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The Who's Tommy, the first album explicitly billed as a rock opera

Tommy is the first of The Who's two full-scale rock operas (the second being Quadrophenia), and the first musical work explicitly billed as a rock opera. In some older publications it is called Tommy (1914–1984). Released in 1969, the opera was composed by Who guitarist Pete Townshend, with two tracks contributed by Who bassist John Entwistle and one fictitiously attributed to Who drummer Keith Moon, though actually written by Townshend.[1] - Discography - Songs: Tommy's Holiday Camp] An earlier song by blues artist Sonny Boy Williamson II was also incorporated into the opera.

The album was also ranked #90 on VH1's 100 Greatest Albums of Rock & Roll and appears in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. [2] NME named it the 16th on "NME Writers All Time Top 100" in 1974. [3] Q ranked it 9th on their list of "The Music That Changed The World: Part One 1954-1969" in 2004. Music That Changed The World


The opera was written to express how Townshend felt after being taught by Meher Baba and other writings and expressing the enlightenment he believes he received -- "a metaphorical story of different states of consciousness." (Richard Barnes, liner notes from 1996 CD release)


  • Tommy Walker: The protagonist of the story.
  • Captain Walker: Tommy's father.
  • Mrs. Walker: Tommy's mother.
  • The Lover: a romantic partner of Tommy's mother. (Uncle Frank)
  • Uncle Ernie: Tommy's "wicked uncle", a child molester.
  • Cousin Kevin: Tommy's cousin, the "school bully".
  • The Hawker: The leader of a cult religion.
  • Local Lad: The reigning champion of a pinball tournament, until Tommy defeats him and takes the title of "Pinball Wizard".
  • The Acid Queen (AKA "The Gypsy"): A prostitute who deals in hallucinogenic substances and attempts to heal Tommy.
  • The Doctor: A doctor who attempts to heal Tommy and finds out that his disabilities are all in his head.
  • Sally Simpson: One of Tommy's "disciples".

Story in chronological order

  • "Overture"/"It's a Boy" - British Army Captain Walker is reported missing in action during World War I, and is not expected ever to be seen again. Shortly after his wife, Mrs. Walker, receives this news, she gives birth to their son, Tommy.
  • "1921" - Seven years later, Captain Walker returns home and discovers that his wife has found a new lover. Captain Walker confronts his wife and kills the lover. Tommy witnesses this through his mirror. To cover up the crime, Tommy's parents tell Tommy that he didn't see it, didn't hear it, and he will say "nothing to no one ever in [his] life". A traumatised Tommy becomes deaf, dumb, and blind. In the film version, however, this plot point is changed: Captain Walker confronts his wife and is killed by the lover.
  • "Amazing Journey"/"Sparks" - Tommy's subconscious reveals itself to him as a tall stranger dressed in silvery robes with a golden floor-length beard, and the vision sets him on an internal spiritual journey upon which he learns to interpret all physical sensations as music.
  • "Eyesight to the Blind (The Hawker)" - Tommy's parents take him to a church of a cult religion to try to cure him. "Eyesight..." is the cult leader's song.
  • "Christmas" - Tommy's parents, reminded by the advent of a religious time of year, worry that his soul is at risk of damnation, since he is unaware of Jesus or prayer.
  • "Cousin Kevin" - Tommy's parents become complacent and leave him in the care of a babysitter, his cousin Kevin. Kevin takes the opportunity to bully and torture Tommy without fear of anyone finding out. He ultimately gets bored with Tommy's limited reactions.
  • "Acid Queen"/"Underture" - Tommy's parents once again try to cure him, this time by placing him in the care of a woman who tries to coax Tommy into full consciousness with hallucinogenic drugs. "Underture" is an extensive instrumental representing Tommy's experience on acid.
  • "Do You Think It's Alright?"/"Fiddle About" - Tommy is left in the care of his uncle Ernie, an alcoholic sexual deviant who takes the opportunity to abuse Tommy without fear of anyone finding out.
  • "Pinball Wizard" - Tommy is discovered to have a talent for pinball, and quickly defeats the game's tournament champion. This propels Tommy to international celebrity status. "Pinball Wizard" is the reigning champion's song.
  • "There's a Doctor"/"Go to the Mirror" - Tommy's parents find a medical specialist to once more try to understand and cure his symptoms. After numerous tests, they are told that there is nothing medically wrong with him, and that his problems are psychosomatic. However, as they are trying to reach him, Tommy's subconscious is also trying to reach out to them.
  • "Tommy Can You Hear Me?"/"Smash the Mirror" - Tommy's mother continues to try to reach him, and becomes frustrated that he completely ignores her while staring directly at a mirror. Out of this frustration she smashes the mirror.
  • "Sensation"/"Miracle Cure" - The smashing of the mirror snaps Tommy out of his unreceptive state. Tommy's cure becomes a public sensation and he attains guru-like status. Thereafter he assumes a quasi-messianic mantle and tries to lead his fans to an enlightenment similar to his own.
  • "Sally Simpson" - One of Tommy's "'disciples", Sally, is a young reverend's daughter who sneaks out of her home to attend one of Tommy's sermons. She ultimately attempts to touch him, only to be thrown from the stage by security and receives a gash on her face.
  • "I'm Free" - Tommy attempts to spiritually enlighten those that are listening to his sermons. All subsequent versions place this song immediately after "Smash the Mirror" as a direct reaction to his "cure."
  • "Welcome"/"Tommy's Holiday Camp" - Tommy opens his own home to anyone willing to join him, and urges them to bring as many people with them as they can. His house is quickly filled though, so he builds a holiday camp to try to accommodate everybody. Tommy's freaky uncle Ernie is running the holiday camp.
  • "We're Not Gonna Take It" - Tommy demands that his followers blind, deafen and mute themselves in order to truly reach their spiritual height, but the heavy-handedness of his cult and the exploitation of its followers by his family and associates cause his followers to revolt against him. Abandoned by his followers and worshippers, Tommy gains a new enlightenment. This is also the path the movie takes.

