The Who - Tommy
Classic Rock
24 songs (75:03)
Release year: 1969
The Who Official Homepage
Reviewed by Jeff

FOREWORD: OK. Before I start this review, let me get a little defensive. I know what a lot of you are probably saying to yourselves right now: "What the hell is this album doing on the site? It's not heavy metal! It's from 1969. etc." First off, this album is being reviewed for what it is: A CLASSIC! An album that has stood the test of time, been made into a movie and a Broadway play. It's probably older than most of you out there. So this review is really for those that have a true understanding and appreciation for music; those that can be objective; those who know that a lot of today's music, especially hard rock and metal, was influenced by the pioneers of the genre years ago. Some examples of today's music influenced by The Who would be W.A.S.P.'s "The Crimson Idol". In the liner notes, Blackie Lawless acknowledges Pete Townsend as an influence on his songwriting and W.A.S.P even covered The Who's "The Real Me" on "The Headless Children" album. Albums like Blind Guardian's "Nightfall In Middle Earth", Styx's "Kilroy Was Here" or Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime" would not exist if it wasn't for albums like "Tommy". Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath recently commented about the death of his mentor, John Entwistle:. "He revolutionized bass playing with his bass solo in 'My Generation' and he brought bass technique and bass players to the forefront in rock music," Butler stated. Entwistle's style was a main inspiration to one of Sabbath's most famous compositions, Butler's bass solo at the beginning of Black Sabbath's 'N.I.B.' Even Poison recently covered "Squeeze Box" from The Who's "Who By Numbers". So in order to comprehend the surface you sometimes need to dig beneath to the roots. So if you feel you don't fit any of the descriptions above, THEN STOP READING!

The Who was one of the very first bands to compose and perform a rock opera live. In 1969 they released "Tommy", originally a double album in which all of the songs revolved around a main concept. The story is about a young boy named Tommy, who witnesses the murder of his father by his mother's lover. They tell Tommy that he didn't hear or see what happened, and not to say anything to anyone. As a result, Tommy goes into a state of deafness, dumbness and blindness. The songs are about the events in Tommy's life, and they help explain the whole rock opera. Throughout the album, such instruments as the electric guitar, acoustic guitar, pipe organ, drums, piano, horns and the tambourine are used.

The disc begins with the "Overture", an introduction and short overview to the rest of the album that touches on various themes from some of the songs. This leads into "It's A Boy", which explains about Tommy's father, who went to war and is believed to be missing. While Captain Walker is away at war, his wife has a baby boy, Tommy.

"You Didn't Hear It" is about Tommy's mother finding a new love. Unexpectedly, Captain Walker comes home and startled by his return, the lover kills him. Tommy sees all of this and is told, "you didn't hear it, you didn't see it and you won't tell a soul, but what you know is the truth'. This leads to the "Amazing Journey", where Tommy's handicap state begins. "Now he's deaf. Now he's blind. Now he's dumb". This goes into "Sparks"; an instrumental which represents Tommy's transformation.

Tommy is taken to a preacher in"Eyesight To The Blind" in order to rid him of his problems, but it is of no use.

During "Christmas", Tommy is made fun of and poked at by other children and his family. They realize Tommy has a serious problem.

Tommy is then introduced to his "Cousin Kevin", the school bully and classroom cheat. The nastiest play friend you ever could meet. He does lots of mean things to Tommy, like pushing him down the stairs and putting cigarette burns on his arm.

The next person Tommy is taken to is the "Acid Queen", the gypsy who brings some life back into Tommy, but no enough to rid him of his problems.

"Underture" closes out the first half of the album. It's a longer instrumental version of "Sparks" with some slight variation.

The second half of the story opens up with, "Do You Think It's Alright/Fiddle About", a song about Tommy's parents debating on whether or not it's alright to leave Tommy with his Uncle Ernie. They decide to leave Tommy with his Uncle Ernie and he ends up sexually abusing Tommy (poor kid!). In "Pinball Wizard", Tommy plays against the Bally Table King and defeats him by using sense of smell.

During "There's A Doctor I've Found", the lover brings the good news to his wife of the aforementioned, who can cure the boy. In "Go To The Mirror boy", Tommy visits the doctor. He tries everything he can to help Tommy. While he's there, Tommy stares at the mirror and they all wonder what is happening in his head. .

On the way home from the doctor's the mother asks, "Tommy Can You Hear Me?" wondering if the doctor's treatment has helped. When they get home, Tommy goes to the mirror and stares at it. Mother is fed up with this and smashes the mirror. Once the mirror is smashed, the Pinball Champ is cured, set free of his handicaps and goes on to become a "Sensation", a new vibration. Tommy is now seen as the new messiah who people will follow, like Jesus. The news of Tommy's recovery is presented in the song, "Miracle Cure".

"Sally Simpson" is the story of a girl who goes to see Tommy preach. She tries to touch him but ends up cutting her cheek.

"I'm Free" is Tommy's theme song. He's waiting for people to follow him. "Welcome" is the carnival-like, hospitable song describing the atmosphere of "Tommy's Holiday Camp", a place where all of his followers go to be just like he used to be (a pinball player who was blind, deaf and dumb). But the people realize Tommy's not for real and shout "We're Not Gonna Take It". They rebel and overthrow Tommy. In the end, he realizes that he's just like everyone else.

"Tommy" is Pete Townshend's masterpiece as far as a work both lyrically and musically structured. In 1975, "Tommy" was made into a movie which included such musical guests as Eric Clapton, Tina Turner and Elton John. The movie soundtrack was updated and included songs not on the original Who version of "Tommy". Some songs have different titles, slight lyric and music changes, and character changes, but still very close to that of the original. The songs were also track listed in chronological order in the lyrical sense. The movie soundtrack has been recently re-released as for years it was difficult to find even on vinyl.

The remastered version of The Who's "Tommy" is amazing. In fact, any of the remastered Who albums from the late 60's and 70's are worth picking up. You can hear a big difference from the originals. The clarity and overall tone of the discs are incredible! Many Even contain bonus tracks of previously unrelased material. It's unfortunate that two of the original members of the Who are no longer with us, but the music will forever be immortalized on CD. LONG LIVE ROCK!

Killing Songs :
Jeff quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by The Who that we have reviewed:
The Who - Endless Wire reviewed by Jeff and quoted 86 / 100
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