Behind Blue Eyes

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Albert Flores

"Behind Blue Eyes" is a song by English rock band the Who. It is the second single from the band's fifth album, Who's Next (1971), and was originally written by Pete Townshend for his Lifehouse project. The song is one of the Who's best-known recordings and has been covered by many artists, including Limp Bizkit.

Background

"Behind Blue Eyes" originated after a Who concert in Denver on 9 June 1970. Following the performance, Townshend became tempted by a female groupie, but he instead went back to his room alone, possibly as a result of the teachings of his spiritual leader, Meher Baba. +more Upon reaching his room, he began writing a prayer, the first words being "When my fist clenches, crack it open. " These words later appeared as lyrics in the "climactic rocking section" of "Behind Blue Eyes. ".

When "Behind Blue Eyes" was to be released as part of the aborted Lifehouse project, the song was sung from the point of view of the main villain, Jumbo. The lyrics are a first-person lament from Jumbo, who is always angry and full of angst because of all the pressure and temptation that surrounds him, and the song was intended to be his "theme song" had the project been successful. +more Pete Townshend said of the song's lyrics:.

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The version of "Behind Blue Eyes" released on Who's Next in 1971 was the second version the band recorded; the first was recorded at the Record Plant in New York on 18 March 1971 and features Al Kooper on Hammond organ. The original version was released as a bonus track on the 1995 CD reissue of Who's Next.

"Behind Blue Eyes" was initially considered for a UK single release, but Townshend claimed that the song was "too much out of character" for the British singles market. However, the song did eventually see a single release in France, Belgium, the United States and the Netherlands. +more Backed with "My Wife" in the US and "Going Mobile" in Europe, the song reached #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #24 on Cashbox. Cash Box called it "another Townshend masterpiece in traditional Who fashion. ".

Pete Townshend has also recorded two solo versions of the song. The original demo of the song was featured on the Scoop album. +more The demo along with a newer recording of the song featuring an orchestral backing was featured in The Lifehouse Chronicles.

Composition

The song starts with a solo voice singing over an arpeggiated acoustic guitar in the key of E minor, and a bass guitar and ethereal harmonies are added. Eventually, the song breaks out into a full-scale rock anthem, with a second theme being introduced near the end, before a brief reprise of the quieter first theme. +more Songs written in alternating sections were a feature of Townshend's writing of the period, going back at least to Tommy, where the technique was used in "Christmas" and "Go to the Mirror!" The guitar riff at the end of the rock anthem section is also used after the bridge during the song "Won't Get Fooled Again", perhaps serving as a link between the two songs when both were intended to be parts of a single rock opera.

Charts

Chart (1971-1972)Peak position
Canada Top Singles (RPM)23
US Cashbox24
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Certifications

Personnel

Roger Daltrey - lead vocals *Pete Townshend - acoustic and electric guitar, backing vocals *John Entwistle - bass, backing vocals *Keith Moon - drums

In other media

In the WB television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the episode "Where the Wild Things Are" (2000) features the character Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) singing a cover of the song.

A cover was used in the FX television series, Legion, in season 2, episode 11. The show's creator, Noah Hawley, sings the track with Jeff Russo on backing vocals as well as any instruments used in the song. +more However, in the context of the show, Dan Stevens and Navid Negahban sing the song in English and Persian.

Limp Bizkit version

"Behind Blue Eyes" was covered by American rap rock group Limp Bizkit. It was released in 2003 as a single from their album Results May Vary. +more Limp Bizkit's arrangement is notable for featuring a Speak & Spell during the bridge. This, together with a new verse and an extra chorus, replaces the rock theme of the Who's version. The song is followed by a hidden track titled "All That Easy", after a few seconds of silence, making the total length 5:58. However, the hidden track is not featured in the single release.

Although the cover received mainly negative reviews and reached only number 71 on the US Billboard Hot 100, it was more successful worldwide. It reached number one in the Czech Republic and Sweden and charted within the top three in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Norway. +more Elsewhere in Europe, it became a top-twenty hit in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland while peaking at number 18 on the UK Singles Chart. In Australasia, it reached number four in Australia and number five in New Zealand.

Critical reception

The cover was panned by Rolling Stone magazine readers, who named it the second-worst cover song of all time. Conversely, Sun-Sentinel praised the cover (and "Build a Bridge"), saying that "Durst can do more than just rap. +more".

Music video

The music video features Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry. It contains scenes from the motion picture Gothika, in which Berry stars. +more It depicts Berry and Limp Bizkit's vocalist Fred Durst in a relationship similar to the storyline of the film. The song also appeared during the credits of the film itself and its music video was also featured as a bonus feature on the DVD release of the film.

Track listings

UK CD single # "Behind Blue Eyes" (album version) # "Just Drop Dead" # "Rollin'" (DJ Monk vs. the Track Mack remix) # "Behind Blue Eyes" (video)

European 7-inch single and German mini-CD single # "Behind Blue Eyes" (album version) - 4:30 # "Just Drop Dead" - 4:02

Australasian CD single # "Behind Blue Eyes" (album version) # "Just Drop Dead" # "My Way" (remixed by DJ Lethal) # "Behind Blue Eyes" (video)

Charts

Weekly charts

Chart (2003-2004)Peak position
Czech Republic (IFPI)1
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)5
Poland (Polish Airplay Charts)11
Romania (Romanian Top 100)9

Year-end charts

Chart (2004)Position
Australia (ARIA)12
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)8
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)64
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)66
Germany (Official German Charts)15
Hungary (Rádiós Top 40)20
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)76
Netherlands (Single Top 100)77
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)35
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)29
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)14

Decade-end charts

Chart (2000-2009)Position
Australia (ARIA)91

Certifications

Release history

RegionDateFormat(s)Label(s)
United States23 September 2003Digital download
United States3 November 2003Contemporary hit radio
United Kingdom24 November 2003CD
Australia1 December 2003CD

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