Was Woodstock A Teenage Wasteland? The Who's 'Baba O'Riley'

By Jacob Shelton
Left: Meher Baba in 1925. Right: Pete Townshend on stage circa 1971 at the Fillmore East Theater, New York City. Sources: (Wikimedia Commons; Jeffrey Mayer WireImage)

It's one of the riddles of classic rock: who is 'Baba O'Riley' and what is this "teenage wasteland" we keep hearing about? For Pete Townshend, songwriter of The Who, the oddly-titled song is a meditation on the controversial ending of the '60s, as well as a fragment of Lifehouse, an unfinished rock opera. 

For the artist who'd once touted the potential and solidarity of "My Generation," it may be an admission that things hadn't gone so well.

This 1971 single by The Who has transcended its original stadium rock origins and integrated itself into our lives. "Baba O’Riley" can be heard on TV shows and commercials, and whenever you think it’s gone it pops back up. The song seems omnipresent, but there are still people who think it’s called “Teenage Wasteland.” The song has a tricky history, and its backstory is just as twisty as the song’s syncopated backing track.