As much I love the Who, I have found their albums to date a bit inconsistent, to say the least. That ends here, with Pete Townshend’s rock opera, “Tommy”. Ultimately converted into a full-length feature film and a highly successful Broadway musical, “Tommy” is the 190th rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
“Tommy” is the unusual story of a boy born as his father went off to war. The trauma of his mother’s love triangle and the resulting events, including the sexual molestation from other relatives rendered Tommy deaf, dumb and blind. Through a series of treatments and events, Tommy discovers that the game of pinball allows him to rediscover the outside world, and he ultimately rises to great status with many followers, only to see it all come crashing down again.
The musicality of this album is classic Who, with Keith Moon driving the pace on drums, and Pete and Roger Daltrey leading the way on vocals. It is a great collection of songs. Casual fans will most quickly recognize “Pinball Wizard”, but in full musical fashion, starting with an overture, this album has many great songs. “Eyesight To The Blind”, “The Acid Queen”, “Tommy Can You Hear Me?”, and “I’m Free” are major highlights on this double album. The most powerful moment for me, is the stirring outro following Tommy’s exposure and fall-down during “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.
“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me…”
“Listening to you, I get the music, gazing at you, I get the heat, following you I climb the mountain, I get excitement at your feet…”
“Right behind you, I see the millions, on you, I see the glory, from you, I get opinions, from you, I get the story…”
I have seen the Who in concert several times over the past 40 years, and there is never a more impactful moment for me than when they run through all or some of Tommy and finish with this passage, gaining momentum, urgency and intensity with each repeat. I think it still gets even better after this, but this is definitely some of the best music the Who ever produced.