YEAR RELEASED: 1969
CHART ACTION: #4 US, #2 UK
SINGLES: Pinball Wizard (#19 US, #4 UK), I’m Free (#37 US), See Me Feel Me (#12 US)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: We’re Not Gonna Take It (which also includes See Me Feel Me), The Acid Queen
LINEUP: Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Not the first rock opera, but the first one people really noticed.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: For better or worse, the Who’s Tommy popularized the concept album and ‘rock opera’. Lauded by the press and fans, performed in whole (well…not exactly whole), staged, and filmed, Tommy mostly succeeds in long form storytelling. Even the cover of “Eyesight to the Blind” and two sinister John Entwistle tunes fold in seamlessly to the narrative.
The performances on the studio album are tight and among the Who’s best. The only real embellishment to the core quartet was Entwistle’s work on French horn, Datlrey’s harmonica, and some keyboards played by Townshend. The four of them collaborated and pulled this off, and then pulled it off on stage.
There are many classic songs on this, of course, and the climactic cut presages the anthems the Who would put forward in the early 70’s.
However…it’s not perfect. A few songs seem forced for length or shoehorned in to move the story, and “Underture” is probably filler to make up the sides. It’s long, unnecessary, and I exiled it. The drawback to many concept albums are making a cohesive narrative with no filler or padding and this is no different.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: For live performances, four tracks (“Cousin Kevin”, “Underture”, “Sensation”, and “Welcome”) were excluded. The more contemporary performances reinstate “Cousin Kevin” and “Sensation”.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes a couple of outtake tracks are on a couple of editions.
GRADE: A-: Worthy of praise, worthy of its historical significance, but it has flaws.