Behind Blue Eyes

This 1971 song came out on the Who album Who’s Next and the single charted #34 in the US.  Pete Townshend wrote this song to let everyone know what it’s like to be him, having high expectations and being pressured into being someone that he’s not.  He knew that he was a selfish, miserable bastard that had an artist buried deep inside of him, so in this song he’s telling us that because of his many internal conflicts, that we should not let himself enjoy his life.  He had a low self-regard and because of that, he didn’t want the fans to be happy, as that would mean that we would ask him to give us more.  He suffered mental anguish as a child, and this song is about the difficulties in living a life devote of strong emotions outside of anger, where he encounters the inability to feel love, and joy.

‘Behind Blue Eyes’ was originally written for a Rock Opera, Lifehouse, which was going to be a film similar to The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia, but it was never completed.  Pete Townshend included this on other Who albums.  Lifehouse was a science fiction that took place in occurring in London, a sort of post-apocalyptic Woodstock, where the pollution was so bad that the people were forced to wear Lifesuits.  The story begins when a farming family in Scotland hears about a huge rock concert called Lifehouse and it included a part for a guru which was based on Townshend’s relationship with the Indian yoga guru Meher Baba.  These Lifesuits could simulate all experiences in a way that no one would have to leave home, and they were plugged into a huge mainframe called the Grid which also contains tubes for sleeping gas, food, and entertainment.  Supposedly, someone could live out tens of thousands of lifetimes in a very short period within the Grid.  The Grid is controlled by a man named Jumbo.  ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ was intended as the theme song for the villain, Jumbo.

Townshend believed that the vibrations that were coming from some of the shows that the Who did became so pure that the audience would “dance themselves into oblivion”.  Their souls would leave their bodies and they would be in a type of heaven. Existing in a permanent state of ecstasy.  The only reason this did not happen at Who gigs was because there was a knowledge in the listener’s mind that the show would end and everyone would wake up and go to work the next morning.  Roger Daltrey’s dog got run over on the day that he recorded his vocals for this song and he was desperately trying to hold it together.

The song is about a man who is bad, he is misunderstood and nobody likes him.  He is fighting with himself, because he knows that he must hide his feelings, as he thinks that he is only capable of feeling anger.  He says that his dreams aren’t empty, but his conscience is and his “love is vengeance, that’s never free”, but he won’t take the blame for being this way.  This man doesn’t want to be like this, as he would rather be a better person, but he simply isn’t strong enough.  He doesn’t want to be viewed as a fool and he becomes even more bitter, thus he has to hide behind his blue (sad) eyes.  He looks for sympathy asking others to help him out in case he swallows anything evil, or if he gets cold, he would like to be covered up with a blanket, or be offered someone’s coat to wear.

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

But my dreams, they aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance that’s never free

No one knows what it’s like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you

No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through

But my dreams, they aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance that’s never free
Mm, mm

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool

And if I swallow anything evil
Put your finger down my throat
And if I shiver, please give me a blanket
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

Written for Thursday Inspiration #123 How Deep Is Your Love.

8 thoughts on “Behind Blue Eyes

  1. Pete is a complicated person. Him and John Lennon never really had a relationship with each other because they were probably too much alike in many ways. Who’s Next is one of the best if not the best rock albums ever. Zeppelin would release their 4th album a month or so later. What a year 1971 was in albums. Great song Jim

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I once read a review that said the song was really about white supremacists. They based that entirely on “blue eyes” being code words for the “Aryan” race and the person in the song being both hypocritical and malicious. (I don’t think so.)

    This makes a lot more sense. He’s singing about himself.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.