Since getting back from our working holiday out to the west coast two days ago, today has really the first day I’ve had to genuinely relax. Yesterday was spent shuttling around between the surgeon and rehab while communicating with the towing company, the car dealership, the insurance broker, and all the other minutia of bullshit associated with dealing with my poor vandalized car. So tonight, HRH and I are doing some laundry and fixing up dinner while I enjoy the new ‘Indoor BBQ Table Beer‘ from Brimstone Brewing Co. and, yes, this ‘Tommy‘ album by The Who.
This signature 1969 album by arguably one of the most important rock bands in history is another album gifted to us by Uncle Lance and Auntie Amy. This is awesome seeing as how firstly, this is a Desert Island album of mine that I have yet to acquire into my own collection and secondly, it has lots of birds on it which makes HRH happy.
As I’m sure you’re already aware – well, providing you haven’t lived under a rock for the past 50 years or so – this is the full-blown double album rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy that launched the band to international superstardom, written almost entirely by Pete Townshend.
My own initiation with the album occurred back in high school when someone made me a cassette copy of the album but, as did so many things back then, it failed to impress me. However, much later in life – likely under the influence of some psychedelic substance or other – I listened to it again and fell in love with it.
The whole nipple-slicing scene in the film adaptation however, not so much.
Hailed as a breakthrough upon its release, its critical standing has diminished somewhat in the ensuing decades because of the occasional pretensions of the concept and because of the insubstantial nature of some of the songs that functioned as little more than devices to advance the rather sketchy plot. Nonetheless, the double album has many excellent songs, including ‘I’m Free‘, ‘Pinball Wizard‘, ‘Sensation‘, ‘Christmas‘, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It‘, and the dramatic ten-minute instrumental ‘Underture‘. Though the album was slightly flawed, Townshend’s ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music.
Despite the complexity of the project, he and the band never lost sight of solid pop melodies, harmonies, and forceful instrumentation, imbuing the material with a suitably powerful grace.
Subsequently, the rock opera developed into other media, including a Seattle Opera production in 1971, an orchestral version by Lou Reizner in 1972, a film in 1975, and a Broadway musical in 1992. The original album has sold 20 million copies and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. And, of course, there’s this amazing version as well by the HillBenders (click HERE).
On the off chance you’re interested in a more detailed history of this seminal album – you can click HERE.