"Tommy" turns 40!

The album was released 40 years ago today. Mrs. Walker’s boy has come a long way. An amazing journey, indeed!

BBC programme celebrating the anniversary. (audio only available for 5 days). I love hearing Rog talking about the film; complaining about being blasted with cold water, having bugs crawling all over him, and crashing a hang glider!

It’s really sad because my first thought was “but Tom Cruise is much older than 40, surely!”

Remember it well. When I got to college in 1970, you used to hear it being played from all the dorms as you walked around campus.

Still pretty good music, if the story is as silly as ever.

What did you expect in an opera, a happy ending?

One of the high spots of my teenage years. Only a few weeks after the album came out I found myself sitting in a 6th row center seat at the old Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis as the Who unloaded on the audience with large chunks of the relatively unknown new album. I couldn’t hear anything for two hours after the concert.

I could swear I saw a sign out of the corner of my eye announcing “Tommy the Musical.” I tried to deny the possibility, but since The Who have always been openminded regarding making money, and my own wife wants to do “The Rascals/Spanky and Her Gang the Musical,” to the point that I shopped it to a guy who wrote some of the songs, I can only assume it’s real. Not that I want to be proven right–were I inclined I could do it myself, but I’m not. I prefer living in denial.

Oh good, I get to blat about my two ‘Tommy’ memories from many moons ago. 1) I heard about an…unusual…album called ‘Tommy’ by the Who while listening to late night FM radio. With just a capsule synopsis to go on, I was DRIVEN to buy this album ASAP. The following night, I went to work and on my break, at 9 p.m., in the snow, I risked my life and crossed a very busy road to buy it at the KMart. I was creeped out/awed by the artwork on that album and played it until the grooves were about worn down. Need I say I heard a lot of ‘turn that noise down’? 2) At last, at last - ‘Tommy’ the movie was playing at a double theater, and of course it was sold out, so we had to see the other movie playing in the building. Can’t recall what the movie was, but we were sitting there and we could FEEL the vibrations from the Tommy movie. Not the sound, so much, but the building was shaking with the bass. How awesome was that??? So close, yet so far.

I saw the movie. Trust me, you were close enough.

I got to see The Who at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago, pre-Tommy. I remember hearing The Who on WLS or was it on that OTHER station, in high school. “My Generation” and all that. Great rock lives on!

The Who were part of my generation. :smiley:

(I’m 55…)

Perhaps you’re referring to the Tony award-winning* 1993 Broadway production, or one of the multiple revivals?

*Best original score

I saw them play a lot of the album at Woodstock later that summer, but I was about 600 rows back.

I remember when The Who used to do good danceable songs like “Can’t Explain.” Then they got all fancy and the noise started. Songs shouldn’t be more than three minutes long! Rock got ruined after 1965! I still have the earpiece for my transistor radio stuck in my ear!

That reminds me of the experience I had with The Kids Are Alright in 1979. I saw it at a local duplex, enjoyed the hell out of it. The next week I went back to the same place to see a double bill of Manhattan and Annie Hall. I could plainly hear The Kids Are Alright coming through the wall from the other theater! It just reminded me of how great that movie was, so since it was still playing I went back to see it again the next week.

When Ken Russell’s film premiered in San Jose, the local rock station (KSJO, I think) gave away tickets to a special screening. I didn’t win any tickets…but I just happened to be friends with the assistant manager. He let me in before anyone else that afternoon, and I grabbed the best seat in the house a good half hour before any of the DJs or “lucky winners” even showed up.

As I sat in the darkened theater (the wide screened Century 21), waiting for the festivities to begin, suddenly the screen lit up and the soundtrack started blasting. I almost jumped out of my seat–they must have been doing a projector check or something, There was my first glimpse of “Tommy”: the scene at the end where the battered Roger Daltrey is climbing over the giant pinballs in the wreckage of his camp.

Then, just as quickly, the projector shut down, leaving me stunned. Within a minute or so the KSJO gang came into the theater, much surprised to see me. I think they were a bit pissed to see that someone else had gotten the jump on “their” premiere, but there wasn’t anything they could do about it.

Now that’s cool. I’ve still got the original double album. Right up there…

I saw the stage musical version a few years ago and even though it was a local production, it was quite good, especially the music. And the scene transitions were tight enough to preserve the flow of he album.

However, a few observations:
[li]The lyrics were re-written to considerably tone down the religious aspects. Tommy was portrayed as a pop-culture phenomena rather than a messianic figure.[/li][li]Captain Walker was originally missing in action in World War One and “21” referred to 1921, as indicated in the Wikipedia article. But for the story to take place in the Depression and the eve of WWII rather than the 1960s makes no sense. You can’t go from WWI and 1921 to pinball and acid in the course of a boy growing up. [/li][li]In the stage version, as well as originally, the Father kills the Lover. In the film version, the Lover kills the Father. I think the latter makes more sense. Tommy’s external life was Not Meant To Be, while his inner life is inhabited by the spirit of his father. And portraying the Lover as a rather disreputable impressario helps explain the presense of such unsavory characters as Uncle Ernie, Cousin Kenny, and the Acid Queen.[/li][/ul]
So I’ve often wondered what the heck Pete Townshend was thinking at various stages of the project.

Twelve years ago my now 18 yo had the honor of playing 4 year old Tommy in two separate community theater productions of the musical. Very different stagings. Both lots of fun to even be peeripherally associated with.

sqweels, I’d disagree with the lover killing Dad being more coherent. The parents,including Dad, desperately wanted Tommy cured, but were clueless, frustrated, and excessively trusting of Cousin Kenny and “Uncle” Ernie (who was longing after Mrs. Walker and solicitous with presents very early on.)

I think all Townshend was thinking was about creating a vehicle for exploring his trademark themes of social isolation and disaffection and in which good music could happen.

OK, but I’m not really following your logic. In the movie version, instead of there being a one-time crime that is being covered up, Tommy’s whole world is permanently hijacked, so that instead of being raised by a loving mother and father, he’s surrounded by materialism and corruption. Ann-Margaret and Oliver Reed don’t really lover each other, they’re exploiting each other.

In the film, parts of Tommy’s “amazing journey” are depicted, and in it he’s shown to be happy and his father takes him flying. It’s the dichotomy between the spiritual and the material that I see being vividly played out in this interpretation.

And while it may be over-idealizing the backgrounds of Tommy’s mother, it makes more sense that Uncle Ernie, Cousin Kevin (I got that wrong earlier) and the Acid Queen are relatives/associates of the Lover.

The work is certainly wide open for a lot of personal interpretation. My remark had more to do with why Pete Townshend originally set it after WWI, why he flip-flopped on who kills who, and why he toned down the messianic aspects (assuming it he who supervised these changes).

One more crackpot interpretation of Tommy: Tommy is always staring into a mirror, right? He’s seeing a reflection of–what–his soul? Well, a pinball is mirror-like. Maybe it shows up like a glowing orb. You don’t suppose he’s able to…control it? After all, any Jedi should be able to control a goddamn pinball.

Here’s the “Amazing Journey” sequence from the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKb5npT2QGY