Revisiting The Who’s timeless masterpiece “Tommy”, a perfect example of Rock music as an art form

Released in 1969, the influential album introduced the concept of Opera to Rock music

Revisiting The Who’s timeless masterpiece “Tommy”, a perfect example of Rock music as an art form

The tale of the deaf, dumb and blind boy by Pete Townshend, turned into one of Rock’s most groundbreaking albums of all time. Released on May 23, 1969, “Tommy”, to many, it’s The Who’s definitive masterpiece. An album that inspired and influenced many musicians that would come to prominence during the 1970’s, such as Queen’s Freddie Mercury. The album opens with a broad overture that includes themes that will appear later in the album, this is something that back then was specifically related to one musical style, opera, and the concept, dates back to at least the 17th century, The Who, fearlessly introduced it into Rock music, statement that came to be known as ‘rock opera’. The double album features a flawless selection of fine songs mostly composed by Townshend, that varies between the fusion with classical music and hard rock. The line up of the songs are made so they can tell the story of Tommy and the characters starring in this Rock Opera tale, such as the cousin Kevin and the Acid Queen. It provided for The Who strong classics such as “Pinball Wizard”, “I’m Free” and “Christmas”, two absolute Rock classics. And then there is also one of the album’s signature songs (or parts, depends on how you see it is the single release title but not listed as an actual song on the album), “See Me, Feel Me”, that the band performed at the 1969 Woodstock Festival as the sun rose leading Entwistle to joke that, “God was our lighting man”. “Tommy” it’s the album that in a way frees The Who from their early Mod sound and the late 1960’s Psychedelic Rock. However, somehow, “Tommy” was able to absorb all those previous influences, but it became something else, and also led the band into their 1970’s pastiche of Progressive Rock and Hard Rock. The Pete Townshend Opera-Rock had two other main releases through different versions, the 1972 Philharmonic version, by the London Symphony Orchestra featuring The Who and notable guests such as Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart and Sandy Denny among many others, and the soundtrack for the 1975 movie, “Tommy”, featuring different musical arrangements and guest vocalists and musicians such as Tina Turner, Elton John and Eric Clapton. In 1970, The Who played most of the “Tommy” songs live at the Isle Of Wight Festival, it resulted in one of the best Rock live albums of all time, released 26 years later, in 1996.
A timeless masterpiece, “Tommy”, it’s one of those rare albums that you can enjoy listening to several times, it remains as a perfect example of Rock music as an art form.

All tracks were written by Pete Townshend, except where noted

Side 1
01 “Overture”
02 “It’s a Boy”
03 “1921”
04 “Amazing Journey”
05 “Sparks”
06 “The Hawker” (Sonny Boy Williamson)

Side 2
07 “Christmas”
08 “Cousin Kevin” (John Entwistle)
09 “The Acid Queen”
10 “Underture”

Side 3
11 “Do You Think It’s Alright?”
12 “Fiddle About” (Entwistle)
13 “Pinball Wizard”
14 “There’s a Doctor”
15 “Go to the Mirror!”
16 “Tommy Can You Hear Me?”
17 “Smash the Mirror”
18 “Sensation”

Side 4
19 “Miracle Cure”
20 “Sally Simpson”
21 “I’m Free”
22 “Welcome”
23 “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” (Keith Moon)
24 “We’re Not Gonna Take It”

Roger Daltrey: vocals, harmonica
Pete Townshend: vocals, guitar, keyboards
John Entwistle: bass, french horn, vocals
Keith Moon: drums

Produced by:Kit Lambert
Recorded during:19 September 1968 – 7 March 1969 at IBC Studios, London, England
Released:23 May 1969
Label: Decca/MCA/Track Records

“Pinball Wizard”/”Dogs (Part Two)” Released: 7 March 1969
“I’m Free”/”We’re Not Gonna Take It” Released: July 1969
“See Me, Feel Me”/”Overture from Tommy” Released: October 1970

Strongest tracks:
“1921”, “Amazing Journey”, “Christmas”, “The Acid Queen”, “Pinball Wizard”, “I’m Free”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”

Watch The Who performing “See Me, Feel Me”, live at The Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970

Listen to the album “Tommy” on Spotify

Watch more 1960’s related videos


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David Warren

David Warren is editor and author for Pop Expresso reach out at

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