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The Who Tommy album cover
4.01 | 659 ratings | 36 reviews | 42% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Overture (5:20)
2. It's A Boy (0:38)
3. 1921 (2:48)
4. Amazing Journey (5:04)
5. Sparks (2:05)
6. Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker) (2:14)
7. Christmas (4:32)
8. Cousin Kevin (4:06)
9. The Acid Queen (3:34)
10. Underture (10:04)
11. Do You Think It's Alright? (0:24)
12. Fiddle About (1:31)
13. Pinball Wizard (3:01)
14. There's A Doctor (0:23)
15. Go To The Mirror! (3:47)
16. Tommy Can You Hear Me? (1:35)
17. Smash The Mirror (1:34)
18. Sensation (2:28)
19. Miracle Cure (0:12)
20. Sally Simpson (4:10)
21. I'm Free (2:39)
22. Welcome (4:32)
23. Tommy's Holiday Camp (0:57)
24. We're Not Gonna Take It (3:28)
25. See Me, Feel Me/ Listening To You* [Deluxe Edition: Split From Track 24] (3:41)

Total Time 1:14:47

Bonus Disc from Polydor (2003) & Geffen (2004) Deluxe Editions:
- Out-Takes And Demos -
2.1 I Was (0:16)
2.2 Cristmas (Out-Take 3) (4:43)
2.3 Cousin Kevin Model Child (1:25)
2.4 Young Man Blues (Version 1) (2:50)
2.5 Tommy Can You Hear Me? (Alt. Version) (1:58)
2.6 Trying To Get Through (2:51)
2.7 Sally Simpson (Out-Takes) (4:09)
2.8 Miss Simpson (4:17)
2.9 Welcome (Take 2) (3:44)
2.10 Tommy's Holiday Camp (Band's Version) (1:06)
2.11 We're Not Gonna Take It (Alt. Version) (6:08)
2.12 Dogs - Part 2 (2:26)
- Stereo Only Demos -
2.13 It's A Boy (0:43)
2.14 Amazing Journey (3:41)
2.15 Christmas (1:55)
2.16 Do You Think It's Alright? (0:28)
2.17 Pinball Wizard (3:44)

Total Time 46:57

Line-up / Musicians

- Roger Daltrey / lead & backing (3) vocals, harmonica (?)
- Pete Townshend / guitars, piano, organ, lead/co-lead vocals (1-3,8,9,11,13-15,18,19,23,24), banjo (23)
- John Entwistle / bass, French horn, trumpet, flugelhorn, lead/co-lead vocals (8,12-15,19,24)
- Keith Moon / drums, timpani, gong, tambourine, vocals (?)

- Paul Townshend (Pete's brother) / backing vocals
- Simon Townshend (Pete's brother) / backing vocals

Releases information

ArtWork: Mike McInnerney (illustration & design) with Barrie Meller (photo)

2xLP Track Record - 613 013/4 (1969, UK)

2xCD Polydor - 800 077-2 (1983, UK)
CD MCA Records ‎- UDCD 533 (1990, US) Original Master Recording series
CD MCA Records ‎- MCAD-10801 (1993, US) Remastered by Erick Labson
CD MCA Records ‎- MCAD-11417 (1996, US) Remastered by Bob Ludwig
CD Polydor - 531 043-2 (1996, Europe) Remastered by Bob Ludwig, remixed by Jon Astley
CD Polydor - 3747403 (2013, Europe) Remastered by Jon Astley

2xSACDh Polydor ‎- 9861011 (2003, Europe) Remastered & remixed by Pete Townshend in stereo and 5.1 + bonus disc w/ Outtakes & Demos.
2xDVD-Audio Geffen Records ‎- B0002103-19 (2004, US) Remastered & remixed by Pete Townshend in Adv. Resolution Stereo, Adv. Resolution 5.1, and Dolby DSS + bonus disc w/ Outtakes & Demos.

Thanks to ClassicRocker for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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THE WHO Tommy ratings distribution

(659 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(42%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE WHO Tommy reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Guillermo
4 stars I listened to this album for the first time in the early seventies. This was the first album that I heard from The Who. I still consider it as a very good album, but I like more other albums by The Who, which in my opinion are better ("Who`s Next", "Quadrophenia" and "Who Are You"). Still, I consider this album as a pioneering effort and I also think that the very new concept of a "Rock Opera" was "Progressive" in meaning, and the music in this album influenced Prog Rock, because it opened the minds of the Rock musicians to try to create long musical works based in stories.

I have to say that the story of this Rock Opera is not very good and sometimes it is very cruel. I don`t like these cruel parts of the story (Tommy being raped and other things) and I also find the idea of Tommy becoming a "Messiah" at the end of the story a bit naive and pompous. I also saw the film which was done in 1974-75, and I liked the story less than before. But the music and the arrangements are very good and very influential for the Prog Rock music style. I think that the story of "Quadrophenia" is much better in content, more realistic and moving, and more universal in meaning. But musically "Tommy" is still very interesting.

The most interesting part of this album are the songs which were originally included in the Side One of the old L.P. (tracks 1 to 6 of Disc One of the C.D.). The "Overture" is a great starting point, with John Entwistle playing brass instruments and very good playing by Keith Moon, John Entwistle and Pete Townshend. The acoustic guitar instrumental section shows that Townshend is a very good guitarist. The track called "1921" is one of my favourites from this album, with very good vocal arrangements by the band and interesting guitars by Townshend. "Amazing Journey" is a "psychedelic journey" in my opinion, with good bass by Entwistle. "Sparks " is an abridged version of "Underture". "Eyesight to the Blind" is a song composed by a Blues singer called Sonny Boy Williamson, played with banjo by Townshed.

Side Two of the old L.P. has the songs "Christmas", " Cousin Kevin" , "The Acid Queen" and "Underture". Townshend asked Entwistle to write the "cruel" songs of this album, so he composed "Cousin Kevin" and "Fiddle About", both songs being good musically but with the lyrics which reflect these cruel moments of the story. "Christmas" has good vocal harmonies. "Acid Queen", sung by Townshend is one of the best songs of the album. "Underture" is a very interesting instrumental song, on which Keith Moon plays drums and percussion very well.

From the rest of the songs in this album, the best in my opinion are "Pinball Wizard", "Sensation", "Sally Simpson", "I`m Free" and "We are Not Gonna Take It". Being a Rock Opera, some themes of previous songs are repeated in other songs. This was a smart idea by Tonwshend, who I consider as a very influential Rock musician.

As I wrote before, this album is very good and very influential. It also has a very good production, very good arrangements and performances of the songs by the members of the band. The vocal arrangements in particular are very good. This album shows a quality of being produced with a lot of care. The credit is for the band and also for The Who`s then manager/producer, the late Kit Lambert, who encouraged Townshend to compose this Rock Opera.

As a curious thing, I mention that the song "Tommy`s Holiday Camp" is credited as being composed by Keith Moon. The song was really composed by Townshend, but it was credited as composed by Moon because Townshend didn`t know how to continue the story until Moon gave him the idea to compose this song.

Review by ZowieZiggy
5 stars "Tommy"... Aaaaaaaaargh....

I have expressed my feelings about this album already when I was reviewing "The Wall" and "The Lamb". I had of course no idea that I would be able to review it on this site. Because "Tommy" is a concept album, a rock opera but by no means prog of course.

Anyway, IMO it tops any other concept album of the rock history, being "Ziggy Stardust" or "The Lamb".

