Friday, August 1, 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: The Who - Tommy: The Rock Opera

A Landmark For "The Who" - Tommy Set the Stage For 1970's Rock by Virgil Vince

The late 60's were a transitional moment for rock and roll. Many bands were attempting to stretch their wings and experiment with the kinds of material that they could release to the public. Some bands turned to composing with orchestras in mind, while others focused on spreading a social or political message.

Some groups however felt that they needed to add a more spiritual dimension to their music and construct a narrative that would allow them to discuss the concepts that filled their heads. For The Who Tommy was their first sustained attempt to expand on the promise of the mini-rock vignettes they had released on previous records.

'Tommy' is the story of a deaf, blind and mute child who is born normally but has his senses stolen from him after witnessing the murder of his mother's new lover at the hands of his suddenly returning father. The tale deals with the attempts by Tommy's family to return him to 'normalcy', as well as the inner psychological journey undergone by the title character. Once cured, Tommy sets up a cult-like organization with himself at its head, and he attains great power only to have it taken away. The end result is his own spiritual enlightenment.

In today's entertainment culture this plot may not sound all that risqué, but when it was released in 1969 there were many who felt that the entire scenario was far too relentlessly dark. The themes of child abuse, religious manipulation and spirituality were new territory for rock music. Some of these criticisms were made quite vocally, but they were countered by an equal number of people who celebrated this new form of artistic expression, dubbing it 'rock opera'. In terms of records sales for The Who Tommy was a smash, and remained on the charts for 126 weeks.

'Tommy' gave Townshend a release for the spiritual topics related to his tutelage under Meher Baba that felt he needed to write music about. The entire production was scored for the orchestra, and then later brought to the silver screen in 1975 as a film starring the lead singer of the group, Roger Daltrey. The movie was a critical and commercial success, and Daltrey was also instrumental in bringing 'Tommy' to Broadway in the early 90's. This rock opera continues to be regarded as an important part of rock and roll's maturation process and a harbinger of the concept albums which would flood record stores in the 1970's. is the mystical rehearsal studio for rockers DEMON TWEAK. Listen as they prepare for battle with the evil trickster Loki by playing home brewed classic rock direct from Ragnarok. Also read articles on your favorite classic rock band written by resident historian VIRGIL THE STORYTELLER.

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