THE WHO Baba O’Riley
Learn a classic from Who’s Next - plus Paul Gilbert’s Mr Big guitar intro tabbed!
Baba O’Riley was named after two people who influenced Townshend: Indian spiritual master Meher Baba, and classical minimalist Terry Riley.
Key: F Tempo: 116bpm CD: TRACKS8-11
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Stylistic range Classic rock feel Compositional flair BABA O’Riley was originally planned as part of a follow-up to Tommy, the 1969 rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who develops an almost supernatural ability to play pinball, and eventually rises as a post world war ii messiah. Pete Townshend originally came up with the concept for Tommy after listening to the teachings of indian spiritual master Meher Baba. it was this name, combined with another of Townshend’s influences Terry Riley (a minimalist classical composer) that helped form the title Baba O’Riley (often called Teenage wasteland), which became the opening track to the album Who’s Next (1971). Indian influences can be heard in homage to Baba in the song’s outro violin solo (an idea of Keith Moon, apparently), which is played live as a harmonica solo by Roger Daltrey.
The modal synth intro was inspired by Terry Riley’s minimalist composition style, and is one of the track’s most iconic features. The hypnotic marimba repeat pattern from the lowrey Berkshire Deluxe analogue synth sound is hugely modern-sounding.
also ahead of its time was Townshend’s ultimately failed rock opera lighthouse. The convoluted storyline was part of its downfall, but the project was also plagued by technological issues. Townshend wanted the band to be accompanied by sequencer-driven synths that would follow along with the music, but unfortunately this technology didn’t exist for another 20 years. in the end the band played along to pre-recorded backing tracks on Baba O’Riley and won’t Get Fooled again.
Regarding who’s Next: although Pete Townshend was responsible for penning The who’s greatest hits such as My Generation, i’m a Boy, Pictures Of lily and i Can see For Miles, plus full-scale rock operas such as Tommy and Quadrophenia, his finest work is arguably best represented on this album. it’s full to the brim with some of his greatest songs such as won’t Get Fooled again, Bargain, Behind Blue eyes and Going Mobile, but also sees him and his fellow bandmates, singer Roger Daltrey, bassist John entwistle and drummer Keith Moon deliver some of their finest recorded performances.
Baba O’Riley itself was derived from a nine-minute demo which the band helped to rearrange. it was to be sung at the beginning of lifehouse by Ray, the scottish farmer, as he gathers his wife and two children to embark on their exodus to london. The guitar work on the original is minimal, so your task is to get the right tone and keep to Pete’s guitar part as closely as possible.
Mr Big’s cover of Baba O’Riley offers a rockier, more guitar and bass-heavy arrangement that can be useful if you don’t have the luxury of a keyboard player. i’ve based this transcription on the version from their Back To Budokan tour in 2009. The guitars are tuned down to eb, although their early versions were in e so i’ve kept it at concert pitch for the GT version. apart from the open-string tapping lick, it’s easy enough to transpose up a semitone if you want to play along with the who original.