I am just nuts about it. I discovered it in 1970 with the single "See Me, Feel Me" bw "Overture" while I got to know the whole album in 1971. Their fantastic live appearence at Woodstock was also a a shock for the little boy I was (I was born in 1959).

I can listen to "Tommy" almost endlessly, I love it so much, I am always so thrilled to hear it again and again. Even after so many (over 35) years of spinning it.

As most concept albums, it is best to listen to it in its integrality altough some "transistion" songs do not really belong to the best of it.

If you except these, almost each song is a very good one. And a bunch of them are superb like "Overture", "1921", "Amazing Journey", "Sparks", "Eyesight to the Blind", "Christmas" (Tommy can you hear me ?), "Cousin Kevin", "The Acid Queen"...

Oups, I am mentioning almost each track... well I guess you got the idea. Almost the whole of "Tommy" it is just outstanding.

The music theme just drives me mad and is repeated countless times throughout the whole work (and was already featured on earlier Who albums). I can't help. The story is also extraordinary well constructed.

Everyone knows of course about the poor Tommy being tortured by his awful cousin Kevin, brutalized by his Uncle Ernie and suffering the loss of his father who was wounded during WWII and killed by Uncle Ernie several years later when he came back home but discovered that Uncle Ernie had taken his place. The acid Queen being fetched to cure him, but with no success. Being deaf, dumb and blind he will turn into a Pinball Wizard...

All those characters being immortalized respectively by Keith Moon, Tina turner and Elton John in the great movie released in 1975.

"Underture" is a very long instrumental piece of music and was ignored from their live representations of this work. It is a very psyche oriented piece of music clocking at over nine minutes.

So, if The who are not well known by some of you, just give "Tommy" a try, go to the mirror and smash it. And even if after Tommy's recovery, the crowd will tell him that they're not going to take it, I'm sure sure you will.

My fave out of this fabulous album is the closing number "We're not gonna take it". Fabulous, really : "Listening to you, I get the music. Gazing at you, I get the heat. Following you, I climb the mountains. I get excitement at your feet." And that's exactly what you'll get.

Because "Tommy" is just so great. A monument of rock music. Five stars of course.

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars Maybe The Who's most over-rated album, Tommy was indeed a bit of a revolution back then. Even if they weren't the first group to do a "rock opera" (The Pretty Things were first) or a concept album (rock opera are a pompous title for concept albums), one of the first things that comes to mind is how Tommy hasn't aged well. Aside from the superb artwork (maybe the group's best in that regard), this album is plagued by the (aspiring) ambitions of Townsend, craving for recognition (which he will get) and wishing for My Generation's now-embarrassing lyrics to disappear from the public's collective mind. And the album's great critical reception (not to mention its commercial success) will push Townsend to become even more ambitious and create better works in the future on the capital built from his Tommy experiences.

No need to do a rundown of the album's tracks, but aside from Overture and Underture (both good but not fantastic, and showing Townsend's will to become as bombastic as Emerson), I am no fan of the first vinyl disc, as it sounds just too messy, with too many ideas tried and not expanded. The second vinyl disc fares better (IMHO), but it is also loaded with so many classics that it cannot do otherwise, really!! Aside Pinball Wizard and Can You Hear Me, the album's peak comes at the dramatic finale with We're Not Gonna Take It/See Me Feel Me/ Listening To You closer, which no progheads should escape liking, even if it has been overplayed throughout the years.

Indeed, Tommy is a historical album, but it is also dated. I may sound harsh towards this album, but I really think that this album overshadows somewhat their other works (Quadrophenia is so much better as a "rock opera"), and Ken Russell's movie (which I think is very noisy and close to atrocious) has unduly served the album's cause, to the point that the movie's Pinball Wizard with Elton John's singing gets the preference in terms of airplay, which I find a shame. If anything, Tommy served a bit as training ground for Townsend's future projects, Lifehouse (that will never see the light of day, but the remains are in Who's Next) and Quadrophenia (which will also get a movie treatment, this time serving the cause much better). So as a blueprint, it is not nearly as essential as many classic rockers would have you believe!

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Not my favourite Who album by any means but without doubt one of the most influential double album " Soundtracks' ever to be released. Many people identified with this album growing up and still I hear it fondly mentioned to or reffered to as a bygone classic. The film became something of a cult classic too. Elton John in high heels doing the pinball wizard.....! to name just one episode. Musically the material is great with Peter Townsend IMHO being the mastermind behind Tommy. This became a benchmark work that many bands to follow desperately tried to match. Few succeeded. Whilst films were not always done of similar offerings from other Groups . THE LLDOB' by Genesis and ' The Wall ' ( film duly released) by The Pink Floyd. These much more superior in my opinion. Tommy though was and still is to this day an essential classic.
Review by Chicapah
5 stars One of the many attractions that drew Pete Townsend to opera was the basic concept of telling an involved story, something that rock & roll doesn't do very often. Beneath opera's flamboyant, pompous surfaces there were usually compelling emotional and/or psychological human issues being dealt with and Pete was inspired to bring that characteristic into the topsy-turvy 60s where society and culture was in a state of upheaval and constant change. Progressive rock has a much broader definition than just being interesting, inventive music. It can also be a combination of intelligent lyrics and meaningful compositions that urge the listener to think. To consider philosophical questions that ask who we are and why we act like we do. In that respect "Tommy" is much, much more than a novelty or an aberration. It is the essence of progressive music.

There are many who consider the music on this album dated. My response is that even a 21st century power trio can only fill up so much space and, if anything, the still-evolving production and engineering techniques of that era are more at fault than the instrumentation. Keep in mind that they didn't bring in outside musicians or utilize any kind of orchestration to enhance the sound so it was pretty much the threesome of Pete, Keith and John with Roger adding only vocals. You'll hear some rudimentary piano and organ as well as Entwistle's strategically placed horns here and there but, for the most part, it's drums, bass and guitar. In that respect the music they created here is quite impressive and courageously bold.

The six-minute "Overture" may be the tightest track of all as it ebbs and flows across the various themes of the work seamlessly. At the tail end Townsend presents a concise prelude for the story and they segue into Tommy's birth with "It's A Boy!" This blessed event is soon marred as the innocent and perfectly normal baby's parents, in a blatant act of self-preservation where they drum into the youngster that "You Didn't Hear It," screw the kid up royally and send him tumbling into a catatonic state. We're still discovering the long-term effects of Mom & Dad's direct influence in an infant's development so this is just the first of many deep insights this tale will be bringing to light. But any pity you might feel dissipates during "Amazing Journey" as you learn that the impaired Tommy hasn't been abandoned by his creator. Rather, He opens up his adolescent mind to places "where minds can't usually go" and allows each sensation to manifest as fantastic music in his consciousness. The moving instrumental "Sparks" is a fitting representation of the energy and light-filled world Tommy inhabits. Meanwhile, his Ma and Pa live in denial and, predictably, turn to the church to fix their son in "Eyesight to the Blind (The Hawker)." Cleverly borrowing words from bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson, Pete clearly displays how clueless the orthodox clergy is in this case as they piously spout their usual archaic and ineffective dogma. All the parents get for their trouble is a truckload of guilt right at "Christmas" as the priest has basically told them that since little Tommy "doesn't know who Jesus was or what praying is" that he's on the highway to Hell. Well, that's just great. (I personally prefer to believe in a God that is better and more understanding of circumstance than all of us put together.)

