At some point in the three weeks since One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” was posted to YouTube (68 million views and counting), someone stopped and said, “You know, the beginning of that song sounds a lot like the intro to The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley.’” And the person sitting next to him said, “Baba O’What now?” to which he responded, “You know, that song your girlfriend thinks is called ‘Teenage Wasteland,’” and they both nodded and sighed.
Well, that person wasn’t alone, because a lot of people think that “Best Song Ever” sounds like “Baba O’Riley” because it absolutely does, and since the Intertubes and the Twitters are like one vast game of telephone, word soon spread and evolved into, “Hey, Pete Townshend wants One Direction to pull their song because he thinks they ripped off The Who” and naturally the One Direction fans went ballistic, with some even threatening death.
And a very wise Townshend quickly released a statement to set the record straight.
“No! I like the single. I like One Direction. The chords I used and the chords they used are the same three chords we’ve all been using in basic pop music since Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry made it clear that fancy chords don’t mean great music – not always. I’m still writing songs that sound like Baba O’Riley – or I’m trying to!. It’s a part of my life and a part of pop’s lineage. One Direction are in my business, with a million fans, and I’m happy to think they may have been influenced a little bit by The Who.
“I’m just relieved they’re all not wearing boiler suits and Doc Martens, or Union Jack jackets. The funniest thing is that in Canada this year I met with Randy Bachman once the leader of GUESS WHO who told me that he not only copied Baba O Riley for their hit You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, but he even called his band after us. Why would I not be happy about this kind of tribute?”
I cannot tell if that’s sincere or if it’s just dripping with sarcasm, but either way it was a smart move of diplomacy by the grumpy old rock icon, and a big victory for sh*theads who think it’s cool to make death threats on Twitter in the name of people we won’t even remember five years from now.
But for the sake of the argument, you can watch and hear “Best Song Ever” right here (fast forward to the 2:25 mark to skip the cheesy as all hell homecoming skit that also rips off Tropic Thunder):
And now, here’s The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”:
Come on, someone try to defend this with a straight face. But it’s not about a few chords, as much as where the song takes you from there, and call me crazy, but I just don’t get the same kind of goose bumps from, “I think it went OH OH OH, I think it went YEAH YEAH YEAH.”