The WHO – ” Tommy ” The Best Concept Album Released 23rd May 1969 Live Performance at Universal Amphitheater Los Angeles 1989

Posted: May 1, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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tommy

Pete Townshend‘s masterpiece is as much a defining part of the late ’60s as Vietnam and Woodstock. Its story — about a deaf, dumb and blind boy  turns hippie idealism into a messianic fable of acceptance and rejection. But it’s the music, constructed as a rock opera complete with an overture and recurring musical themes, that holds together this double-record epic.

Perhaps it’s the original rock opera “Tommy”, released in 1969, composed by Pete Townshend and performed by The Who. This acclaimed work was presented over two LPs and it took the idea of thematically based albums to a much higher appreciation by both critics and the public. It was also the first story-based concept album of the rock era to enjoy commercial success. The Who went on to further explorations of the concept album format with their follow-up project “Lifehouse”, which was abandoned before completion, and with their 1973 rock opera, “Quadrophenia”.

After the witty, but flawed The Who Sell Out, The Who still hadn’t been really accepted as a serious album act. That was it, if they were going to conquer the world, they were going to have to use the big guns. It was time for the rock opera. While there had been concept albums before, none of them had been on this scale, Tommy was a double album meditation on loneliness, murder, child abuse, spritual guff, rejection and and a whole host of other weird stuff. On top of this it also had some fantastic tunes and was easily the best Who album to date.

Tommy as a little boy see’s his father murdered by his mother and her lover. He is told to never say he saw it or heard it. Tommy, being deaf, dumb, and blind learns to play pinball by sense of smell and touch soon master’s the game.
Tommy as an adult becomes famous for his pinball prowess and quickly gains a mass following. By the end of the Opera Tommy’s follower’s turn on him, as they get sick of all of the rules he give’s.

Townshend’s desire for this album to be taken seriously is underlined by the instrumental passages “Overture” and “Sparks”, though admittedly the ambitious “Underture” was far too long for its own good. Most of the characters in this cantata are given voice by Roger Daltrey, though each member of the band seems to get to voice at least one character. As many of the songs on Tommy are a part of the much bigger narrative, there’s actually not that many songs that work well as stand-alone tunes, with only the rocking “Pinball Wizard” and to a lesser extent “Sally Simpson” able to thrive outside of the confines of the parent album.

Tommy is an album you have to listen in totality. There’s no point in which you can happily let your mind wander, other than “Underture”, which probably explains why it is one of the most popular tracks on the album (i.e. it gives you chance to put the kettle on). Arguably the thing that makes Tommy work was the drive and ambition of Pete Townshend and the fact at this stage in their career, The Who were a particularly well-drilled band, capable of making a good job of almost anything thrown at them.

Of course since its release Tommy has inspired countless bands to attempt ill-conceived and frankly tedious concept albums, all trying to be hugely significant and open the doors of perception. Ultimately Tommy is a much more intelligent and creative album than its questionable legacy suggests.

On (May 23rd) in 1969: The Who released their classic album ‘Tommy’ (Track Records in the UK/Decca Records in the US), a full-blown ‘rock opera’ about a deaf, dumb & blind boy that launched the band to international superstardom; written almost entirely by Pete Townshend, his ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music; despite the complexity involved, he & the band never lost sight of solid pop melodies, harmonies & forceful instrumentation, imbuing the material with a suitably powerful grace the album has sold over 20 million copies worldwide…

The Who – Rock Opera Tommy – Full Concert – 1989 – Live performance in Los Angeles at the Universal Amphitheater The Los Angeles version of this show featured Phil Collins as Uncle Ernie, Patti LaBelle as the Acid Queen, Steve Winwood as the Hawker, Elton John as the Pinball Wizard and Billy Idol as Cousin Kevin

The Band

Roger Daltry (Vocals) Peter Townsend (Vocals/ Guitar) John Entwistle (Vocals Bass) Phil Collins, Billy Idol, Elton John, Patti LaBelle, Steve Winwood Simon Phillips (drums) Steve Boltz Bolton (Guitar) John Rabbit Bundrick (Keyboards) Roddy Lorimor (trumpet) Jody Linscott (Percussion) Simon Clarke (Saxophone) Tim Sanders (Saxophone) Niel Sidwell (Trombone) Simon Gardner (Trumpet) Chyna (Vocals) Cleveland (Vocals) Billy Nichols (Vocals)

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