Entwistle's "Cousin Kevin" is as relevant today as it was in 1969. In the light of our tragic school shootings the cruel behavior of bullies (once viewed as being harmless) has become something experts suspect is a whole lot more destructive and malevolent than believed. Gee, ya think? Tommy's desperate folks next turn to "The Acid Queen" for a chemical solution but all that does is send their son flying into a private psychedelic wonderland demonstrated musically by the "Underture" where the band turns in a stellar and dynamic performance. By this time the frustrated parental units briefly discuss "Do You Think It's Alright?" to leave the poor child with a trusted but eccentric family member in John's "Fiddle About." Again he was way before his time here because we have since discovered that most instances of molestation come from those closest to us. And if not Uncle Ernie then even the aforementioned priest can't be ruled out anymore. Just when things seem darkest for our naive protagonist he discovers his savant-like gift for arcade games and becomes a bonafide "Pinball Wizard," thus attracting the attention of the media. The irony of this tune is that, after years of the group trying to manufacture a hit single in America, this unlikely but brilliant deep album cut broke into the top 20 in the US and remains an icon of classic rock radio to this day. Go figure.

Anyway, Mommy and Daddy hear that "There's A Doctor I've Found" (a shrink) who can cure the boy but, after multiple tests and diagnoses, the doc tells them that the problem lies solely in his subconscious, that there's really nothing wrong with him at all and perhaps he just needs to "Go To The Mirror." Here you learn that Tommy, too, yearns to break out of his prison and silently pleads for someone to "see me, feel me, touch me, heal me." This leads up to Tommy's dramatic epiphany when his mother, in a fit of anger expressed during the emotional "Tommy Can You Hear Me," smashes the mirror that the boy (figuratively) is trapped in. Of course, the media gets whipped into a frenzy and swoops in to cover the "Miracle Cure," giving the guy a messianic complex and leading him to believe the hype he sings about in "Sensation." Now that he's a phenomenon despite the fact that he hasn't done anything but wake up he is elevated to teen idol status and attracts the likes of lonely girls like "Sally Simpson" who ends up being a scarred victim of love. Tommy just goes with the flow and makes the simple truth of "I'm Free" the catchphrase of his ministry. Much like Forrest Gump would do a few decades later, he attracts a following of unsolicited but "Welcome" lost souls who want what he seems to have. This necessitates the founding of "Tommy's Holiday Camp" by his opportunistic family that advertises it as a place where "the holiday's forever" while disguising the obligatory tithe hidden in the fine print.

Then comes the "catch" of Tommy's path to glory. He informs his enamored followers that in order to achieve enlightenment they must first leave all their pleasures (smoke, drink, partying, etc.) at the gate and prepare themselves for some serious self- examination and hard work. This is summarily rejected. Tommy further makes the mistake of preaching that his experiential route to righteousness is the one and only path to spiritual freedom and, therefore, insists that his flock submit to being struck deaf, dumb and blind in front of a pinball machine and go through what he suffered. (Do not most "prophets" ask the same from their devotees?) Well, that brings the grand soiree to a screeching halt. The crowd that once adored him shouts derisively that "We're Not Gonna Take It" because they just wanted to feel good about themselves. They "don't want no religion" and "they never did and never will." They almost crucify him but figure he's not worth the trouble and decide, instead, to "forget you better still." Tommy doesn't even get to be a martyr but the happy ending is that he is now truly free to become "The Seeker" of fulfillment on his own terms.

I've gone a long way to say that, like any great work of art, "Tommy" is open to personal interpretation and that's the beauty of this rock opera. To this day I can't listen to it without finding another angle to ponder about society or my own psyche. If you've only heard a few tracks here and there without ever experiencing it as a whole then I can state with certainty that you have an "Amazing Journey" to go on. Don't miss out on this cornerstone of progressive rock and roll.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Still I can remember the day I sneaked into the theater back in 1976 to see "Tommy" (It was rated older than 16 and I was 12 if not 11), I was simply impressed with the music despite seeing guys like Jack Nicholson and Oliver reed trying to sing, so I decided to buy the LP, not being a Prog album, it was easy to find in Peruvian stores and really it was totally a different thing, what a great album!

The concept is very forced, a kid who turns blind deaf and dumb because he sees his mother lover murdered by his father supposedly dead in war and was told "You didn't see I, you didn't hear, you will say nothing", but it's a deep critic to British society, religious sects very common in the 70's and in general for the hippy culture searching for enlightenment, something comprehensible coming from a Mod band, part of a movement that represented a violent alternative contradictory with the spiritual pacifist hippies ideology.

The music goes from Classic Rock (mainly) to pop and some almost Prog Related moments, but it's done so carefully that people keep the interest almost four decades after it's release.

But, lets search the tracks:

"Overture" is a brilliant opening for the album, really adventurous for the late 60's and one of the proggiest moments, the band hits the listener with everything they have and introduce us to the world of Tommy with a theme that will be repeated constantly along the whole album. At the end the band describes the moment when Tommy's father Captain walker is declared missing in action and supposedly dead.

"It's a Boy" describes the birth of supposedly orphan Tommy but acts as an introduction to the main song of the album "1921", a nice ballad that combines a good melody with a lot of the strength you can expect from THE WHO, and it's also the key of the album, "Tommy" sees the murder of his mother's lover by his father being told to forget everything he saw or heard, important for the concept but not musically in the level of the opener (In the movie the new husband of his mother is the one who kills Captain Walker creating confusion in the fans).

"Amazing Journey" describes Tommy's condition and it's a magnificent track, has absolutely everything, real Rock, a bit of Pop and even some Prog related moments, the vocals are outstanding and Keith Moon is simply out of his world.

"Sparks" is one of the weakest tracks, noisy, loud, but lacks of coherence and melody, pure futile rhythm with some effects, nothing more, some reminiscences of the Psychedelic era that was dying, they try to blend different sections of the album but never convinces, again the drumming saves the night.

"Eyesight to the Blind" is a weird song (That was weirdest in the movie with Eric Clapton and Arthur Brown as Marilyn Monroe priests), excellent guitar performance by Pete and impeccable bass by the always sober John Entwistle, an acid critic to the cults of the 60's.

"Christmas" is a very good track with an excellent vocal with the whole the band making the chorus, it's the first track in which the key word pinball is mentioned. And also when the famous "See me Feel me." phrase is heard.

"Cousin Kevin" tells the story of the bully relative to whom Tommy is trusted and physically abuses and mocks about him, great Rock moments and again nice vocal work.

"The Acid Queen" is a hell of a Rock track, the band is absolutely perfect specially Pete who is absolutely strong, the family searches for a cure to the boy in drugs that led him to a psychedelic experience which is developed in the extraordinaire Psyche/Proto Prog track "Underture" which is by far my favorite of the album, not a single weak second, everything is perfect, guitars, drums, keys, bass and chorus.

"Do you Think is alright" announces another key track "Fiddle About" where the perverted Uncle Ernie sexually abuses of the blind deaf and dumb kid, musically is weak but it's an important part of the concept.

"Pinball Wizard" is a Pop track made famous with an even poppier version by Elton John, in which Tommy defeats the Pinball champion despite his limitations, of course if you ask ten persons for the song they remember from Tommy, mine will mention this track, simple, well elaborate with some good guitar moments but nothing special.

Townshend writes in the album notes: "Oh my God, this is awful, the most clumsy piece of writing I ever done, so if the author thinks that you can understand my dislike for this track.

"There's a Doctor" is just a link to "Smash the Mirror", a very good track that summarizes the situation, Tommy has no physical problem all is an inner block, as a fact he gazes at his image reflected in a mirror, musically is another strong track that combines various elements, including Tommy's silent cry for help.

