Tommy is an international sensation that would propel the British rock band, The Who into unknown ages of fame where their music would become a household name. The story that would grip audiences without their knowledge was the story of Tommy, a loose adaptation on a deaf, dumb, and blind boy who would become the catalyst for The Who’s strange, but prolific journey. Tommy was a record that stood out for its ability to take on the serious topics of molestation, drug abuse, and religion in a subtle manner that is entertaining, but also taps into an emotional chord as well.
There is an aura behind Tommy that The Who uses as an inviting shine with the immaculate production and instrumentation behind the record, that has this glossed feel behind it. There is however, a large amount of grime underneath the surface of Tommy that is incredibly personal. It begins with the sullen, but iconic “Overture” that uses Roger Daltrey to explain the synopsis and origins of the character Tommy, “Captain Walker didn’t come home, his unborn child will never know him. Believe him missing with a number of men, don’t expect to see him again”. It sets a tone behind the fluttering guitar that Pete Townshend plays masterfully, but also John Entwistle on the bass and French horn is simply stunning at points of Tommy. Then of course there is Keith Moon who plays the percussion like a lead guitar and does a beautiful job of never overpowering the music, but creating these fills and rhythm sections where the percussion is a magnificent display of the adaptability behind Keith Moon.
Tommy does best as a visual album that is listened to as a sensory adventure that takes the entirety of the sound into account. The tracks that create these moments are “Amazing Journey”, “Sparks”, or “1921” that throws these vivid images of the the near angelic instrumentation that works incredibly well for The Who as they take these leaps and bounds into territory of a “Rock Opera”. The band is seemingly without fear though, as Tommy is an overall striking album that displays adversity through sound and can create these moments of bliss behind the music. Especially as the second act of the double record brings itself to the foreground where tracks like, “Pinball Wizard”, “Go To The Mirror!”, or even “Sally Simpson” that can capture the raw emotional attachment that The Who had throughout the recording of Tommy.
The Who showed a new potential with Tommy that was able to illustrate a sense of real story behind their music. This was the first album that catapulted them into certified double platinum in America, there was also for the most part, positive critical reception to the album. The Who looked like it had finally been able to find a profound success and voice of their own that stood them among the greats for sound and production. There are moments in Tommy that outshine for the way that it can bury itself deep in the emotional pull of the listener and create an atmosphere where creativity can flow perfectly.
The final moments of Tommy are just as intriguing as the opening; it never feels like it is forced or overpowering. The emotion of the album washes over the listener and stands tall for the way it can combine incredible sound with the storyboard. The Who’s Tommy still holds up today and is a piece of history with a backstory.