“Rock’n’roll is about the moment you become alone, the moment when you grow up, the moment when you leave home,” The Who‘s Tommy composer Pete Townshend declares. “You have no protection anymore. Your family haven’t disowned you, and you haven’t disowned your family, but from then on you’re an adult. You will never ever NOT be alone again. Rock’n’roll is about that moment.”Though released within weeks of each other in 1969, The Who’s Tommy was among the last great iconic albums of the Sixties decade while Chicago Transit Authority may have been, in effect, the first major album of the Seventies. From this distant vantage point fifty years on, it is difficult for me to imagine Tommy existing anywhere BUT the latter half of the Sixties, and perhaps that is one reason why it was like wrestling a python whenever the rock opera was mounted multiple times in various formats practically every decade since, with mixed results. No subsequent version has ever come close to the breathtaking original Pete Townshend composed for The Who fifty years ago.
Like peeling back layer after layer of an onion, the many stages of The Who‘s Tommy conception, gestation, and birth as the first successful rock opera are further revealed, it seems, every time Tommy composer Pete Townshend cleans out a storage closet. Additional demos and even a complete 1969 London Wembley arena performance of the entire Tommy have now resurfaced on the deluxe/ super deluxe editions, and Townshend joins me In the Studio to present this rock sonogram of The Who Tommy while still in the womb in part one. –Redbeard