"Tommy Can you Here Me" is a country oriented track that narrates the desperation of the mother, just a link to "Smash the Mirror" that tells about the moment in which Tommy's mother breaks the mirror that the boy constantly looks and that leads to his cure, a harder track with strong mood and a n ice vocal work, a bit repetitive but still good.

In "Sensation" Tommy is cured and this lead to a cry of freedom, excellent Rock track, the cured kid is starting to be worshiped by people in search of a new Messiah, again the critic of Townshend for spiritual chase through cults that appeared everywhere.

"Miracle Cure" is another link to "Sally Simpson" a strange song about a worshipper that abandons the faith of his father to follow the new Messiah and of course as in any sect discovers the fraud behind it and gets wounded. Solid song with great piano performance, some kind of poppier Rock but still very good.

Now, "I'm Free" is something you might expect of THE WHO, a great Rock track with killer bass and drums, an excellent melody from start to end, incredibly the movie version is amazingly superior, but despite this anecdotic situation one of the best tracks.

"Welcome" is a soft ballad with a nice flamenco section in which Tommy starts to completely accept his role of savior, great harmonica.

"Tommy's Holyday Camp" is also a link to the climax of the album, "We're not Gonna take It" (In the deluxe edition is divided in two tracks being the second one "See Me Feel Me/Listening to You") that describes the rise and fall of the hallucinated Tommy, from God to human almost killed by the mob not ready to accept his conditions to be part of the holy people and finds the real enlightenment, really a great set of tracks that deserves to be listened, one of the most iconic moments in the history of Rock.

Despite the few weak moments in a Classic Rock web site I would rate this album with 5 solid stars, but this is a Prog site and this album can't be essential for a PROGRESSIVE ROCK...But Who cares?

5 stars

Review by mystic fred
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A Christmas Story...

Christmas eve 1969 (or was it 1970..?).....after spending most of the afternoon in the pub I had something left of my first Christmas bonus and found myself in the local record shop. Browsing through the racks i came across TOMMY, and, though I was somewhat inebriated and it was something I wouldn't have normally bought as I'd never seen much publicity for the album, it was the WHO and the money was burning a hole in my pocket. Double albums weren't cheap in those days and on the way home I pondered on the wisdom of my purchase..... I needn't have worried, the music was fantastic... I'd never heard any thing like it before. My elder brother scorned it, saying it doesn't sound like the Who, but I couldn't stop playing it for months (...years!).

There seemed to be two camps of Who fans (not so much nowadays), Before Tommy and After Tommy. The Who, verging on bankruptcy, came up with this work of genius which took them up into the stratosphere, leaving mod bands like the Small faces, the Kinks and the Move far behind, filling football stadiums and setting themselves among the greats like Led Zeppelin and the Stones. The immediacy and freshness of the original recording comes through brilliantly on stereo SACD, the original recording was great but this is like hearing it for the first time. Keith's drums and cymbals come crashing through the speakers like never before, John's bass, Pete's guitar parts and Roger's vocals are so clear you can literally almost see them.

The latest SACD 5.1 / stereo version is a highly recommended recording, 5.1 surround SACD is definately the way forward if they keep to this standard of remastering. The music is timeless - the story of a boy shocked into deaf dumb and blindness by his father's murder on returning from the war, and the various experiences and "cures" he is subjected to before turning the tables and fooling everybody - this Christmas, like every Christmas since, will again see me digging out my copy of TOMMY and going through the whole story, very much like most Christmas stories, really...

Review by Sinusoid
2 stars I've never been that fond of the concepts behind concept albums; TOMMY is no exception. Most of the story specifics flew over my head even if the main idea of Tommy not being able to speak, see or hear did make some sense. The Sally Simpson, Cousin Kevin and the holiday camp seem tacked on to compensate for time.

The over care for the story and lyrical content hurts the music. I will admit that there is some instrumental work here (moreso than THE WALL), and ''Sparks'' is one of The Who's better showcasings, but ''Underture'' loses its purpose about five minutes in becoming more annoyingly repetitive than musically stimulating. Short filler tracks like ''Miracle Cure'' are also here for story fluff, not so much for musical purposes, although I have a perverse liking of ''Tommy's Holiday Camp'' (so bad it's good).

Most people are familiar with ''Pinball Wizard'', and it is one of the few musical highlights as it very much sounds like The Who. However, most of the music is too sedated. Daltrey's voice sounds terribly pathetic on ''I'm Free'' in contrast to his performance for the movie, and Entwistle and Moon don't really give us anything to remember. The story is so grandiose that the music just trips over itself again and again, and that's not really that pleasant.

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I'm a big fan of the Who and when they put out albums like this, is it any wonder? Possibly the best rock opera ever, Tommy leaves a little something for fans of all types. The give the folksy fans some folk-sounding music, they give the prog fans a concept album, and they give the mainstream rock fans Pinball Wizard. The concept is layed out perfectly, (Pete Townshend had an uncanny ability to do this) and when you are a prog fan that is very important. Roger Daultrey's singing is of course great and I can't get over Moon the Loon's incredible drumming. I would give this a five-star rating but hesitate in doing so because it's not really prog. My favorite tracks are Pinball Wizard of course, the Acid Queen, and See Me, Feel Me.
Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album was actually my introduction to the Who and it was my favorite for quite some time. Eventually when I got my hands on Quadrophenia I, completely undeserving, forgot about Tommy.

The CD-version of this album is all on one CD which can feel quite misleading for a 1969-release that was originally released as a double album. This is definitely a double album and in a way I feel that it's unfair that Quadrophenia got a much better treatment although its length is merely 7 minutes longer, with a total running time of 81:33. The music is a lot more acoustic than that featured on the later the Who albums, but don't let its gentle tones mislead since it definitely rocks more than what the Who was know for at the time.

This rock opera features many highlights where some of my personal favorites features consist mainly of the instrumental interludes like Overture and the 10 minute long Undertune. Although it is Go To The Mirror! that delivers the essential performance and rounds up this great work of art with a bang!

I should definitely try to revisit Tommy some time soon! Could that be my New Years resolution or is it too late for that already? None the less, it's an excellent addition to any prog rock collection.

***** star songs: Overture (5:20) Sparks (2:05) Christmas (4:32) Underture (10:04) Go To The Mirror! (3:47) I'm Free (2:39) We're Not Gonna Take It (3:28)

**** star songs: It's A Boy (0:38) 1921 (2:48) Amazing Journey (5:04) Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker) (2:14) Cousin Kevin (4:06) Do You Think It's Alright? (0:24) Fiddle About (1:31) Pinball Wizard (3:01) There's A Doctor (0:23) Tommy Can You Hear Me? (1:35) Smash The Mirror (1:34) Sensation (2:28) Miracle Cure (0:12) Sally Simpson (4:10) Welcome (4:32) Tommy's Holiday Camp (0:57)

*** star songs: The Acid Queen (3:34)

Review by Tarcisio Moura
5 stars One of the most important works of the twentieth century. Period. Like The Beatle´s Sargeant Pepper, Tommy opened up a whole new door for rock musicians to express their music beyond all frontiers that existed thus far. Liking Who´s music or not, Tommy success was very important to all matters progressive. And its presence alone justifies their inclusion in theis site. It´s unbelieveable how far this R&B has gone since their start just a few years before. Literally they went form a singles band to one of the most groundbreaking bands in a timespan that only the Beatles seemed to be on par with. Thanks largely to the genius of guitarrist and songwriter Pete Townshend. Still, Tommy is clearly a band efford and it surpassed all that seemed to be the group´s former limitations. They were one of the great bands of the 60´s and flollowing works like Who´s Next and Quadrophenia would only confirm all this.

