This shall complete our discussion of Tommy, the seminal record album by The Who from early in 1969. We had an excellent discussion last week, and hope to have an equally good, if not even better one tonight. I was particularly interested that there was a range of thoughts about it, from some who just hated it to those who just loved it. That is fine. That is just personal taste.
I should go on record to say that my mum liked Overture. She was pretty reserved about music other than the Swing Era kind, since she came of age then, but allowed to me that she really liked the French horn. I was pretty dumb at the time that we were listening to, on the radio, one of the most important bands that ever existed.
With no more ado, here is the second disk (the third side) of Tommy. Please comment profusely.
The first song on the third side was Do You Think It's Alright?, a piece by Townshend. It was sung by Pete and Roger, asking if it were OK to leave Tommy with Uncle Ernie. They finally decided that it was. Bad parents! As I said in the first installment, the motion picture reversed the roles of the personae. Actually, Entwistle was much more dark than Moon. It just looked better in the movie for Moon to be Uncle Ernie.
Here is the studio version:
Here is Pete's demo, just the first half minute of the embed that I found. The bulk is from the album, so ignore it until we get to the next cut. This is a wonderful piece, with a rare double track of Pete singing.
Here is it from the Isle of Wight. Excellent sound and good video.
The music is just wonderful, even if under half a minute. Next comes Uncle Ernie, the actual title being Fiddle About, but almost everyone calls it Uncle Ernie, written by Entwistle, in his own dark way. He also played the trombone and sang. Here is the studio version:
I am told, but have no verifiable information to back it, that Pete asked John to write a song about child abuse. The only reason that I mention this is that many years later Townshend became the target of a probe by UK and Interpol in a child pornography ring, because he, by his own admission, used his valid credit card to access some. His story was that he was doing research. The authorities bought most of it, because he was never imprisoned for the act. I make no value judgment: I just report that Pete seems to have an interest in this subject, and I have no idea what his motives are.
Oh, my! I just found this audio version, from their concert at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, TX, 19760316. I was THERE! I heard, it I saw it, I experienced it! The quality is not that good, but I actually was there to observe. I wish that I had not had the flu and running 105 degrees at the time, but wild horses could not have kept me away.
Note that this was AFTER the motion picture, so Keith sang. Entwistle was better for this one.
The next song is probably the most well remembered one from Tommy, Pinball Wizard. My personal feeling is that it is one of the weaker ones, but that is just me. I prefer the chord progression at the beginning to the bulk of the song, but have to admit that it was great for radio. Pete just did not know how to end it well. Here is the studio version:
Well, I take it back about being weak. This is one of Townshend's best acoustic pieces. Eldest Son can play the acoustic part, and tells me that it is very tiring in a physical way because of how fast the picking and the fretting is. I still would prefer a better ending other than a fadeout.
This have been caught live often. Here are a couple of videos:
This one is from Woodstock, a very nice performance:
This one, from the Isle of Wight, is even better:
Daltrey was at his best, and Pete's voice was also top notch. Lots of video for Moon, but much too little for John. It looks like, in the very few glimpses of him, that he was wearing his skeleton suit. I went back an watched this one twice, and sure enough, he is wearing that. The things that I do to be accurate here! LOL!
There is a bit of confusion about Pinball Wizard. Many folks think that the words go "I thought I was the valley table king, but actually they go I thought I was the Bally table king...", with Bally being the prime manufacturer of pinball tables at the time. I guess that is a Brit thing.
The next song is the very brief There's a Doctor, again by Townshend. I find it noteworthy because of the extremely good chorale work by the band, all of them. Here is the studio version:
I could not find a video, but here is the live version from the wonderful Live at Leeds extended CD:
Next comes the seminal Go to the Mirror, one of my favorite Who songs. Just listen to the power chords that Pete plays, and the great singing by Daltrey. This is the studio version:
I really LOVE this song. It sort of explains me, as well: "What is happening in his head? Oooooh, I wish I knew, I wish I knew."
So do I. I have NEVER been able to figure out myself, FOR myself. If you have any ideas, please comment on them.
Oh, my, again! I just found this one, and NEVER had heard it before. It is Pete's demonstration recording for the band. Now do you know why this series is a labor of love?
I STILL do not know who I am.
I have not posted any numbers for the ill fated motion picture, but the one with Jack Nicholson singing the song is just too rich to omit. Here it is, and am sorry that I could not find a clean piece. This the best that I could do:
The next number is Tommy can you Hear Me?. I like this song very much, and especially like the bass that John plays, the "bump um a bump um a bump" bass. This is another excellent example of their chorale work, and another piece of Townshend's wonderful acoustic work.
There is the studio version:
Here is the one from Tanglewood. Nice shots of Moon and Entwistle!
This is sort of the transition from the history of Tommy to his evolution. I do not fully understand what Townshend meant, but have a pretty good idea. I suspect that we have all gone through this in one sense or another.
