Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Baba O’Riley

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Pete Townshend (1970).
Hit version by The Who (NETH #11 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Baba O’Riley’ was written by Pete Townshend, of The Who, who originally wrote the song for his Lifehouse project – the Rock opera follow-up to The Who’s 1969 opera, Tommy. When Lifehouse was scrapped, many of the songs were released on The Who’s 1971 album Who’s Next. ‘Baba O’Riley’ was released as a single in several European countries, but not in the US or the UK where the song was available only as the lead track on Who’s Next. It was, however, the perfect song for the up-and-coming Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio format that was picking up steam on FM radio. ‘Baba’ became a Classic Rock staple and remains on many playlists.

“The title to ‘Baba O’Riley’ comes from Meher Baba, who was Pete Townshend’s spiritual guru, and Terry Riley, an experimental, minimalist composer Townshend admired. Townshend wrote it as his vision of what would happen if the spirit of Meher Baba was fed into a computer and transformed into music. (The song was to be in used in Lifehouse as a song sung by Ray, the Scottish farmer at the beginning of the album as he gathers his wife Sally and his two children to begin their exodus to London.) The result would be Baba in the style of Riley, or ‘Baba O’Riley’. Although The Who never actually did it in concert, the group considered pulling a person from the audience and programming their vital statistics into a synthesiser that would, in effect, translate that person into a musical theme around which a song could be built, an idea later resurrected as The Lifehouse Method.

“‘Baba O’Riley’ appears at #349 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song is also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for being one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. A remixed version of the song was used as the theme song for the popular television series CSI: NY. (Each CSI series used a Who song as its theme.)”

The Who, “Baba O’Riley” (1972):

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