The Who in concert: False spirituality in some really strange places – Pete Townshend and Meher Baba

I was born at the tail end of the post-WWII “baby boom,” which means that rock and roll music was a big part of my early life. There’s no accounting for taste, but I was more into the breezy California folk-rock/country-rock sound of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash than bands with a harder sound, but I was pretty much aware of all the big groups and the different musical styles.

The rock and rollers of the 60s and 70s certainly had their agendas. For the most part, their message was “peace, love, sex, and partying,” and not always in that particular order. Most rock songs didn’t have any overtly religious themes. Rank hedonism seemed to be the idol of choice. But in the late 60s, some of the big name rockers began to dabble in Eastern mysticism, most notably George Harrison of the Beatles with his heavy involvement with Hare Krishna Hinduism.

I don’t listen to rock music much anymore since I’m an old fuddy duddy now and a lot of the song lyrics are antithetical to Christian belief, but I do like to take a Byrds CD for a spin every now and then.

One of the premier rock and roll bands of the 60s and 70s, The Who, came to Rochester this past Sunday. A good friend asked if I would tag along to the concert. I was never a big fan of The Who, but I thought it would be an interesting experience. So I sat in my collapsible camping chair from 8:30 PM to 11 PM in the cheap-seats grassy section while most of the 15,000 capacity crowd stood for 2.5 hours cheering wildly for The Who, or what’s left of it. Drummer Keith Moon died of a drug overdose in 1978 and bassist, John Entwistle, died of a cocaine-induced heart attack in 2002. So much for the rock and roll lifestyle. Guitarist and songwriter, Pete Townshend, and vocalist, Roger Daltry, carry on The Who legacy.

Halfway into the concert set, my ears picked up the mezmerizing electronic synthesizer intro to one of the Who’s most iconic tunes, “Baba O’Riley” (aka Teenage Wasteland). So there I was, listening along to one of the few Who songs I really liked in the past. But then I picked up on the lyric, “…I don’t need to fight to prove I’m right. I don’t need to be forgiven.” What? I don’t need to be forgiven? What’s that all about?

I wondered about that lyric and ended up doing a little research on Pete Townshend and “Baba O’Riley” the following day. Come to find out, the song was written by Townshend in part as a tribute to Meher Baba (1894-1969), a Zoroastrian-Hindu spiritual master who claimed to be an “avatar,” i.e., God in human form. Townshend has been a devoted follower of false Christ, Baba, since 1967 and several of his songs reference his teachings. Baba taught, as many Eastern mystics do, that there is no such thing as sin as the Bible teaches, but that there is only a journey of several lifetimes (aka reincarnation) to higher wisdom and eventual deification (“God-realization”).

“Dogmas, creeds, and conventional ideas of heaven and hell and of sin are perversions of Truth, and confuse and bewilder the mind. “ – Meher Baba

I don’t care to sit in constant judgement of every single detail of this unbelieving world or to criticize Christians who enjoy a little secular music now and then. I got caught up in that kind of “circle the wagons,” bunker-mentality style of Christianity for eight long years after I first accepted Christ. But there are many God-defying agendas out there. We must be discerning. If you’re sitting in your SUV, singing along to your favorite classic rock radio station, you may just find yourself repeating Townshend’s “I don’t need to be forgiven” or John Lennon’s ode to atheism, “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.” Do we really want to fill our minds with those messages?

For anyone who is curious about Townshend’s connection to false Christ, Meher Baba, see here.

21 thoughts on “The Who in concert: False spirituality in some really strange places – Pete Townshend and Meher Baba

  1. Well…I did not know that. I suspect I would have liked that concert. Which is why I probably would not have gone LOL. Some things I don’t need to like anymore. Glad you had fun, though Tom!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Wally. I was there much more as an observer than a fan. But I’m definitely game for a Byrds reunion concert anytime!!! But that will never happen because the former leader of the group, Roger McGuinn (who accepted Jesus way back in 1977), doesn’t desire to work with David Crosby again.

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      1. Crosby’s coming on like gangbusters in his old age (75) with one album released in 2014, another last year, and another one this Fall. The quote I’ll always remember from Crosby is, someone once asked him about religion and he replied, “It’s fairy tales.” Definitely not someone to listen to when it comes to spirituality.


      2. C’mon, Wally, you’re dealing with a big Byrds fan! Don’t even have to check Wikipedia on this. Crosby helped found the Byrds in ’65, got fired in ’67, joined with Stills and Nash in ’69 and that group has been on-again, off-again since then. The guy definitely had a lot of baggage but, boy, what a great baritone. Don’t know if you’re interested but he wrote a thinly-veiled song criticizing George Harrison’s obsession with Hindu guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. That’s Jerry Garcia laying down some great pedal steel riffs. You hafta catch Garcia’s solo at the end.


      3. Being such a Byrds nerd, I could write a long response…but I’m going to keep it short for you. Buffalo Springfield came along one year after the Byrds and the guys in the Byrds like them a lot. BS opened for the Byrds at several gigs. But Neil Young of BS was regularly AWOL for performances. Moody guy. Both the Byrds and BS appeared at Monterey in ’67 but Young was once again a no-show. Crosby filled in for him onstage for BS’s performance, which really angered the other Byrds. That and several other things got Crosby fired just four months after Monterey. By then he was already an old friend of Stills, who pulled the plug on BS because of Young’s disinterest.


      4. Thanks, Wally. Funny you should mention that. After I had written “Byrds nerd” I looked at it and thought, Hey, that’s pretty good!” Of course, “Byrd nerd” flows off the tongue even better. Uh-oh. I’m losing it. Time to go to bed!


  2. Very interesting article. I have recently got into vinyl records again, and low and behold I just purchased the “Who’s Next” album!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brian, I’m not familar with the album at all other than the hits – Baba O’Riley, Behind Blue Eyes, and Won’t Get Fooled Again. Let me know if you come across any more Baba-inspired lyrics.


    1. Thanks, Jim. Yes, the hypocrisy is pretty blatant at legalistic churches like our first one. I would have been heavily criticized for listening to Byrds CDs but somehow it was OK for the pastor to rent martial arts action movies.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post, Tom. Teenage Wasteland is one of my favorite songs. Despite the lyrics, however, I never made the connection. You also mentioned John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Of course the lyrics are much more overt and hence the reason I never listen to it.

    Though I still listen to secular music, I try to pay attention to the lyrics, and if they’re too counter-Christian, I just won’t listen.

    Thanks, Tom!

    Liked by 1 person

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