Before we get to Tommy I feel I must mention the people who made it Possible. Roger Daltrey (Who Sang It) Pete Townshend (Who Wrote It) and Keith Moon and John Entwistle (Who Played It) Without these four individuals, (Who make up a group called “The Who”) Tommy Wouldn’t have been possible.
Tommy…is (at least in my eyes) perfect. It’s my favorite Movie, my favorite album, and my favorite (musical)Play.
I first saw Tommy (the Movie) when I was seventeen. I remember the night clearly. I was at an FYE in middletown, NY when I saw “Tommy” (the movie version) for ten dollars in a bargain bin. the cover attracted me to it, and at that point in time I had never even heard a single “The Who” song, so I had no idea what I was in for. I bought it and as soon as I got home I popped the disc into my laptop. Something in that movie Spoke to me, on a whole nother level. I don’t know why, or even how, but it did. The music captivated me. Every note sent shivers of excitement down my spine. and during the films finale I actually shed a tear as Roger Daltrey belted out “Listening To You/ I get the music/ Gazing at you/ I get the heat”. Tommy….became a part of me. (if that makes any sense)
The next day, I went into a cd store to see if they had the who album that the movie was based on. they did. I popped it into the car’s cd player. I was taken on an amazing Journey. The album, which runs about 36 minutes shorter than the movie (the album clocks in at 75 minutes, the movie at 111 minutes, and the broadway show at about 95) was just as good. The overture to Tommy (which is absent from the movie) is one of the greates pieces of music I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing.
The story’s protagonist, Tommy Walker, witnesses a murder at a young age (in the album and stage play his father murders his mother’s lover, but in the film his mother’s lover murdered his father). In shock, Tommy retreats deep inside of himself becoming a “Deaf Dumb and Blind Boy” Over the years his parents try to cure him, be it by drugs, cults or doctors. Eventually his parents try leaving him with relatives. First they leave him with his cousin, Kevin Walker. Kevin is a rather unsavory youth, who mercilessly beats his cousin. His parents try to leave him with his Uncle, Ernie Walker. Ernie soon rapes the now 16 year old Tommy, and so his parents give up on leaving him with anyone. Now at some point along the way (after the uncle ernie sequence in the movie, but much earlier in the album, and later in the play) Tommy’s parents discover that he has the astounding ability to play pinball despite his disability. Tommy soon defeats the world pinball champion (played in the film version by none other then Elton John!) his parents take him to a specialist who also can not help Tommy. Frustrated, Tommy’s mother throws tommy into a large wall mirror. When the mirror shatters, Tommy’s senses return, and he is cured. Tommy is now free. He decides to open his own holiday retreat for people who wish to be more like him. His rules are too strict, however, and his followers who once hailed him a messaiah, have now turned against him. A riot ensues. Tommy’s parents are killed in the riot, and Tommy is left alone. Tommy finally realises what it is to be truly free, and sings “See me, Feel Me/ Listening to you” as the story ends.
What makes Tommy so special? The music of course, most of which flows from the brilliant mind of Pete Townshend. ( Cousin Kevin is by John Entwhistle, and “Eyesight to the blind” is a cover of a Sonny Boy Williamson song) The music overpowers you, and draws you into the story. the lyrics compliment the music in a way that is simply undescribable. My favorite song in Tommy is probably either “Cousin Kevin” or “Sensation.” God, just writing this I have the picture of Roger Daltrey on a hang glider singing “Sensation”. Tommy is special to me. I have four different versions of the album, (the original 1969 album, the 1975 movie soundtrack, the 1993 broadway soundtrack, and the 2009 tribute album “The smithereens play Tommy”) Each version reflects the era in which it was recorded. the original album, in its sound and construction is VERY 60’s. So, the movie which came out in ‘75, updated the sound a bit, and it’s very 70’s. the ‘93 broadway cast album doesn’t nessacarily reflect the 90’s as much as it does the broadway sound (compare to the soundtrack to “Wicked” and you’ll understand what I mean.) the ‘09 version reflects the sound of “the Smithereens” who have a very retro sound, and it once again comes back to the sixties. and So the legacy of “Tommy” comes full circle.