Not that Tommy was the first rock opera; Townshend acknowleges the Pretty Things S.F,. Sorrow not only as the first but also as a source of inspiration. However, it was Tommy´s worldwide success that made it all possible for other bands to try out and do something more than just put a bunch of songs in an album. Its importance for rock music in general, and prog ins particular, cannot be underestimated.

But What the music itself? I remember I was always a fan of Tommy. Even if the plot was quite confusing. Besides, at 15 and not being the greatest language student, my english was not good enough to understand the lyrics anyway. But the music stood the test of time. I used to hear the album over and over again. I almost wore it out. Not that the production was great. In fact, it took me more than 20 years to finally grab a CD )MCA´s 1996 release) that had a remastering good enough to justify all the band´s wonderful perfomances. Before that much of the group´s musical perfoamnce were buried under the rather ameuterish work of former manager Kit Lambert. The album has of course its ups and downs, but as a whole it worked quite well, and I still listen to it without skiping a single track. More acoustic then most of Who´s works, it is still full of their special energy and power. They were one of kind.

Conclusion: Tommy was bigger than the sum of its parts and started, for good or worst, a whole new era in the rock history. So it is a classic and I cannot rate it any less. Five stars for this essentialmasterpiece of progresive rock. Hail, the Who!

Review by colorofmoney91
2 stars The Who is another band that I've never been a huge fan of, but decided that I needed to view their music objectively and try to form an honest opinion of. "Tommy" is a very important album in the history of progressive rock and rock music in general. Very ambitious, but always comes across as feeling bland.

Besides never being a fan of The Who, I've never been a fan of the rock opera format for two reasons: nothing really stands out and they are usually too pretentious to flow well. That is very much the feeling I have for "Tommy", and the only stand out track for me is the opening overture. My friends have told me that they think it's ridiculous that I can't enjoy this album at all. I've definitely tried enjoying it, and I listen to it about once every year just to be sure of my verdict. The only element of the Who that I have actually always enjoyed was the bass playing of John Entwistle, which stands out regardless of which Who album you're listening to. Unfortunately, that isn't enough for me to reward this landmark album with more than two stars.

Review by friso
5 stars The Who - Tommy (1969)

Extra, extra - read all about it! Extra!

I recently re-discovered this brilliant rock-opera, the only album of The Who I've seriously listened to. When thinking of it, my father bought it when I was about thirteen years old and I turned out to be one of the few albums we both really liked. I would even go as far as picking up this cd from the living room when my parents weren't at home. Years later I own a double vinyl with all the great artwork in very good shape.

When I looked at the page with reviews of 'Tommy' I was first pretty amazed by the fact this album was recorded and released in 1969. Such an amazing sound for such an early album! The Who had been a famous hard rock outfit (with and excellent live reputation!) before this album and 'Tommy' is the result of a dramatic change of direction. To be precisely: the album is almost completely played without electric guitars, it's a double album (rare at the time), it's a concept album with a chronological story in which all songs are important AND the band suddenly has progressive rock instrumental passages/compositions. For those who haven't heard the album; the idea of an acoustic rock opera might not sound to thrilling, but I can ensure the album really rock's and The Who seriously progressed the way the acoustic guitar can be used for progressive purposes. Furthermore, the sometimes orchestral influenced drums of Keith Moon are a real treat.

Now, I can tell a lot about the great instrumentation and progressive parts, but the the real attraction of The Who's Tommy remains the memorable song-writing and the perfect vocal performances. Here you'll find a list of 25 tracks with at least 15 extremely good and sticky songs you'll never forget. To name a few; 1921, Amazing Journey, Cousin Kevin, Acid Queen, Pinball Wizard, Sensations.. the list goes on and on. Among the other 10 tracks there are some great instrumental's and short songs that are essential for the story-line. Underture is brilliant 10-minute instrumental track with very progressive and bombastic composition. Harmonically challenging I might add.

The story-line itself is quite interesting, but it's a bit overshadowed by the amazing song- writing of the individual songs. The story is about a boy (Tommy) who sees his father (who just came home from the war) killing a man who slept with his mother. After that he is told; 'You didn't see it, you didn't hear it, you won't tell nothing it all - what you know is the truth'. After that Tommy becomes (apparently) deaf, dumb and blind and he looses interest in everything, except for looking in his the mirror and playing pinball (in which he becomes the best of the world). His family keeps on searching for a magical cure, but in the mean while his wicked uncle Earney and his bulleying cousin Kevin do some pretty 'strange things'. Will he be cured? Better listen to the album yourself!

Conclusion. This is truly a phenomenal record for it's time of release and great leap forward for the concept album in general. Many progressive bands would be influenced by this original and memorable take on the concept named rock-opera. I love the sound and compositions of the acoustic guitars & drums, the great song-writing and the overall result (which in case of a concept album can be much more then the sum of it's individual parts). Though this album is rightfully listed as proto-prog, I must admit I think this album has full- blown innovative mind-set and it's played by masterful musicians. It's a masterpiece for our beloved genre, so I can't resist giving it the full reward.

Review by thehallway
4 stars Apart from being historically significant as the first "rock opera" (or at least the first good one), Tommy is a beautiful and personal album that stands the test of time as being warm and easy to listen to. This is really quite rare for gargantuan, conceptual double-albums, and although some songs don't stand well on their own or are simply boring, the majority of the record is a consistent pleasure to listen to.

Pete Townshend is famous for his mastery of chords, and certainly every composition on Tommy is based around chord sequences, rather than the riffs that other guitarists of the time were known for. And they are great chord sequences, probably on a similar level to a band like Yes; innovative yet simple-sounding, and always optimistic (there are very few songs in a minor key on Tommy). The songs are built around Townshend's guitar of course, and both the acoustic and electric get put in the spotlight (not really any solos though). Piano, organ and some horn from John Entwistle get put to good use as well, although the sound of the album isn't particularly varied. I think the echoey drums and vocals get a bit tiring by the fourth side, but it's the storyline that keeps you interested.

Deaf, dumb and blind until the end, Tommy is not the most interesting character in the world, and most of the album just describes his growing up.... but in such as fantastic and dramatic way. They get it even better in the film version. The philosophical and spiritual undertones of the piece are perhaps cliché now, but certainly add weight to the story and carry a message, even if it's an obvious or immature message. I see ties with Plato's cave and the misleading nature of our senses. What a surprise when the boy without senses reaches enlightenment through pinball! It's good fun if nothing else, and although Townshend has dissed the song Pinball Wizard in the past, I find it to be a necessary and relevant part of the album's charming, loving nature (which so many subsequent rock operas have lacked).

Overall, Tommy is kind of unique in being such a literal, yet totally economic album. There's no big orchestrations (in 1969 anyway....) and everything sounds rather modest and thought-out. The vocal harmonies are a dream on tracks like 'Cousin Kevin' and 'We're Not Gonna Take It'! Of course, the album has received all the love it deserves, so there is little more to add.... other than, don't expect anything too drastically progressive. I think that's obvious anyway.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Although it was tremendously important in promoting the idea of the narrative concept album, I have to say that Tommy hasn't weathered the test of time quite as well as some of its contemporaries. It's not that the lyrics are goofy - though it's hard to deny that they are, seeing how they're so steeped in Pete Townshend's interpretation of Meher Baba's teachings that if you don't agree with their premises they are quite likely to grate - so much that we now have better performances of the material available to us that tease out the power of the songs so much better. Both Live At Leeds and Live At the Isle of Wight Festival contain performances of the Tommy album as the Who delivered them on their 1970 tours, in which the orchestration was jettisoned and they tackled the material - sometimes quite complex, as on the instrumental Sparks - as a standard "power trio plus vocalist" lineup. And brought the house down.

