The Who – Tommy
The Who, a band synonymous with one of Britain’s most famous subcultures, The Mods. Composed of Pete Townshend, Roger Daltery, John ‘The Ox’ Entwistle and Keith ‘Moon the Loon’, the band and their music have impacted generations of musicians and listeners, making themselves fundamental to British music and culture.
With eleven studio albums and fifty-eight singles, predominantly released in the 60s and 70s, The Who are part of a catalogue of iconic bands that helped to lay the foundations of modern music as we now know it. And as well as helping to establish rock and pop music in its best known form, The Who were also pioneers of “the album” and notably the rock opera.
Tommy, although not the first rock opera, is regarded by many as one of the first and by a long shot one of the most influential. Telling the story of a deaf and blind boy (who sure plays a mean Pinball), Townshend’s lyrics and soundscape bring a continuous tale, undoubtedly inspiring many legendary albums to come by extraordinary artists such as Pink Floyd with The Wall, and Green Day’s American Idiot.
Opening Tommy is Overture, traditionally an instrumental operatic introduction, here as a predominantly instrumental track that brings snippets of the most recognised songs from the album - including See Me, Feel Me, Amazing Journey and of course, Pinball Wizard. Sticking to the traditional operatic routes with its introduction, The Who place huge emphasis on their intentions to modernise a historically essential art form, making it accessible and approachable to a new generation.
In addition to this, as well as holding a running theme and each song adding a piece to the puzzle, each individual track even holds up when isolated. This for me is what takes Tommy to the next level. Not only is this a well thought out and rounded package, but it also brings anthemic singles that are now British music staples.
As well as the overall structure of the album being incredibly polished, the physical presentation of the album too is a work of art. From the instantly recognisable cover, to the impressive gatefold sleeve, to the lyric booklet with yet more impressive imagery to help guide the tale of Tommy, the whole piece is truly magnificent.
But of course, the only way to truly appreciate the whole package is in its originally intended vinyl form. Of course, digitally you still get the music and the artwork, or with a CD you get liner notes too, but for me there is nothing quite like the whole shebang. Being able to hold that twelve inches of plastic, watching it spin at 33 1⁄3 revolutions per minute, flicking through that booklet, with the stunning cover positioned perfectly to add the final dimension to the album.
So, if you fancy a jump back in time to 1969 to learn the story of Tommy, pop into the Exeter Oxfam Music & Art shop before it goes, as at £24.99 it’s not going to be round for long. (As a heads up, My Generation, Led Zeppelin II and Dark Side of the Moon have all found themselves enter and leave the shop fairly swiftly recently, so don’t hang about!)