Behind Blue Eyes

"Behind Blue Eyes"
Single by The Who
from the album Who's Next
B-side "My Wife" (US)
"Going Mobile" (Europe)
Released October 1971 (US)
Format 7"
Recorded 8 July 1971[1] at Olympic Studios in London, England
Genre Rock
Length 3:41 (Album version)
3:28 (Original version)
Label Decca, MCA, Track, Polydor
Writer(s) Pete Townshend

The Who
Associate producer
Glyn Johns
Executive producers:

The Who singles chronology
"Let's See Action"
"Behind Blue Eyes"
"Join Together"
Who's Next track listing

"Behind Blue Eyes" is a song by the English rock band The Who. It was released in October 1971 as the second single from their fifth album Who's Next and was originally written by Pete Townshend for his Lifehouse project.[2][3] The song is one of The Who's most well known recordings and has been covered by many artists.


"Behind Blue Eyes" originated after a Who concert in Denver on June 9th, 1970.[4] 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.[5] 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."[5]

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. Pete Townshend said of the song's lyrics:

"Behind Blue Eyes" really is off the wall because that was a song sung by the villain of the piece [Jumbo], the fact that he felt in the original story that he was forced into a position of being a villain whereas he felt he was a good guy.[5]

The version of "Behind Blue Eyes" on the original Who's Next album 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.[6] The first 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.[5] However, the song did eventually see a single release in America, as well as France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. 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.[4]

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


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. 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. (There is similar thematic recapitulation in Tommy and Quadrophenia.)

Chart performance

Chart (1971) Peak
France (SNEP)[7] 147
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 34
US Cashbox[4] 24


In the media

Limp Bizkit cover

"Behind Blue Eyes"
Single by Limp Bizkit
from the album Results May Vary
Released November 28, 2003
Genre Alternative rock
Length 4:28 (without hidden track), 6:05 (with hidden track)
Label Flip, Interscope
Writer(s) Pete Townshend
Producer(s) Fred Durst
Limp Bizkit singles chronology
"Eat You Alive"
"Behind Blue Eyes"
"Home Sweet Home/Bittersweet Symphony"

"Behind Blue Eyes" was covered by American nu metal group Limp Bizkit. It was released in November 2003 as a single from their album Results May Vary. Limp Bizkit's arrangement is notable for featuring a Speak & Spell during the bridge.[11] 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, so the total length is 6:05. However, the hidden track is not featured in the single release.

The music video features Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry. It contains scenes from the motion picture Gothika, in which Berry stars. It depicts Berry and Durst in a relationship similar to the storyline of the film. Upon release, the video received positive reviews from critics, with many complimenting its interpolation of the film's theme. The song also appeared during the credits of the film itself.

Chart performance

Chart (2003–2004) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[12] 4
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[13] 3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[14] 13
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[15] 16
Denmark (Tracklisten)[16] 2
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[17] 1
France (SNEP)[18] 17
Germany (Official German Charts)[19] 2
Ireland (IRMA)[20] 26
Italy (FIMI)[21] 28
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[22] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[23] 5
Norway (VG-lista)[24] 2
Poland (ZPAV)[17] 3
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[17] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[25] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[26] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[27] 18
US Billboard Hot 100[28] 71
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[29] 18
US Mainstream Rock Tracks (Billboard) 11
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[30] 25


End of year chart (2004) Position
German Singles Chart[31] 15


  1. 20th Century Masters-The Best of The Who: The Millennium Collection Liner Notes
  2. "Behind Blue Eyes : The Who". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
  3. "The Streets lead Ivor nominations". BBC News. 2005-04-11. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
  4. 1 2 3 Cady, Brian. "'Who's Next' liner notes". The Hypertext Who.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Grantley, Steve; Parker, Alan. The Who by Numbers: The Story of the Who Through Their Music. Helter Skelter.
  6. Who's Next – 1995 Remastered Edition CD Booklet Page 23
  7. " – The Who – Behind Blue Eyes" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  8. "The Who – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for The Who. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  9. "Cold Case – Season 2, Episode 23: The Woods". 2005-05-22. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  10. "The Angry Birds Movie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". iTunes. January 29, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  11. Stephen Thomas Erlewine (2003-09-23). "Results May Vary – Limp Bizkit | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  12. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  13. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  14. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  15. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
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  17. 1 2 3 "Lista Przebojów Trójki – Polskie Radio Online". Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  18. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  19. " – Limp Bizkit Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  20. "Chart Track: Week 50, 2003". Irish Singles Chart.
  21. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Top Digital Download.
  22. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Limp Bizkit search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  23. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  24. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". VG-lista. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  25. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  26. " – Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  27. "Archive Chart: 2003-12-6" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  28. "Limp Bizkit – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Limp Bizkit. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  29. "Limp Bizkit – Chart history" Billboard Alternative Songs for Limp Bizkit. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  30. "Limp Bizkit – Chart history" Billboard Pop Songs for Limp Bizkit. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  31. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 December 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
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