Saturday, October 23, 1971

The Who released “Baba O’Riley”

Updated 1/26/2019.

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Baba O’Riley

The Who

Writer(s): Pete Townshend (see lyrics here)

Released: 10/23/1971

First Charted: --

Peak: -- US (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales *: -- US, 1.0 UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Radio Airplay *: --

Video Airplay *: 34.4

Streaming *: --

* in millions


After the Who found success with their 1969 rock opera Tommy, Pete Townshend wanted to craft an even more ambitious project called Lifehouse. However, Townshend nearly suffered a nervous breakdown for being too ambitious and dissension amongst the band halted the project. UCR The best tracks, though, survived to resurface on the more conventional Who’s Next album.

The lead track, “Baba O’Riley,” is “a beautiful ode to that painful, lost feeling known as adolescence.” TM It is is often mistakenly referred to as “Teenage Wasteland” because of the chorus. Townshend’s intent was to translate the ideas of Indian spiritual guru Meher Baba into music, “specifically, the kind of repetitive, modal sounds produced by minimalist composer Terry Riley” TM – hence the song title.

The song is also marked by a “smashing violin solo [and]…Roger Daltrey’s powerful lead vocals juxtaposed beautifully with Townshend’s softer voice on the famous ‘Don’t cry; don’t raise your eye’ segment. Together with Keith Moon’s explosive drum work and John Entwistle's rumbling low end, it all adds up to one mammoth rock anthem.” UCR Moon also suggested the fiddle solo at the end RS500 in “what can only be described as an Irish romp.” TM

Most notable, though, is how the song “expanded the Who’s power-trio sound with synthesizer.” RS500 The opening loop “works as an immediately ear-catching hook, but it was no mere gimmick, also serving as the fundamental foundation of the song. Townshend's cyclic synthesizer rhythm track was considered unprecedented at the time, with his work on this…track pre-dating Stevie Wonder’s similar experiments by nearly a year.” UCR

Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Saturday, October 16, 1971

John Lennon charted with “Imagine”

First posted 7/12/2014; updated 4/6/2020.


John Lennon

Writer(s): John Lennon (see lyrics here)

Released: October 11, 1971

First Charted: October 16, 1971

Peak: 3 US, 2 CB, 11 HR, 7 AC, 1 CR, 20 AR, 14 UK, 12 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 1.79 UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 139.1 video, -- streaming



One morning early in 1971, Lennon sat at the white grand piano in his bedroom and virtually completed “his greatest musical gift to the world.” RS500 He considered “Imagine” to rate as high as anything he wrote with the Beatles. RS500 He wasn’t wrong.

When John penned the song, he wasn’t aiming for the nearly immediate anthemic status the song attained. His wife Yoko Ono told Rolling Stone that it was “just what John believed – that we are all one country, one world, one people.” RS500

While the song’s themes have illicited debate, Lennon possessed the foresight to soften the message via his approach. Poetic lyrics, intimate instrumentation, and a heartfelt vocal provided an accessibility that “emphasized the song’s fundamental humanity.” RS500

Lennon told broadcaster Andy Peebles, that the song “should be credited as a Lennon/Ono song. A lot of it, the lyric and the concept, came from Yoko, but those days I was a bit more selfish…and I omitted to mention her contribution, which was right out of Grapefruit.’” HL That book of poems, published by Ono in 1970, used “imagine” as a recurrent word.

The song had an interesting chart life. It went to #3 on the U.S. charts in 1971, but took four more years to hit in Lennon’s native England, reaching #6. In the wake of Lennon’s murder on December 8, 1980, “Imagine” stormed the U.K. charts once again, this time going all the way to the top. In fact, as is more common on the other side of the pond, Lennon’s ode to the power of possibilities has been released a couple more times, landing in or just outside the top ten.

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, October 2, 1971

Rod Stewart hit #1 with “Maggie May”

First posted 8/14/2011; updated 4/19/2020.

Maggie May

Rod Stewart

Writer(s): Rod Stewart/Martin Quittenton (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 17, 1971

Peak: 15 US, 13 CB, 11 HR, 1 CL, 15 UK, 11 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 30.3 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

If released today, the story behind “Maggie May” would make for celebrity tabloid headlines declaring that the young Rod Stewart had been sexually abused by an older woman. CR Stewart confirms that the song’s storyline of a teenage boy seduced and then cast away by an older woman is a true tale, more or less, about losing his virginity. WK

The song, however, has not become iconic because of salaciousness, but sincerity and great storytelling. Based on an an old Liverpudlian folk tune, CR it works like a novella with “colorful characters, surprising situations, and unforgettable moments.” AMG It blends “epic simplicity, self-deprecating humor and emotional truth” AMG in the protagonist’s reflection over “the ambivalence and contradictory emotions” WK he feels.

Musically, the song offers Stewart’s “usual fine, raspy singing” TB and “relentless drum-bashing” RS500 from Mickey Waller, which critic Greil Marcus amusingly proclaimed deserving of a Nobel Prize for physics. MA The unquestionably prize-winning song nearly became an also-ran. It barely made it on the Every Picture Tells a Story album and then was relegated to the B-side of “Reason to Believe.” If DJ’s hadn’t flipped it over, Stewart jokes, he would have returned to his job as a gravedigger. RS500

That hardly seems likely. While Stewart had already released two solo albums to little notice, he’d still become a name of note fronting the Jeff Beck group and had moved on to the influential Faces. His name was likely to go down in the annals of rock history regardless; however, “Maggie” gave him the definitive song to lift him to superstar status.

Resources and Related Links:

  • Rod Stewart’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • AMG All Music Guide
  • CR Toby Creswell. (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 856.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 182.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (2004). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 129.
  • WK Wikipedia