In its original album version, the story is quite scattered, and details were often filled in post facto by Townshend in interviews. As other adaptations of the album appeared, some details were filled out and others were changed. Notably, some later versions change the time frame from World War I/1921 to World War II/1951. The film version of Tommy also changes a major plot point: instead of Captain Walker killing his wife's new lover, the lover kills Captain Walker. This has led to endless confusion over the storyline, as some remember the album's version of events while others recall the film's.

Analysis and history

When Tommy was released, critics were split between those who thought the album was a masterpiece, the beginnings of a new genre, and those that felt it was "sick" and exploitative because of its dark theme. The album was banned by the BBC and certain U.S. radio stations. Ultimately, the album became a huge commercial success, as did The Who's frequent live performances of the rock opera in the following years, elevating The Who to a new level of prestige and international stardom. ([4])

Although Tommy is conventionally described as a rock opera, author and Who historian Richard Barnes points out that this definition is not strictly correct, since Tommy does not utilise the classic operatic formulae of staging, scenery, acting and recitative. According to Barnes, Tommy could be more accurately described as a "rock cantata" or a "rock song cycle".

Musically, the original album is a complex set of pop-rock arrangements, generally based upon Townshend's acoustic guitar and built up with many overdubs by the four members of the band using many instruments, including bass, electric and acoustic guitars, piano, organ, drumkit, gong, tympani, trumpet, French horn, three-part vocal harmonies and occasional doubling on vocal solos. Despite this instrumental richness the sound tends to be very "stark", especially in comparison to the band's later work. Many of the instruments only appear intermittently -- the ten-minute "Underture" features a single toot on the horn -- and when overdubbed many of the instruments are mixed at low levels that require careful listening to notice. Townshend mixes fingerpicking in with his trademark power chords and fat riffs, and in some delicate moments his guitar sounds almost like a harpsichord. Moon's drumming is controlled with a few dramatic moments; Entwistle's bass provides support and effectively takes the instrumental lead in several cuts. Daltrey swaggers as lead vocalist, but shares that role with the others on a surprising number of tracks. Townshend's later interest in synthesizers is foreshadowed by the use of taped sounds played in reverse to give a whistling, chirping sound on "Amazing Journey."

