '70s.
Who's Next was the only Who album to ever hit Number One on the U.K. chart.
In the U.S., it peaked at Number Four on the Billboard 200.