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

Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals
I get my back into my living

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.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Plan B, aka Who’s Next

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 Nicholls. 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.”

Related: Townshend brought Classic Quadrophenia to Tanglewood in 2017

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 Sadly, the e-commerce portion of the site is no longer active.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.

There’s good news, though. Townshend has been working on a deluxe edition of Who’s Next and Lifehouse for a belated 50th anniversary release. In early 2022, he posted several behind-the-scenes clips about it here.

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A post shared by pete townshend (@yaggerdang)

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6 Comments so far

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  1. Rick
    #1 Rick 25 January, 2018, 21:18

    I like the Teenage Wasteland tee – where might one acquire one of those?

    Reply this comment
  2. Kais77
    #2 Kais77 2 September, 2020, 00:22

    A big non mention of one of the Whos greatest deep track from Lifehouse “ Water”. ! If you watch Isle of Wight from 1970, as far as I’m concerned, that tune saved their career. The Who at their finest!!

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  3. Luile
    #3 Luile 3 May, 2021, 11:26

    “Water” was not part of “Lifehouse”. It was recorded in 1969/70 for a never fully completed and unreleased Who album. The band has been saying that it was going to be a “maxi single” containing 4 songs: “Water”, “I don’t even Know Myself”, “Postcard”, “Now I am a Farmer and” the majestic “Naked Eye”. But they also did record “Heaven & Hell”, “There is a fortune on those Hills”, “The Seeker”, “Here for More” and a studio version of “Young Man s Blues”. Then in 1971, they did re record “I Dont Even Know Myself” and added some to “Naked Eye”. Remember that half “Who s´Next” was not released; it could have been a double album, Then in 1972, they also aborted the release of the “Long Live Rock-Rock is Dead” album.

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  4. Greg Brodsky
    #4 Greg Brodsky 14 August, 2021, 21:36

    Good eye… corrected.

    Reply this comment

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