Next comes Smash the Mirror, Tommy's change to being a fully self aware person. Let us listen to the live version.
Now here is the extremely good Tanglewood version, and Daltrey's voice is recovered:
This is HARD rock! The Who rule!
The last song from the third side is Sensation, sung by Townshend. This song is really quite good, and has Entwistle playing French horn and a rather rare example of Townshend playing piano. The number is the transition for Tommy from being unaware, to aware, to megalomaniacal, which in my opinion was the entire idea behind Tommy. This is the studio version, and listen to Moon drumming!
Here is a much later live view, but Pete's voice was still strong. Kenny Jones was drumming by that time, and they were so overproduced that a gaggle of other musicians were baking them. Still, it is a good live take.
Here is Townshend's demonstration recording for it. Even though he sang it on the album, you can feel the lack of "Whoness" in it, because the others contributed so much.
I tried to find the Tanglewood version, but it is now deleted.
The first song on the forth side is only 13 seconds long, so I shall include only the studio version. Daltrey sings Miracle Cure, aka Extra, Extra, Read all about It. It is just a filler.
After that is Sally Simpson, a song that in my opinion is much less appreciated than it should be. On the original, Daltrey was just perfect, and there was LOTS of piano by Townshend. Here is the studio version:
This is just wonderful! All acoustic by Townshend, Daltrey's voice just perfect, and a wonderful word picture of an event. I know that lots of folks think that it a trivial song, but I view it as one of Townshend's best pieces. The vocal chorale work is also outstanding!
It looks like all of the Tanglewood pieces have been deleted from You Tube. I hope that it was not because of me. Here is Pete's demo:
The version from the motion picture is worthless. They added new lines and sort of debased the entire thing. I shall not embed it, but interestingly Pete sang most of the old words, with Roger the new ones just for the movie.
Now the album gets difficult to understand, and I think that was the desire that Townshend had for it in the first place. I'm Free is one of their very best songs, but extremely difficult to decode. All aspects of the music were perfect here, but it very difficult to understand. Here is the studio version:
Here is the version from the Isle of Wight. Daltry's voice was just perfect, and there are some good views of Moon.
Here is Pete's demo. He is actually one hell of a good drummer! This might be the best example of how his songs got "Whovanized"
The next number is Welcome, aka Tommy's Holiday Camp. Often attributed to Moon, Townshend actually wrote it, but it was the only surviving piece on the album that Moon sang solo. There are two things about this piece, other than Moon singing it. First, it is one of the very rare recordings of Townshend playing the banjo (extra tips for anyone who can give the names of the two other recordings), and it also has Townshend playing Hammond organ again. Here is the studio version:
I could not find a live one, but here it is from the motion picture, which I do not like very much:
You have to love Keith, though. The best rock and roll drummer who ever lived.
I just found another video with him in it. Enjoy!
Now we are down to finale. We're Not Gonna Take It is just about as good as it gets. Before I embed Townshend's commentary about social commentary, I shall bore you with mine.
I think that Tommy nailed the popular culture in the UK at the time. The Beatles were unstoppable, but they just quit, just like Tommy did. In the US, we were fighting a winless war, and in 1974 or so, we just quit. Now we in the US are fighting three or four ones, and we just NEED TO QUIT! We can not save everyone, and Tommy found out that quickly.
This is actually a very good lesson about what is, and what is NOT possible. Tommy could not be the messiah, because he was just a man. The United States can not save the world, because we are just a nation. Only by people working together, over the globe, can we save lives and this planet. I really think that this was what Townshend meant. Call me silly if you want to do so, but the underlying premise of Tommy is that ONE PERSON can not save us. It takes ALL of us to do it.
Now, here is the studio version of We're Not Gonna Take It! Please enjoy.
Tommy got pretty much rejected, and just, like the song, sort of faded away. I would have preferred a bot more closure to the work, but I did not write it.
Here is Townshend's demo version. The use of organ is extremely interesting, and I like it. I am beginning to like these demo versions more and more. It begins with his demo of Tommy's Holiday Camp. After hearing that demo, I think that it might be Townshend singing on the studio version. What say you?
Here is one Tanglewood version that has not been blocked. Note John's punched up bass.
Finally, here is the Isle of Wight festival version. I like it very much. It looks like Pete is playing his Gretch and John a Fender. Of course, Keith was playing Premier drums. Not their iconic dress as well. Pete in his white jump suit, John in his skeleton suit, Roger in fringe, and Keith in a tee shirt. What can I say?
I hope that you have enjoyed this look back on the second part of Tommy. I think that one of takeaways from this series it the The Who were an outstanding live band. They fed off of their audiences and returned a lot more energy than they did on many of their studio pieces.
I look forward to any discussion that you might want to have in the comments. Thanks for reading and listening! Next week we shall take up a non musical topic just to keep things from getting into a rut.