What does Behind Blue Eyes mean?

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The Who: Behind Blue Eyes Meaning

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Song Released: 1971


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Behind Blue Eyes Lyrics

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

No one knows what it's like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    #1 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
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    Apr 7th 2010 report

    The song "Behind Blue Eyes" was originally part of Pete Townshend's "lifehouse project", which was shelved. Of course, a great deal of that aborted project would end up on the album "Who's Next", including this song. It is written from the point of view of the "villain" character (from the story that compromises the "lifehouse project"), showing even bad people have emotions like the rest of us. The "behind blue eyes" refers to the thoughts and feelings of the villain, in his head, behind his eyes.

    Like any song lyrics, how you interpret it is up to you, or it may have a special meaning for you, and that is all good. But the songwriter's intended meaning of the lyrics when he wrote the song, is what is listed above. It is not about nazis, being gay, or drugs.

    I read along time ago, the inspiration for the villain character, and for the lyrics, was some record executive (who I guess Pete did not think much of), but once he read the lyrics back to himself, he was surprised to find the lyrics reminded him of himself as much as the record executive.

  2. 2TOP RATED

    #2 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
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    Feb 11th 2010 report

    Everyone interprets songs different. That's the beauty of songs that they can reach people in different ways. For me, I try to put myself in the guy's shoes. My opinion he has these ideas of what he wants his life to be. He has dreams and goals but no one notices them. No one sees the real him. He may have done something in the past that he feels guilty for and thats gave him a reputation and that's all people see and he wants people to see him for who he is. Sometimes we may feel like people can see right through us and see behind, well in his case behind blue eyes. But everyone interprets things differently

  3. 3TOP RATED

    #3 top rated interpretation:
    ghmd56
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    Oct 18th 2010 report

    This song may be about a narcissistic person. They have no conscience, (...my dreams they aren't as empty, as my conscience seems to be...) they cannot sustain a relationship (...I have hours, only lonely. My love is vengeance that's never free...). Narcissists are adept at 'projecting' i.e. they put the blame on others (...to feel these feelings, and I blame you...). They are accomplished liars (...to be fated to telling only lies...). These people have an inflated sense of grandeur and expectancy but some of them occasionally sense, deep down inside, that they are hated!

  4. anonymous
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    Aug 1st 2021 report

    It's fits my childhood when the song came out I was abused by an organizations adult leader.
    It was hell but I made it through in the 70s.
    I'm successful but have struggled all my life with those demons. Now I finally am learning to play guitar sing and perform this song as When I was learning the song it opened pandorus box for me. I'm crying and now dealing with my stored place
    in my head and growing from the experience. I can now face the world and tell my story through singing this song.

    Thx Peter

  5. anonymous
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    Nov 14th 2020 report

    My interpretation is that people with blue eyes have a lot of pain too. People with blue eyes don’t always have it easy and we make mistakes, live in crazy lives, have regrets,
    are sad, are happy, have feelings for others,
    and can be very good people. Just because we have blue eyes doesn’t mean we are privileged, mean, or prejudice. We can be very caring people, have problems, and have concerns for others and ourselves. Peace!

  6. anonymous
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    May 28th 2020 report

    It's a narcissist expressing his feeling - "but my dreams they aren't as empty as my conscience seems to be"

  7. Anonymous1924
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    Apr 21st 2020 report

    This song perfectly sums up Donald Trump: -He's always a victim; he knows he's a bad man, behind those blue eyes who is, somehow, involuntarily fated to telling only lies (even though he knows very deep down that it's wrong- he does have a conscience):

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

    No one knows what it's like
    To be hated
    To be fated
    To telling only lies

    But my dreams
    They aren't as empty
    As my conscience seems to be

    -He is a lonely person who reacts violently and disproportionately to perceived criticism and ruminates on the things that offend him:

    I have hours, only lonely
    My love is vengeance
    That's never free


    -He feels again like a unique victim but he can never take responsibility for mistakes:

    No one knows what it's like
    To feel these feelings
    Like I do
    And I blame you

    -He is full of anger-

    No one bites back as hard
    On their anger
    None of my pain and woe
    Can show through

    -He has no control over his own emotions and impulses and is super concerned about what people think about him:

    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

    -He actually feels like he needs people to protect him from himself even though he causes widespread damage to others without any real introspection:

    If I swallow anything evil
    Put your finger down my throat
    If I shiver, please give me a blanket
    Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  8. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 8th 2020 report

    There are no many songs lyrics out there written from a perspective of a narcissistic personality. This is one anyway, with a character that carries a heavy burden of inner split, rage and projections in both directions. Some types of narcissism bring substantial suffering also to the narcissist himself. An interesting aspect of the song is the part on "the dreams not being as empty as his conscious". Here, the dreams are related to illusions produced by the projecting factor in narcissist's psyche. This factor produces usually wishes to be accepted by the world in a way an infant is overwhelmed by the safety and warmth of mother's bosom, resulting in disappointment and a feeling of alienation.

  9. anonymous
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    Dec 12th 2019 report

    In recent times a plethora of clear and concise knowledge about narcissism, particularly covert narcissism and sociopathic personality types has come available on the information highway known as the internet. It’s out there if anyone cares to look. It is absolutely chilling how Pete Townsend had, without the benefit of the body of knowledge now available, taken the listener into the mind of the narcissist. His lyrics define quite succinctly, the essential elements of covert narcissism. Ask any survivor of abuse from this type of person!