"Amazing Journey" can be interpreted as the central pivot of Tommy, since its lyrics are essential to understanding what the opera is about (beyond the facile story line). "Go to the Mirror" is the climax of the opera both musically and dramatically; tradition holds that when the band were touring the show live the audiences would spontaneously stand up during "Go to the Mirror" and remain standing until the end—listening in silence, unlike the customary behavior of Who fans. "We're Not Gonna Take It / See Me, Feel Me / Listening to You" is the denouement, with its ambiguous return to the earlier state of the story reinforced in concert by returning to the riff from "Overture" and "Go to the Mirror" at the very end rather than the long fade from the studio recording. Various themes are repeated in different songs in order to give the opera a coherent feel.

The tracks "Overture", "Pinball Wizard", "I'm Free", and the "See Me, Feel Me / Listening to You" reprise were released as singles and got a decent amount of airplay. "Pinball Wizard" reached the top twenty in the U.S. and the top five in the UK, and was a hit for Elton John in 1975/76. "See Me, Feel Me / Listening To You" landed high in the top twenty in the U.S. and "I'm Free" reached the top forty. The tracks "Overture", "Christmas", "I’m Free", and "See Me Feel Me" were released on an EP in late 1970. The "Overture" was also covered by a band called The Assembled Multitude and received a lot of airplay. Tommy was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.

The child abuse that features so prominently in the story caused a good deal of outcry when it was first released. It has often been claimed that the basic idea of the Tommy story was lifted from The Pretty Things' 1968 concept album S.F. Sorrow, and Townshend himself later admitted that he listened to the Pretty Things LP extensively and that it was a major inspiration for Tommy. Steve Marriott also claimed that some musical elements in Tommy were "borrowed" from the music of The Small Faces. Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman, in his official biography, states that "Pete Townshend credited Larry's own rock-opera, The Epic, for inspiring the rock-opera, Tommy, recorded by The Who" [5]. Notwithstanding the numerous outside influences, several structural precedents for Tommy exist in Townshend's own work, including "Glow Girl" (1968), "Rael" (1967), and the sectional work "A Quick One While He's Away" (1966).

A couple of years before the album came out Pete Townshend explained his ideas and apparently actually thought out some of the structure of the opera during a famous Rolling Stone interview. John Entwistle claimed years after the release that he had never actually listened to the album because he was so sick of it after the endless takes and re-takes.


Tommy was originally released as a two-LP set with a thin booklet of lyrics and artwork in a triptych-style fold-out cover. All three of the outer panels of the triptych are spanned by a single Pop Art painting by Mike McInnerney. The drawing is a sphere with diamond-shaped cutouts and an overlay of clouds and seagulls rendered with a figure-ground ambiguity. To one side a star-spangled hand bursts from the dark background, index finger pointing forward. (The image above only shows the central panel of the triptych.) The label's executives insisted on having a picture of the band on the cover, so small, barely recognizable images of the band members' faces were inserted into the gaps in the sphere, each with an outstretched hand like a groping Tommy Walker. (The most recent remastered CD release reverts to McInnerney's original artwork without the faces.) The internal artwork consists of a photo of some jugglers/magicians and some very simple paintings that only hint at illustrating the story.

MCA re-released the album as a two-CD set in 1984. The CDs were in separate jewel cases and each had a miniaturised copy of the original artwork and lyrics in the insert, though it only included two panels of the magnificent triptych. Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab later published it on a single gold-plated Ultradisc in their Original Master Recording series, with a much improved reproduction of the artwork (including a fold-out of the full original cover), and with the substitution of an alternate take on "Eyesight to the Blind". MCA finally released their own remastered edition on a single disc in 1996, complete with good artwork and a written introduction by Richard Barnes.

Currently Tommy is now released as a deluxe 2-disc hybrid SACD with a 5.1 multi-channel mix. This was done utilizing master tapes that were thought long lost. When Tommy was first released, a "sweetened" master tape was used incorporating echo effects and doubling the vocal harmonies. This bare-bones master is said to have a more warm and natural sound to give a more "live" feel. Many critics have hailed this release to be the more definitive edition. The re-mastering was done under the supervision of Townshend and also includes some outtakes and other cuts during the same sessions. One cut called "Dogs-Part 2" that was only previously available as the B-side of the Pinball Wizard single is included.


