Pete Townshend’s ‘Teenage Wasteland’

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For years, Pete Townshend worked on an ambitious project called Lifehouse. It was intended to be another rock opera and a logical follow-up to Tommy. Though its grandiose concept was never ultimately realized, much of its material found a place on subsequent albums from The Who and on Townshend’s own solo work, including his three Scoop double albums of music from his home studio vaults.

The first recording to bear Lifehouse‘s influence was 1971’s Who’s Next. The studio version of “Baba O’Riley” from that album shares some of its lyrics with “Teenage Wasteland,” particularly the well-known verse:

Sally, take my hand
Travel south crossland
Put out the fire
Don’t look past my shoulder

And to hear Townshend sing the familiar

Don’t cry
Don’t raise your eye
It’s only Teenage Wasteland

in the demo version instead of Roger Daltrey’s familiar lead vocal on the studio version of “Baba O’Riley” can be startling.

The original also includes the tender lyrics

My kids ain’t gonna break my heart
My greed ain’t gonna spoil their part
This land just has to be a new one
I’m gonna tan underneath the new sun

Listen to the demo version of “Teenage Wasteland”

Ad for the Sadler’s Wells performances

Other songs from Lifehouse that ultimately were adapted for Who’s Next include “Going Mobile,” “Bargain” and “Behind Blue Eyes.” Familiar Who songs like “Who Are You,” “Pure and Easy” and “Join Together” also found their roots in Lifehouse.

In February 2000, Townshend performed and recorded two Lifehouse concerts in London, at a venue called Sadler’s Wells, with the London Chamber Orchestra. Wholigans will recognize the names of several of the performers including keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick and singer Billy Nichols. Townshend released a live recording of the concerts later that year as a 2-CD set with 24 songs including such favorites as “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Behind Blue Eyes” and lesser known compositions like “Greyhound Girl” and “Time is Passing.”

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Related: Townshend is bringing Classic Quadrophenia to U.S. audiences

Watch Townshend and the London Chamber Orchestra perform “Teenage Wasteland” at London’s Sadler’s Wells in 2000

Townshend made a 6-CD box set of the Lifehouse Chronicles available via his website in 2000. Sadly, the e-commerce portion of the site is no longer active. It appears that the Live Sadler’s Wells 2000 is now out-of-print as well.

Greg Brodsky

Greg Brodsky

Best Classic Bands Founder/CEO Greg Brodsky earned his first professional bylines as a reporter for the music trade weekly Record World. He still has all his vinyl albums and enjoys going to flea markets and garage sales to grow his collection.
Greg Brodsky
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