THE WHO Baba O’Ri­ley

Learn a clas­sic from Who’s Next - plus Paul Gil­bert’s Mr Big gui­tar intro tabbed!

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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

Will Im­prove your

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.

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