Question about The Who's "Tommy"

I recently saw the rock opera by good ol’ Pete himself, and I must say that I enjoyed it.

Just a quick question, though: What does Tommy do at his performances once he regains his senses?

Does he sing? Dance? Give motivational talks? Play pinball? Stand on stage for hours and say “I USED to be deaf, dumb, and blind, but now I’m not!”

Whatever it is, people definitely seem to respond to it, but the question’s been irking me for a little while. Any ideas?

I think giving motivational speeches comes the closest. In coming so dramatically out of his shell, he shows everyone that they have each created a shell of their own to live in. All they need to do is cast it off to really enjoy all the world has to offer. Sounds like a plan. Now if I could just find where it fastens …

I believe he sings and plays the guitar, for some reason that’s not readily apparent. If I recall correctly, the version I saw included Tommy playing the guitar and singing a number called “Listening To You.”

The song “Listening to You” was actually Pete’s homage to his guru Meher Baba. Somehow he meant it to fit into the plot of Tommy, though I’m not sure exactly how, since Meher Baba as such does not figure in the plot.

It was more spiritual than a motivational speech. From the song Sally Simpson:

Her cheek hit a chair and blood trickled down,
mingling with her tears,
Tommy carried on preaching
and his voice filled Sally’s ear…

Kids these days. Wear their hair all funny. And the so called music

Saw the Who when they toured just before Tommy was released. Just barely got tickets. Got “ready”. Got really ready.

Sat down, last seat, last row in the Guthrie. What the heck is that low pitched noise, like an 8 ton hummingbird?

(It was the amps. Nothing plugged in yet, just biding thier time.)

Ol’ Pete comes out, announces that their going to play thier unreleased rock opera, hope you like it etc…

“And, by the way, this is rock 'n roll, so its going to be a wee bit loud”

No prisoners were taken.

Any way, garrulous old wierdo here says Tommy becomes an evangelist of sort, of the Jim Jones ilk. Promising redemption and perfect conciousness yadayada, he lures the unsuspecting to Tommy’s Holiday Camp (one of the weaker songs) where everyone gets a pinball machine and apparatus to make them deaf dumb and blind. They turn him on, and rend him. It not made clear whether Tommy has made a sacrifice in order to free his followers from idolatry, and teach them to think for themselves. Maybe Pete left out the song that explains how he became suddenly a nuetron density asshole.

Ah, this is a happy moment in my geeky little life – the moment when someone actuallys asks a question about one of the subjects I am obsessed with!

The ending of “Tommy” in any of its incarnations (album, movie, theatrical production) has always been vague. What happens to Tommy at the end of the story is open to interpretation. However, if I read the OP correctly, Jester is not asking what ultimately becomes of Tommy (“Listening to You”), but what it is that he does after his senses are restored that makes him a guru in the eyes of many (“Sally Simpson”, “Tommy’s Holiday Camp”, “Welcome”). As aseymayo suggested, Tommy becomes a spiritual leader. People think he’s got an answer the the question of life, the universe, and everything more satisfying than the number 42. The scene described in “Sally Simpson” is a sort of rock and roll revival meeting. There’s music, preaching, and ecstatic singing and dancing. Whether Tommy personally does anything more than offer some inspirational words to the gathered crowd is unclear, but at the very least the people affiliated with him are putting on a heck of a show for the masses.

Yep. I always assumed it was a new religion, or spirituality. You know, they’re selling the T’s with the pinball on top, sort of looks like a cross, etc.

It’s kind of like the scene in Forest Gump, where he is running across the country, and all of these people start following him, based purely on there own perceptions of Gump, and a little of that mob mentality. I sometimes feel that’s what happens to Tommy… except got into being the center of attention.

I always thought that Pete Townshend was using pinball as a metaphor for rock and roll.

Tommy’s defaness was a symbol of the aleination felt by the generation growing up in England after World War 2. The youth of the 60s were alienated by what they perceived as the lies and dishonesty hidden behind the facade of happy British family life (as symbolized by Tommy’s mother’s adultery, and the murder of her lover by Tommy’s father).

Like many youths of the time, Pete Townshend turned to rock and roll as an outlet for his anger and aleination- in the rock opera, Tommy finds his outlet in pinball.

In short order, Pete Townshend and the Who (like many rockers) found that people were turning to him as a spiritual and political guide (just as people look to the new pinball wizard, Tommy, for guidance).

Of course, Pete grew disenchanted with his position and with many of his fans, whom he found to be shallow. (Thus, Tommy finds that his followers are unwilling to follow his teachings, because it’s just too much trouble.)

At the end, Townshend and TOmmy are both TRYING to be more than celebrities, TRYING to offer a way to real self-improvement and enlightenment… but aren’t sure their “fans” want anything more than entertainment and platitudes.

Actually, if I recall the story correctly, Pete was using pinball as a desperate attempt to get in the good graces of a music critic. He was apparently afraid that this particular critic wouldn’t appreciate Tommy for what it was, and was also aware that said critic had a bit of a pinball jones. Ergo, he writes “Pinball Wizard”…

You’re both more or less correct. Townshend was originally inspired to add the pinball element to the story by a music critic friend who was a pinball fan, but he also used the game to symbolize rock and roll.

In the original album, “Sally Simpson” implies that she’s going to some sort of revival meeting where Tommy will be preaching.

In the theatrical version, the same song implies that he is actually playing pinball at the performance.

I never managed to actually see the theatrical version, but for some reason I remember thinking that he was playing pinball while wearing a helmet that rendered him deaf and blind once again.

Dr. J

um… wasn’t that the other way around?

<hijack>In the movie, notice the resemblance of Robert Powell (the actor who played Captain Walker) to Roger Daltrey. The same narrow jaw. He appeared in only two scenes, briefly: when his plane was shot down and when he was murdered.</hijack>

As for WWII, that was the movie version. The original 1969 album set the beginning in WWI. The original line “Got a feeling twenty-one is gonna be a good year” was changed in the movie to “Got a feeling fifty-one is gonna be a good year.”

Did they even have pinball back in the Roaring '20s?

The boyfriend gets it in the album (although it’s not very clear) and the theatrical production; the dad only dies in the movie. Pete Townshend says that this was something director Ken Russel insisted on. He theoriezed that this way because Ken Russel always wanted to kill his own father. Either way, the effect on Tommy is the same.

Tommy becomes in the end a human being, or matures. He is deaf, dumb and blind. He achieves a revelation, and wants to “save” people. He sees himself as a savior, but gets thrust from power. In the end he is a fallen, but much wiser man.