U2’s Bono Said The Who’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ Changed His Life

U2 and The Who are very different classic rock bands; however, U2’s Bono greatly admires one of The Who’s songs. He said it changed his life. Here is a look at what the song meant to him and to The Who’s Pete Townshend.

Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, and Pete Townshend of The Who standing in front of a wall
The Who | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The relationship U2’s Bono had to music when he was a child

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Bono described growing up in a “lower-middle-class neighborhood” in Dublin. His mother died when he was 14, so he grew up in “a house of men.” His father was passionate about music but did not encourage his son to become a musician.

Bono’s father’s attitudes unintentionally molded him into a musician. “By telling me never to have big dreams or else, that to dream is to be disappointed, he made me have big dreams,” Bono said. “By telling me that the band would only last five minutes or 10 minutes – we’re still here.”

“Behind Blue Eyes”

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The classic 1970s song that inspired U2’s Bono

During his youth, Bono really connected to a lot of classic rock music. When Bono was around 15 years old, he fell in love with the music of The Who. He was particularly affected by their song “Behind Blue Eyes.”

“In amongst the din and the noise, the power chords and the rage, there’s another voice,” he opined. “‘Nobody knows what it’s like behind blue eyes… ‘ And the beginnings of what I would discover is one of the essential aspects for me – and why I’m drawn to a piece of music – which has something to do with the quest. The sense that there’s another world to be explored. I got that from Pete Townshend; I got that from Bob Dylan.”

The meaning of The Who’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’

“Behind Blue Eyes” clearly moved Bono. During an interview with SiriusXM, Townshend revealed he is very proud of the song. He deemed it one of the best songs he’d written, alongside “Love, Reign o’er Me” and “Let My Love Open the Door.” He said all three of those songs are romantic. He said he liked those songs because he has a difficult time writing romantic songs but “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Love, Reign o’er Me,” and “Let My Love Open the Door” turned out well anyway.

Furthermore, Townshend revealed he wrote the song from the perspective of a fictional character from his script Lifehouse. He said the song is about self-deception and the way people hide behind their appearances.

Pete Townshend discussing “Behind Blue Eyes”

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How successful was ‘Behind Blue Eyes’?

The Who released “Behind Blue Eyes” in 1971. It reached No. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the chart for 11 weeks. It was not The Who’s highest charting song in the United States, where it was surpassed by hits like “See Me, Feel Me,” “Pinball Wizard,” and “I Can See For Miles.” Even though it wasn’t their biggest hit, “Behind Blue Eyes” certainly affected one listener in particular – Bono of U2.