  • "Pinball Wizard" / "Dogs, Pt. 2"
  • "I'm Free" / "We're Not Gonna Take It"
  • "See Me, Feel Me" / "Overture from Tommy"


Live recordings

Whilst The Who regularly played Tommy live at the time of its release, they rarely, if ever, played it in the form in which it was released, instead deciding to change the running order and omit some tracks entirely. Four tracks that were regularly not featured were "Cousin Kevin", "Underture", "Sensation" and "Welcome".

A live recording of Tommy in this altered state is available on the 2001 Deluxe Edition of the 1970 live album Live at Leeds. It is also available on the official release Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 from the same period, which was released in 1996.

The Who also performed Tommy for its 20th anniversary during their 1989 reunion tour, reinstating the previously overlooked "Cousin Kevin" and "Sensation" but still omitting "Underture" and "Welcome". Recordings from this tour can be found on the Join Together live album and the Tommy and Quadrophenia Live with Special Guests DVD.

Other incarnations

1972 orchestral version

In late 1972 entrepreneur Lou Reizner presented two concert versions of Tommy at the Rainbow Theatre, London. The concerts featured The Who, plus an all-star guest cast, backed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Measham. The concerts were held to promote the release of Reizner's new studio recording of this "symphonic" version of Tommy.

Both in concert and on record, major singing roles were performed by leading pop and rock stars of the day -- David Essex, Maggie Bell, Sandy Denny, Steve Winwood, Rod Stewart, Richie Havens and Ringo Starr. Pete Townshend also plays a bit of guitar, but otherwise the music is predominantly orchestral. Richard Harris sang-talk the role of the specialist.

The studio version of the orchestral Tommy was issued in a lavish boxed-set format, featuring stunning original artwork and photography, which used a pinball as its main motif. The packaging, designed by Wilkes and Braun, won the Best Album Package Grammy in 1974.

The orchestral version was also performed in Australia in March 1973, to thousands at open air venues (Melbourne's Myer Music Bowl and Sydney's Randwick Racecourse). Keith Moon appeared as "Uncle Ernie" with local stars Daryl Braithwaite (as Tommy), Billy Thorpe, Doug Parkinson, Wendy Saddington, Jim Keays, Graeme Bell, Broderick Smith, Colleen Hewitt, Linda George, Ross Wilson, Bobby Bright, and a full orchestra.

Bootleg issues of the concert performances (which were recorded by the BBC) have also been released.

Below is the track listing with the performer(s) of the track in parenthesis. All songs include the Chamber Choir and London Symphony Orchestra as performers, although they are not listed as such unless they are the sole performer.

Track listing for the orchestral version

  1. "Overture" (London Symphony Orchestra)
  2. "It's a Boy" (Sandy Denny & Pete Townshend)
  3. "1921" (Graham Bell, Maggie Bell, Roger Daltrey & Steve Winwood)
  4. "Amazing Journey" (Pete Townshend)
  5. "Sparks" (London Symphony Orchestra)
  6. "Eyesight to the Blind" (Richie Havens)
  7. "Christmas" (Roger Daltrey & Steve Winwood)
  8. "Cousin Kevin" (John Entwistle)
  9. "The Acid Queen" (Merry Clayton)
  10. "Underture" (London Symphony Orchestra)
  11. "Do You Think It's Alright?" (Maggie Bell & Steve Winwood)
  12. "Fiddle About" (Ringo Starr)
  13. "Pinball Wizard" (Rod Stewart)
  14. "There's a Doctor" (Roger Daltrey, Richard Harris & Steve Winwood)
  15. "Go to the Mirror" (Roger Daltrey & Steve Winwood)
  16. "Tommy, Can You Hear Me?" (Maggie Bell)
  17. "Smash the Mirror" (Maggie Bell)
  18. "I'm Free" (Roger Daltrey)
  19. "Miracle Cure" (Chamber Choir)
  20. "Sensation" (Roger Daltrey)
  21. "Sally Simpson" (Pete Townshend)
  22. "Welcome" (Roger Daltrey)
  23. "Tommy's Holiday Camp" (Roger Daltrey & Ringo Starr)
  24. "We're Not Gonna Take It" (Roger Daltrey)
  25. "See Me, Feel Me" (Roger Daltrey)

1975 film version

See main article Tommy (film).