As it is, the album itself is a bit too mawkish, a bit too soft, a bit too unsure of itself, when what you want out of the whole is a howling, rocking, loud as hell monster. It's good, I won't deny that, but it's been outshone since both by other artists and by the Who themselves, leaving it upstage and sounding not particularly fresh. Sure, it was revolutionary when it came out, but I'm not listening to it when it came out, I'm listening to it *now*, and that's the basis on which I review albums. There are seminal, revolutionary albums from the early prog days that still sound as bold and new today as they did when they came out. Tommy isn't one of them.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars One of a kind.

The magnum opus for The Who is perhaps the best thing that they have done; a genuine rock opera that the band were able to perform live on many occasions. It became a movie which is my first taste of the music and I owned the soundtrack on double vinyl. However the soundtrack was very different and I was used to hearing the guest musicians singing the songs over the years such as Tina Turner's energetic 'Acid Queen' and Elton John's stunning version of 'Pinball Wizard'. So this original version of "Tommy" took some getting used to but I certainly feel this is a masterpiece album; it was ground breaking, very daring in its time and still the music stands the test of time.

The concept album was not a regular thing in 1969 but "Tommy" made sense, the story is coherent and each song adds to the drama and tension of the tale of the deaf, dumb and blind kid who is abused as a child by his lascivious Cousin Kevin who tortures Tommy like a plaything for amusement. Tommy had seen the murder of his mother's lover at the hands of his father and was ordered to forget everything he saw or heard, thus turning him into the deaf, dumb and blind kid. His parents want to cure him and try the church but the religious dogma is futile. Next they take him to the Acid Queen who introduces him to LSD but cannot cure him. Tommy lost his father wounded during World War II killed by his Uncle Ernie. Some years later Tommy discovered that Uncle Ernie had taken his father's place. Tommy is subject to more brutal abuse, of a sexual nature, by Uncle Ernie, and then he runs to the pinball parlour and his super sharp reflexes turn him to a champion player, becoming famous for it. He meets all sorts of quacks who claim to be able to cure him and becomes a celebrity. His mother knows as much as the doctor that Tommy has to smash the mirror to be cured; a mirror is where he holds all his emotions inside and he needs to release these to be free. But he is held back due to his celebrity status. He draws girls to him with this new found status and meets one special girl. Sally Simpson becomes his young lover, and she visits him on stage in one of his messianic performances but "she and Tommy were worlds apart". Sally leaves him after this event, seeing his delusional persona, and marries a rock musician she met in California. Tommy is freed from his helpless state by a miracle cure. He becomes a false messiah and many follow him expecting some kind of answer. The only thing that Tommy can offer is to begin his own Holiday Camp. Here his followers follow him like some cult figure. He gains full awareness in an epiphany of his purpose in life. He tells his followers in order to follow him they must give up all their material possessions and pleasures including smoking, drinking, or debauchery. The followers are not happy with this and Tommy adds fuel to the fire by suggesting they become like he was, deaf, dumb and blind in a sense so they can experience the trauma of this and thus find enlightenment and be free spiritually. He even goes overboard and requests they have their own pinball machine. But the crowd rebel and shout 'We're not gonna take it'. They "don't want no religion" and "never did and never will. We forsake you, gonna rape you, let's forget you better still." They attempt to crucify him in a blatant allegory of the fate of Christ, but they decide to leave him so he will not become a martyr. Tommy is left to think over the events. He is finally free from his followers and the media once and for all.

The Who are really an incredible band world famous for this album and many infectious singles. Roger Daltrey is the legendary lead vocalist who can also play a mean harmonica. Guitar hero Pete Townshend is a brilliant guitarist and also plays keyboards. The bass of John Entwistle keeps rhythm and he is backed by drummer extraordinaire Keith Moon. On this album the guest vocalists are none other than Simon Townshend as Pete's brother, and Paul Townshend plays the other brother.

The music tends to grow on the listener and there are some very progressive moments such as the instrumentals namely 'Amazing Journey' and 'Sparks'. 'Underture' is one of the most progressive tracks with a duration of 10 minutes and featuring many time sig changes and arrangements with a powerful performance by Keith Moon. The melodies are original and fresh, such as 'Cousin Kevin' "I'm the school bully, the classroom cheat", and the rocking 'The Acid Queen' "guaranteed to tear your soul apart" The lyrics are very witty and poetically bordering on genius. There are powerful phrases on this album but none more powerful than the oft repeated phrase, "see me, feel me, touch me, heal me" and "Listening to you, I get the music, Gazing at you, I get the heat, Following you, I climb the mountains, I get excitement at your feet."

'Pinball Wizard' is a great song by any standards, though Townsend hated it. The rhythm is still fantastic, and Daltrey is a great vocalist, with Townsend's stirring lead riffing. Another highlight is the bright guitar driven trilogy of 'Go To The Mirror!', the acoustic harmonised 'Tommy Can You Hear Me?' and the raucous bluesy 'Smash The Mirror'. I like the way it ends "Do you hear or fear or do I smash the mirror", the mirror cracks and an ominous drone is heard.

'Sensation' sounds like The Beach Boys but it is okay as a diversion. 'Sally Simpson' is a great melodic song with very important plot exposition. The finale is well known and as progressive as The Who get, 'We're Not Gonna Take It. And 'See Me, Feel Me/ Listening To You' are great ways to end the opera.

It is a happy uplifting end though features some dark shadowy events that were daring at the time and still pack a punch. The album is famous for all the aforementioned reasons and deserves masterpiece status; there will never be another like it and The Who have lived in Tommy's shadow ever since.

Review by LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Ambitious and breaking new ground, but not a masterpiece.

Tommy finds The Who exploring longer, more connected and more ambitious themes in a double album concept that never really takes off and soars. It often aims for the grandeur and bombast of classic progressive rock, but end up feeling slightly powerless, flaccid (and in my view a bit silly) in the process.

And it is charming and pompous pseudo-classical motifs, horns and epic organ that together with the regular rock instrumentation confidently set the album in motion (this will be back now and then, like some other themes ' it's a concept after all). Restless, kinetic and energetic drumming from Moon as per usual, as he dances around the kit. The atmosphere is mostly warm, bright and kind of frisky, with a steady confidence and a perpetual drive forwards - an air of childlike and optimistic expectancy, if you will. And even in the decidedly darker songs, the tone doesn't really change all that much. Despite some valiant tries, a little more bite and a little more menace wouldn't hurt. Even if this makes the album very cohesive, it dynamically cripples Tommy. Part of this problem can also be found in the instrumentation and vocal arrangements. There is a lot of acoustic guitar on the album, and even if it's mostly playing riffs or being strummed it brings with itself a certain airiness. The electric guitar is often rather polite and unobtrusive, rather than gritty and rocking the way I expect it to be in the hands of Townshend. And then there's the orderly, pleasant background melodiousness of the keys. And the beautiful, tidy and harmonic vocal arrangements. All in all, it is a pleasant psych-infused 60s rock sound, that doesn't really rise to the occasion. This is especially clear since it is a proper rock opera, where songs are composed rather theatrically. Music tend to follow text on Tommy; in sudden exclamations, choruses, different characters, moods and so on. And for some reason, I think the style of the music is overstretched in such a compositional framework. It's just too light, pretty, stilted and square. It limits the available space for expression. And since Tommy goes on for a while, you have time to notice this disparity on several occasions. It's just a bit unwieldy and rarely as intriguing as it is made out to be.

