Tommy — The Who

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 02, 2012 7:20 AM

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Tommy, the fourth album by the Who, tells the story of a "deaf, dumb, and blind boy" who becomes the leader of a peculiar religious movement.

Who guitarist Pete Townsend composed almost all of Tommy's 24 tracks; it was the first album to be billed as a rock opera.

Tommy has seen many different incarnations, including operas, orchestral versions, stage versions, and a 1975 film. An early opera production in Seattle included Bette Midler as the Acid Queen. The film features Elton John as the Pinball Wizard, Tina Turner as the Acid Queen, and Eric Clapton as the Preacher.

The inclusion of these musical icons (plus Jack Nicholson; he's not a musician, but he is the man) shows that Tommy is a brilliant musical composition. In 1969, the album peaked at the fourth position on the Billboard chart and at the second position in the United Kingdom.

The album's three singles — "Pinball Wizard," "I'm Free," and "See Me, Feel me" — were all well-received, ranking Nos. 19, 37, and 12 on the Billboard charts, respectively.

But in my opinion, Tommy's real gem isn't even on the 1969 record — it's from the 1975 film.

The track "Eyesight to the Blind" is flawless. The Who's John Entwistle lays down perhaps the best bass riff in history, and Clapton sounds the "creamiest" he ever did in the 1970s.

— by Jordan Montgomery

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