In 1975 Tommy was adapted as a film, produced by expatriate Australian entrepreneur Robert Stigwood and directed by maverick British auteur Ken Russell. The movie version starred Daltrey as Tommy, and featured other members of The Who plus an eclectic supporting cast including Hollywood legend Ann-Margret as Tommy's mother, Oliver Reed as the boyfriend, with cameo appearances by Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Arthur Brown and Jack Nicholson.

Tommy was one of the first music films released with a multichannel hi-fi soundtrack (billed as "quintaphonic sound") and in many theaters it was presented with high-powered concert-style sound reinforcement, played at rock concert volumes.

The film received mixed reviews but was a huge commercial success on release and has achieved cult film status due to scenes such as Arthur Brown's portrayal of a priest in Tommy's cult, Ann-Margret's frolic in a pool of beans (a reference to the cover of The Who's 1967 LP Sell Out) and the sharp satire on pop music presented by the "Sally Simpson" scene. Other highlights included Elton John's memorable appearance (sporting metre-high Doctor Marten boots) as the "Pinball Wizard" and Tina Turner's electrifying cameo as the "Acid Queen."

Townshend reworked the storyline extensively for the film, fleshing out much that was obscure in the original version, and moving the time-frame forward to a more believable era, the period following World War II. This also (somewhat) cured the anachronism arising from Sally Simpson's marriage to a rock musician from California after her ejection from Tommy's sermon. Since no such musicians existed until the 1960s, Sally would had a 30+ year wait and would have been in her 50s by then.

The film version also reversed a crucial plot point: in the film, Tommy's father is murdered by his mother's lover, rather than the lover being killed by the returning Capt. Walker, as in the original storyline. The result can be seen as lending an incestuous charge to the mother/son relationship as Tommy's mother sees her former husband within her son.

Townshend also oversaw the production of a new double-LP recording that returned the music to its rock roots, and on which the unrecorded orchestral arrangements he had envisaged for the original Tommy LP were realised by the extensive use of synthesiser. The soundtrack LP also employed many leading sessions musicians including Caleb Quaye and longtime Who associate John "Rabbit" Bundrick. The song "Pinball Wizard" was a major hit when released as a single. Curiously, although the music for this song is performed entirely by Elton John and his band, the film depicts Elton being backed by The Who (dressed in pound-note suits).

Most of the extras were students at Portsmouth Polytechnic and were paid with tickets to a Who concert after filming had finished. Ken Russell included the shots he took of the pier at Southsea, which burned down while the crew were in town.

Track listing for the soundtrack album

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Side one
  1. "Overture from Tommy" (performed by the Who) – 4:59
  2. "Prologue" - 1945 (performed by Pete Townshend and John Entwistle) – 3:00
  3. "Captain Walker/It's a Boy" (performed by Pete Townshend, Margo Newman and Vicki Brown) – 2:38
  4. "Bernie's Holiday Camp" (performed by the Who, with vocals by Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret and Alison Dowling) – 3:42
  5. "1951/What about the Boy?" (performed by Mott the Hoople, with vocals by Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed) – 2:49
  6. "Amazing Journey" (performed by Pete Townshend) – 3:19
  7. "Christmas" (performed by the Who and the vocal chorus, with lead vocals by Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed and Alison Dowling) – 3:59
  8. "Eyesight to the Blind" (performed by Eric Clapton) – 3:21


Side two
  1. "Acid Queen" (performed by Tina Turner) – 3:47
  2. "Do You Think It's Alright?" (1) (performed by Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed) – 0:57
  3. "Cousin Kevin" (performed by Paul Nicholas) – 3:07
  4. "Do You Think It's Alright?" (2) (performed by Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed) – 0:46
  5. "Fiddle About" (performed by the Who, with lead vocals by Keith Moon) – 1:40
  6. "Do You Think It's Alright?" (3) (performed by Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed) – 0:29
  7. "Sparks" (performed by the Who) – 3:07
  8. "Extra, Extra, Extra" (performed by Simon Townshend) – 0:37
  9. "Pinball Wizard" (performed by Elton John) – 5:22