  10. anonymous
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    Nov 15th 2019 report

    I totally agree with the interpretation that this is about person (perhaps Pete) dealing with alcoholism or other drug abuse. For those who are not familiar with what its like to live with an alcoholic, these lyrics seem to totally fit the mindset of an alcoholic (as I understand that mindset, being a non-alcoholic spouse of an alcoholic.) Being an alcoholic is not just about "drinking too much". It's how alcohol completely changes the person's behavior and in particular how they respond/react to those around them, even those who they love, often in very hurtful ways. The alcoholic can say and do truly mean and hurtful things when drinking, for which they are ashamed, but powerless to stop. Often the evil things they say to others are merely projecting their own low self worth onto others. They suffer tremendously when they understand how they have hurt others. I believe this song is a cry for help, and an attempt by the alcoholic to explain how it feels to personally deal with the terrible disease of alcoholism.

  11. anonymous
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    Aug 15th 2019 report

    My ex husband told me once when this song came on the radio " I feel this song is about me..." I wish I asked him what he meant but years later after he cheated on me and walked out, I put 2 and 2 together and suspect he was sexually abused as a child/young teen, possibly by his father and/or a priest. He was definitely bipolar and a sociopath.

  12. anonymous
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    Jun 9th 2019 report

    I have blue eyes and I know that I'm a good person but I've been plagued my whole life by people that don't appreciate me, don't understand me, and continually want to tell me that I'm wrong. When I tell the truth, I'm not believed. In my constant struggle to prove I'm not wrong, I also am always trying to improve others. My intent is miss-understood. I'm sad because I never feel appreciated. I'm considered bad because people don't like being told they can improve. My pain and woe is meaningless to those I've cared about my whole life and my concern for them is considered as having an empty conscience. This song is the story of my life.

  13. anonymous
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    Jan 8th 2019 report

    Behind Blue Eyes lyrics, very deep and very clear to see.

    Have a happy new year!

    - Same person who made a comment on this song today

  14. anonymous
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    Jan 8th 2019 report

    Behind Blue Eyes lyrics, very deep and very clear to see. See meaning at wikipedia.

    For the latest comment, sorry to hear you felt a villain. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. People like some people and some people don't like some people. That's life, we cannot please everyone and not everybody can like us.

    Like you, I've been also judged and not everyone likes me. I've felt a villain many times and I can't blame them, because I'm not good myself. I'm trying to be good, but I still go back to my old ways sometimes.

    Never destroy yourself because of other's thoughts about you. Be always honest, because people will understand you eventually. I have friends that I understand now and why they said those things to me.

    Have a happy new your! Peace to you

    - Browsed this site mostly in 2013-2018, Browsed this site 1/1/19 - 1/8/19

  15. anonymous
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    Jan 7th 2019 report

    Behind Blue Eyes is written about someone who is looked at as the villain. I'm in that position, I am looked at as the villain. It's basically about a person who was judged his/her whole life. Thus the lyrics, "No one knows what it's like,". This song reminds me of me. I have always been looked at as the villain. So much that I wanted to commit suicide. I thought that if no one likes me and want me dead, I should die. This song reminded me of what I've dealt with. Behind Blue Eyes is saying 'I am not the villain'.

  16. ReflectionPoint
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    Nov 29th 2018 report

    While I tend to agree with the top few interpretations of the song, some of the others referring to blue eyes in the title as a "master race" reference and reverse-racism etc..

    A: Pete has blue eyes so that reference is likely just first-person perspective.
    B: The sound of the word blue works better in the context of the song than brown, green, hazel, etc.. it makes for a better lyric. (Sing it in your head with a different color.. you can do it but it doesn't quite sound right, does it?)
    C: Blue is a description of the underlying emotion he is expressing. This means regardless of your actual eye color, the song works perfectly. "Behind Sad Eyes" is the metaphorical meaning of the title.

    Common sense, here.

  17. Knower
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    Jul 22nd 2018 report

    “Behind Blue Eyes”, pure and simple, is as anonymous below identifies with, the expression of the shame and anger experienced by a young person who was sexually abused by a older homosexual, and that probably a family member.
    A few years ago when Pete was arrested for looking at child porn, his excuse was that he “thought” he had been sexually abused by his uncle when he was a young boy. Every line in this song attests to that memory.
    “When I swallow anything evil
    Put your finger down my throat.”?

    “No one bites back so hard on their anger...”?

    Pete was sexually abused by a older homosexual uncle, and any time he complained he was told to hush and ignore, lest he embarrass a family member.
    Isn’t it ironic that the generators of such sadness have chosen to be identified as “gay”!?

  18. anonymous
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    Mar 14th 2018 report

    This song has special meaning to me because it is exactly how I have felt multiple times throughout my life. I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and my actions have hurt very badly the people that I love and care about the most in my life. When you have hurt people like that you are very aware of their pain and how you are the cause of it. However, rarely does anyone think about or even care about how the person who has done the hurting feels. It is just hard to be empathetic or sympathetic to the person who is at fault. It’s easy to assume that the addict doesn’t care about the consequences of his behaviors, but:

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

    It really and truly sucks to be hated and when you are stuck in an addiction you inevitably HAVE to tell lies in order to keep the addiction going. Which is why I relate to:

    No one knows what it’s like
    To be hated
    To be fated
    To telling only lies

    You feel like everyone thinks you are a sorry SOB that only cares about themselves because why else would you continue to hurt people and lie to people. The truth however is that people with addiction often have wonderful dreams of living a healthy clean life, being a good husband and father and friend and employee. The life in active addiction sucks and you spend hours feeling so lonely:

    But my dreams
    They aren't as empty
    As my conscience seems to be
    I have hours, only lonely

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