No One Knows What It’s Like (To Be the Bad Man): What Song Is It?

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Song: Behind Blue Eyes (1971)

Artist: The Who

Album: Who’s Next (Decca)

The lyric “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man” comes from the song Behind Blue Eyes, released on The Who’s album Who’s Next in 1971. A tortured and dark acoustic ballad, the song was originally part of a collection of songs from a project that Pete Townsend planned as a followup to Tommy, after many years of inactivity (in recording not touring).

The project was called Lifehouse. It was a science-fiction film about a polluted dystopian future, in which humankind must live entirely indoors or underground. In this totalitarian world, there was no rock music. There is a secret place, though, where young people go to listen to music, and where rock-n-roll has a liberating effect on them. Think of it as a grandiose version of the movie Footloose set in the future, although it owed much to the science-fiction dystopian themes that had already been established.

Although Lifehouse never came to fruition, Townshend’s efforts produced a number of great songs, at least 20, for the band to work on, one of which was Behind Blue Eyes. It may seem odd, given the lyrics (below) that the song was meant to be part of this esoteric science-fiction project, but the narrative of the film was never mean to be conveyed by the song lyrics. How the songs were meant to fit into the film is unknown, but their lack of specific narrative focus was probably fortunate since they were able to be released as independent songs that could stand alone. Some songs, however, such as Pure and EasySong is Over, and Getting in Tune, seem to suggest the Lifehouse theme.

Who's Next

Behind Blue Eyes closely follows Townshend’s demo version. It was recorded at the Record Plant, in March 1971, along with Pure and EasyGetting in TuneWon’t Get Fooled AgainLove Ain’t for the Keeping, and Baby Don’t You Do It (previously recorded in 1964).

Behind Blue Eyes was introduced to a younger audience with Limp Bizkit covered it in 2003 in the album Results May Vary.

Behind Blue Eyes Beginning Lyrics

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

Listen to Behind Blue Eyes

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