But...and this is a big one, there are enough of great songs here to make most fans of classic rock very happy indeed. Especially the more naked and emotional pieces that doesn't feel as meticulously constructed are highlights. When Daltrey is allowed to live out the emotions properly and with a bit of zing and bite from Townshend and Entwistle, the magic seeps back in, both in rock form and atmosphere. And some of the tighter, more prog-and-psych-infused songs really do work in a feisty, non-apologetic and joyfully adventurous classic rock way. They sound as fresh, unique and vibrant today as they must have sounded in 1969.

3 stars.


Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An album with many songs that conjure up many experiences from my middle school years as our school's music teacher used this album (as well as many other contemporary releases) to help teach his subject. The film version that came out a few years later somewhat tinged or diluted the Tommy experience for me as the visuals defined the songs in ways to which I had been hitherto clueless (my brain does not process words sung from lyrics into meaning; I have to study the printed versions in order to 'hear' the words--but even that does not guarantee that I'll find understanding or meaning in the words.) But there is undeniably some beautiful, magical music contained in this rock opera--not the least of which is the famous "Pinball Wizard" (10/10) with my first realization of what a stunningly talented guitar player Pete Townsend was. Yet, there are enough boring or misses on this album to help me back off from claiming "masterpiece" for the whole. Many masterful songs, a wonderfully adventurous project, and some socially relevant messaging, but, like so many of The Who efforts, not always my cup of tea.
Review by siLLy puPPy
3 stars TOMMY is one of those so-called "firsts" that doesn't quite muster up the goods to fall in the category of the "bests." A rather ambitious project by THE WHO that was fairly cutting edge back in 1969 when the music world was in a creative explosion ushering all kinds of firsts like fully developed progressive rock in the form of King Crimson and East Of Eden, totally new genres like heavy metal from the likes of Black Sabbath or brilliant and creative new forms of jazz-fusion from the likes of Miles Davis but unlike their contemporaries THE WHO's first foray into the newly opened possibilities of progressive rock just doesn't seem as competent as all the others. Apparently the album was partially inspired by the teachings of Pete Townsend's spiritual guru Meher Baba who claimed to be an avatar and God in human form (seems like everyone had one after the Beatles went to an ashram in India). The story is about a boy named Tommy who is deaf, dumb and blind and his world as he goes through life. Hailed by critics at the time for being one of the first rock opera's and was in no doubt THE WHO's major breakthrough after a couple psychedelic rock albums firmly planted in the style of the late 1960s.

I have never loved TOMMY nor have I ever hated it. For me this is just one of those historical relics that marks a time in musical history as a milestone of sort but never really able to sustain itself throughout the decades that passed. The story is not a bad concept but what really keeps me from loving this album is how much of the music sounds the same track after track and segments are played way past their point of making the point. The midpoint overture cleverly titled "Underture" is the perfect example of a song that just goes on and on and on offering meager variations and has no ability to sustain my interest. I find this is true of much of this album. There are many individual tracks that are brilliant. I'm quite partial to the hits "Pinball Wizard" and "I'm Free" but there is just too much clunkiness on this album for me to get excited about. Having said all that I do like to throw this on now and again because it does mark a specific time in history and for that reason I do like this album but when I want to hear THE WHO I usually go straight for the much better releases that immediately follow. 3.5 rounded down

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
3 stars While I have been familiar with the music on this album for many years, I never got a copy of it, or any other The Who album for that matter. It's not that I dislike The Who, it's just that I never felt the need to have any of their albums in my collection. My brother in law was giving away some CDs recently before putting them up for sale and this was one of them. So now I have a The Who album in my collection, and if it were to be just one, this would be it.

Originally released in 1969, it can lay claim to being one of the first concept albums,. It has also been hailed as a rock opera. Musically, it is fairly proggy most of the time and for that it is a welcomed addition to my collection.

On to the problems I have with this album...

The incoherent storyline. Tommy is apparently born in 1921 but somehow winds up the 1960's and is still a kid when he would be in his '40's. Either The Who can't do math or they were on some really good drugs. The child molester. Really? Does this actually add anything to the story? The gratuitous acid queen. Really? LSD is a visual experience. Tommy is supposedly blind, or maybe he's just faking it. Like being a kid when he is still in his '40's. The operatic bits. Really? Probably the worst parts of the album musically.

I could have given this album four stars, but have to shave off a point for the stuff mentioned above.

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Before I discourage anyone from giving this album a listen I'd just like to say that it does have some redeeming features, including and limited to a concept addressing many different facets of life and a level of ambition that was revolutionary at its time of release. So bear these in mind all ye who still dare to listen after reading my review.

Tommy is a concept double album rock opera and has been hailed as one of the first and finest thereof. I don't think there's any need for me to give a synopsis of the plot of Tommy's tale as if you listen to any of the songs on this 74 minute monstrosity you will invariably be reminded every other verse of Tommy's ailments, which brings me to the first problem I have with this album. It is not at all subtle and that is a huge pet peeve of mine in concept albums. The concept feels incredibly forced and it doesn't take very long before you being to get very sick of having obvious facts reiterated again and again. Did you know that the kid is deaf, dumb and blind?

"Tedious" describes this album very well and the conspicuous narration is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the album's tedious facets. If one were to take a look at the track listing of the album, they'd see that the band has written a novel of Tolstoy-esque proportions. The album's track listing is muddled and filled with redundancies and filler. Dozens of short (under 2 minute) tracks that fall flat of moving the narrative along are interspersed among stale instrumentals that don't develop. At this point you may be wondering to yourself, "well maybe the instrumental work on some of the tracks is good?" - Oh how I hoped that that were true. "Are the vocals good at least?" - Lifeless and cheesy. "Would the album cover at least look pretty sitting on my shelf?" - Unfortunately they couldn't even pull that off.

If you're ever feeling particularly masochistic, have 74 minutes to kill and have run out of paint to dry or grass to grow, Tommy would be the perfect album for you to listen to. Over 20 back to back, non-emotive spectacles of poor musicianship avail themselves on this overdrawn, megalithic flop. Admittedly there are two songs on the entire album that I can listen to without needing to physical restrain myself from skipping them, the hit "Pinball Wizard", which is more in The Who's classic hard rock vein, and "Miracle Cure", which is short enough that I wouldn't fall asleep before it's finished. In summary, "Tommy" is an incredibly overrated concept album that could have been worked out far more concisely and tolerably in a well-written single album or a one-side suite. Unappealing as it is, Tommy doesn't even deserve two stars as it should not be of much interest to fans of The Who given that there is none of the rowdy, rambunctious rock 'n' roll, or even the slightest hint of upbeat energy characteristic of their sound, on it. One star for an album that should not have come from a band so talented.

Review by jamesbaldwin
5 stars Tommy is a difficult work to evaluate because he made the history of rock music as the first famous rock-opera (not the first in absolute). It's a historical record, in short.

Of course I can say that "The Who" were a band able to move from the rock thug who smashed the guitars in 2-minute songs to orchestral rock music, complete with Overtoure and Underture. then collected in a concept album in opera style. Few bands can boast such a great evolution. And in the early seventies, Townsend, with Quadrophenia, managed to write, record and produce a work that for technical skill surpasses the progressive albums of the same era. So, chapeau to The Who.

