Album Six: The Who “Tommy”

Album Six: The Who "Tommy"

As the youngest child in my family, I was accustomed to following in the footsteps of my two older sisters and being influenced by what my parents and sisters did.  They each served up a variety of music for my fledgling musical palette, and I devoured what they offered me.  My oldest sister favored groups, such as Journey, The Babys, and Styx, and my middle sister gravitated toward The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and Andy Gibb.  From my mom, I came to know the music of John Denver, Neil Diamond, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.  Then, there was my dad’s music.

My dad’s music has had the greatest impact on my own musical tastes and interests, and some bands and albums are closely associated with him.  In our living room stood a stereo console that was the size of a loveseat, and I used to wait in eager anticipation for the moment when my dad would lift up the lid to reveal the turntable and drop the needle on one of the records from his collection.  The sounds of Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, and Joe Cocker would fill the room with music, as did The Who, especially one album in particular.

Although released in 1969, Tommy was still a favorite around our house in the mid-1970s.  This rock opera was loud and powerful, and I was inexplicably drawn to it, even though I was oblivious to the mature subject matter until years later.  At my young age, I had a very innocent and simplistic take on the storyline.  I honestly thought Tommy was just a boy who liked to play pinball and that he went to a fun summer camp.  I had no idea that his Cousin Kevin and Uncle Ernie were abusive, and the traumatic event that led to him being rendered temporarily deaf, blind, and mute was totally lost on me.  I thought it was so cool that Tommy even knew a queen.  Ah, youth; ignorance is bliss!

Back then and even now, Christmas, Pinball Wizard, Sensation, and I’m Free were some of my favorite songs.  I loved this album so much that, unbeknownst to my parents, I took it to school, a Catholic grade school nonetheless, for a music themed show-n-tell.  I was disappointed and confused when our second grade teacher did not choose me to share this album with the rest of the class, and I dejectedly took the album back home and replaced it among the other records.  I can only imagine what the teacher thought!

Once I fully understood the storyline, I grew to love this album even more.  It is a complex story told through incredible lyrics and arrangements.  It speaks to the genius of Pete Townsend as a composer and musician, and it is brought to life by his vocals and those of Roger Daltrey, with John Entwistle and the incomparable Keith Moon backing them up.

My family has shared more than their favorite music with me over the years, but music and the memories it evokes is a special gift indeed.  Rock on!

That’s another story . . .

Categories: That's Another Story

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