Like most of the songs on the Who's 1971 classic Who's Next, Pete Townshend originally wrote "Behind Blue Eyes" for his ambitious (and long uncompleted) multimedia concept piece Lifehouse, and in that context, the song was meant to reflect the thoughts of the villain of the piece, who was forced to subsume his more noble impulses in the service of corrupt power structure. On Who's Next, the song had to stand alone as a meditation of one man's dual nature, and the result was one of the most powerful and mature performances on the album. While the Who had on occasion displayed the ability to quiet themselves when the circumstances dictated (particularly on Tommy), for the most part they were still best known of the bash-and-crash amphetamine overdrive of their live show and such singles as "My Generation" and "I Can See for Miles." However, "Behind Blue Eyes" showed that the band had learned how to generate tension and drama through other means. The recording starts out with a minor-key melody being gently picked out on an acoustic guitar, and Roger Daltrey, with the clear voice of a schoolboy, singing "No one knows what it's like/To be the bad man/To be the sad man/Behind blue eyes." Soon John Entwistle's bass comes in, but as subtle punctuation, without his usual dive-bombing fretboard runs, and while some beautifully executed harmonies support Daltrey's vocal, a barely controlled rage seethes beneath the surface of his performance without fully breaking through. The performance conjures the image of a man desperately holding himself back from an explosion of anger and wrath, and a little more than two minutes in, the dam finally breaks. Keith Moon's drums finally burst onto the scene, Townshend's electric guitar wails at full force, and Entwistle's bass roars at full velocity as Daltrey finally addresses his subject at full volume and with a full reserve of venom, though what he demands in his fury is to be put back in check -- "When my fist clenches, crack it open/Before I use it and lose my cool/When I smile, tell me some bad news/Before I laugh and act like a fool." "Behind Blue Eyes" showed that the Who had learned some very valuable lessons about the importance of dynamics and the contrast of it's quiet and loud passages were the perfect counterpart to Townshend's lyrical reflection on tension and release. An early solo acoustic demo of the song appeared on Townshend's collection of home recordings, Scoop, and while Pete does well with the song's quiet buildup, his inability to recreate the passionate explosion into the third verse says a great deal about why an artist of such strong personal vision was willing to remain a member of a group -- it says a great deal about what he could do within the boundaries of the Who as opposed to what he could do all by his lonesome.