Tommy still remains a very good record, naive, orchestral, often acoustic, with some pieces with a limpid and engaging melody, with some "crescendo" full of pathos. The Overture is a great symphonic piece that contains many melodies which will be expressed in the single songs. "It's a Boy", "1921" and "Amazing Journey" are pop pieces embellished with the voice of Daltrey. "Sparks" is an instrumental track with good effort from Townsend and Moon. "Eyesight to the Blind" is maybe the best rocksong of the album. "Christmas" is one of the most engaging melodic song ("See me, Feel me, Touch me, Heel me") of the Lp. Masterpiece. "Cousin Kevin" and "Acid Queen" are good rock pieces and "Undeture" close the first, wonderful disc, ,

The second disc open with two short, interlocutory tracks, but then arrive "Pinball Wizard", another masterpiece, another engaging melody and rhythm. "Go to the Mirror" contains the reprise of the main melody of the album, then there are other two short pieces, and "Sensation", a pop acoustic song (not remarkable). Maybe the third side is the weakest. "Sally Simpson" is not remarkable, instead "I'm Free" is very inspired and well-sung. "Welcome" is very theatral, and even proggy track, then, after another aborted piece, arrives the last song, "We're not Gonna Take It", that is a summary of the whole record.

Despite having a slight decline in the second disc, Tommy remains a great record, and a small (if not that it is big, being double) masterpiece that is a masterpiece as a whole, despite having various weaknesses; in fact, it allows itself to be appreciated for its whole, for how the songs, text and music, flow one after the other.

Vote: 9. Five stars.

Review by Prog Leviathan
3 stars As someone who is familiar with the Who from hearing their handful of hits on classic rock FM, it's a nice surprise to find Tommy, a thoughtfully composed and well played concept album. There's a lot to like here, and I think the reviews here on the Archives speak the truth in that one's enjoyment of this album will depend on taste and biography. For me, Tommy is a mixed experience.

It's at its most enjoyable when the band is playing ambitiously, such as on songs like "Overture," "Underture." These songs have dynamic energy and very skilled delivery. The band sounds great, and it's fun to hear music from the most classic or classic rock era so skillfully played; it's a vintage sound that stands the test of time. For me this is light-years more enjoyable than anything the Beatles ever put out.

I suppose it's not a coincidence for me that my favorite songs are both instrumentals, because I found the story, lyrics, and vocal inflection bland. This is definitely a "rock-opera" album, which is a euphemism for "musical with electric guitars." I do not like musicals, and the amount of storytelling that the Who crams into this album is cumbersome and distracting. The best concept albums allow their concept to drift in and out of the abstract, so that the listener can chose to be all in to the story, or enjoy songs individually without loosing much. You can't do that with Tommy, because every song is narrative.

The rave reviews of this album often have phrases like, "when I first heard this," or, "I remember when," which points strongly towards the high marks on this album coming from nostalgia. I don't have a problem with nostalgia, because it colors much of what we like and dislike, but because I am nostalgia-less when it comes to the Who, my experience listening to Tommy was one that grabbed hold of the great moments, and was left waiting during the downtime. The flow and momentum is too weird to be a straight ahead rock album, but not so well composed to be a true prog-rock album.

An album with that many highs and lows is worth a rock-solid 3 stars. Check it out if you like the Who's "greatest hits," or if you're interested in the development of the prog-rock movement.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Latest members reviews

5 stars THE WHO an unclassifiable group that will launch a major event in the world... the concept just after that of the BEATLES; an album to listen to to understand why we are now talking about progressive rock! Tommy is the fourth studio album, and the first stamped opera-rock. The story of a child vict ... (read more)

Report this review (#2312129) | Posted by alainPP | Sunday, February 2, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "1969 was going to be a good year" Is this album better or worse than 'the Wall' , 'Jesus Christ Superstar', 'The Lamb'' ? I do not care. They all are great. However 'Tommy' influenced them. Funny that a listener can feel the contrast between tragic plot and exhilarating music. I woul ... (read more)

Report this review (#2284619) | Posted by Just Because | Friday, November 29, 2019 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Who's first fully realised rock opera is a proto-prog classic, as we all know, the story of Tommy, a deaf, dumb and blind kid, who plays a mean pinball and becomes a messiah-like figure to his fans. The story addresses sensitive issues including alienation, child abuse and celebrity/fandom wi ... (read more)

Report this review (#1394875) | Posted by jmeadow | Monday, April 6, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Tommy is the credited as the first Rock Opera, and is the beginning of the Who's departure from simple rock and roll into a more Art-rock style. Much of the early mod-rock leanings of the early Who is left behind, and the band find themselves pondering with more complex arrangements, instrumentation ... (read more)

Report this review (#771431) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Tommy" is certainly high in the ranks of great landmark Rock albums. Part fantasy and part based on Pete Townsend's life, there won't be too many writers who could create a work as complex as this and then turn it into a hit as well. As a kid, I would sit and marvel at the guitar and frenetic ... (read more)

Report this review (#484197) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Sunday, July 17, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars (This review covers the original non-deluxe edition of this release). TOMMY deserves all it's praises as a seminal album in the history of rock music. It still seems incredible that this was release in 1969. 42 years ago! There is nothing I have ever found on TOMMY that dissapoints me. No weak ... (read more)

Report this review (#440038) | Posted by mohaveman | Thursday, April 28, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If I'm not mistaken this is the very first rock opera and that in itself makes this album an essential to listen to for prog fans. This is the album that made the Who huge and without this album The Who would have disbanded. The story itself is just genius but unfortunately the music does not alway ... (read more)

Report this review (#354667) | Posted by steppenfloyd | Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Concept Album Part 1 It's not hard to listen to this album, and not just be flushed with just the pure excellence of it. This album is a pure masterpiece, and is a real landmark in music history. This album did have alot of spin offs, including a movie, musical and other werid stuff. ... (read more)

Report this review (#291086) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Monday, July 19, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The Tommy album itself is good, personally it has a very surreal innocence and naivety to it that I do not really enjoy; I prefer the live performances found on Live at Leeds or Live at the Isle of Wight Festival to the music found on this disc. Tommy at times can provide entertainment and susta ... (read more)

Report this review (#206715) | Posted by mr.cub | Thursday, March 12, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I fell in love with Tommy when I was a child. Then, I saw the Ken Russell movie (I love it, really, even if it's too 'overloaded', ah ah), and put again an ear or two (not much) on the album a few years later. I found Tommy not to be that great. Great songs (We're Not Gonna Take It !, Pinball ... (read more)

Report this review (#163552) | Posted by Zardoz | Sunday, March 9, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A very classic masterpiece, maybe not entirely prog, but still insanely amazing. This is also the full realization of Pete Townshend's ideas. He creates a fantasy world into which he throws a young boy, traumatized by viewing his mother engaging in adultery, and withdrawing from the real world by ... (read more)

Report this review (#154637) | Posted by The Ace Face | Friday, December 7, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Heading into 1969, The Who had now traveled a bumpy road which included success and failure. Their previous album, "The Who Sell Out" was delightfully original, and featured a very unique concept. That album's single, "I Can See For Miles", was what really got American eyes on their work. Still t ... (read more)

Report this review (#131581) | Posted by Kyle | Friday, August 3, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Finally the Who are welcomed to ProgArchives! By far the Who's best album, Tommy is a collection of pop/rock tunes that tells the story of a tormented boy who makes himself sense-less (literally)....and finds music, which becomes his passion. And with this philosophy he becomes a preacher of s ... (read more)

Report this review (#130002) | Posted by Anonymous | Monday, July 23, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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