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An Album You Must Own: Tommy

posted Mar 25, 2011, 9:52 PM by Golden Knight

By Julian Vischer


            Tommy was the first rock album I ever listened to. I remember years ago listening to the album first recognizing the beautiful guitar licks and later growing to understand the masterfully written lyrics and storyline. Tommy, The Who’s first concept album, remains one of my favorite albums of all time.

            The plot of Tommy follows the protagonist Tommy, born in 1921. His father was a soldier off at war, and he was presumed dead when Tommy was young. His mother soon had an affair with another man, but Tommy’s father returned alive. Catching his wife and her lover in the middle of committing their adulterous sin, he shot the lover. To cover up the deed, Tommy’s parents tell Tommy, the only witness, that, “You didn’t see it, you didn’t hear it, and you won’t say nothing to no one ever in your life.” Tommy takes their advice and completely shuts himself off from the world, living as a deaf, dumb, and blind boy for the rest of his childhood. Finally, his mother cures Tommy, and he becomes a spiritual leader after completing his “journey to enlightenment”.

            The “Overture” starts the record off with the booming trumpet tune that repeats throughout the album. There is a different feeling about Tommy than about the Who’s other albums. For example, instead of booming, powerful electric riffs, guitarist Pete Townsend plays acoustically most of the time. The electric guitar is used only at vital or climactic points in the album. The top songs in the album include “Pinball Wizard”, “Acid Queen”, “Tommy Can You Hear Me?”, “Smash the Mirror”, and “I’m Free”. These songs encompass all the fantastic qualities of the band. Keith Moon shows off his freakishly impeccable drumming skills in “Smash the Mirror” and “The Acid Queen”. Lead singer Roger Daltry’s voice changes from a booming operatic sound in “Pinball Wizard” to the lighter, melodic sound in “Tommy Can You hear Me?”.

           The album has a beautiful rhythm all the way through along with a wide range of emotions that mix together perfectly through the vocals, guitar work, and beat. It includes a new, softer side of The Who all while keeping the vigor and power that they are so well known for. Tommy is one of the best conceptual albums of all time. It remains an icon of The Who and a model for the growth in progressive rock. Tommy helped define the rock of the era and is a founding father of all rock operas.