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Side three
  1. "Champagne" (performed by the Who, with vocals by Ann-Margret and Roger Daltrey) – 4:43
  2. "There's a Doctor" (performed by Oliver Reed and Ann-Margret) – 0:29
  3. "Go to the Mirror" (performed by Jack Nicholson, Roger Daltrey and Ann-Margret) – 3:49
  4. "Tommy Can You Hear Me?" (performed by Ann-Margret) – 0:55
  5. "Smash the Mirror!" (performed by Ann-Margret) – 1:22
  6. "I'm Free" (performed by Roger Daltrey) – 2:36
  7. "Mother and Son" (performed by Pete Townshend, with vocals by Ann-Margret and Roger Daltrey) – 2:36
  8. "Sensation" (performed by Roger Daltrey) – 2:49 (on the LP and 8-track, 4:37 on the cassette and CD)


Side four
  1. "Miracle Cure" (performed by Simon Townshend) – 0:23
  2. "Sally Simpson" (performed by Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey) – 5:38
  3. "Welcome" (performed by Pete Townshend, with vocals performed by Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed) – 4:15
  4. "T.V. Studio" (performed by Pete Townshend, with vocals performed by Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed) – 1:14
  5. "Tommy's Holiday Camp" (performed by Keith Moon) – 1:29
  6. "We're Not Gonna Take It!" (performed by Roger Daltrey and the vocal chorus) – 4:46
  7. "Listening to You/See Me, Feel Me" (performed by the Who and the vocal chorus, with lead vocals by Roger Daltrey) – 4:19


1993 stage version

See Tommy (musical)

In 1993, Townshend and La Jolla Playhouse theatrical director Des McAnuff wrote and produced a Broadway musical adaptation of Tommy. The production featured a new song by Townshend (I Believe My Own Eyes), several rewrites in lyrics, and an all-star cast. Initially, the show received mixed reviews; for example, while The New York Times' theatre critic Frank Rich praised it ([6]), the same paper's music critic Jon Pareles argued that "Their (Townshend's and McAnuff's) changes turn a blast of spiritual yearning, confusion and rebellion into a pat on the head for nesters and couch potatoes" ([7]). Later, Townshend partly responded to the criticisms ([8]). Ultimately, the production won five Tony Awards that year, including Best Original Score for Townshend. Various touring revivals have met with popular acclaim since.

The musical version reorganises the numbers and changes many lyrics. The setting is in post-World War II Britain, as in the film version. Nevertheless, unlike the film, the lyrics "Got a feelin '21 is gonna be a good year" remain the same, though now referring to Mrs. Walker's birthday. Also, Captain Walker kills the lover, as in the original album and unlike the film, where the lover kills Captain Walker and takes his place. Perhaps the most striking change vis-a-vis previous versions is that after the "Sally Simpson" scene, Tommy renounces his messianic role and returns to his family, embracing and praising the kind of "normality" that everybody else has and that he has been deprived of (significantly, the new version introduced lines such as "freedom lies here in normality" and excluded the earlier versions' "Hey, old hung-up Mr. Normal, don't try to gain my trust").

Track listing for the cast album

Indexed by promo-only vinyl side breaks. Template:Col-begin Template:Col-2

Side one
  1. "Overture" – 4:41
  2. "Captain Walker" – 1:45
  3. "It's a Boy" – 0:53
  4. "We've Won" – 1:01
  5. "Twenty-One" – 4:13
  6. "Amazing Journey" – 3:11
  7. "Courtroom Scene" (interlude) – 1:15
  8. "Sparks" – 2:13
  9. "Amazing Journey" (reprise) – 1:04
  10. "Christmas" – 5:04


Side two
  1. "Do You Think It's Alright" – 1:09
  2. "Fiddle About" – 1:35
  3. "See Me, Feel Me" – 1:08
  4. "Cousin Kevin" – 3:35
  5. "Sensation" – 4:14
  6. "Sparks" (reprise) – 1:55
  7. "Eyesight to the Blind" – 2:50
  8. "Acid Queen" – 4:01
  9. "Pinball Wizard" – 3:50

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Side three
  1. "Underture" – 2:37
  2. "There's a Doctor" – 1:13
  3. "Go to the Mirror/Listening to You" – 3:36
  4. "Tommy, Can You Hear Me?" – 2:00
  5. "I Believe My Own Eyes" – 4:01
  6. "Smash the Mirror" – 2:41
  7. "I'm Free" – 2:52


Side four
  1. "Streets of London 1961-1963" (interlude)/"Miracle Cure" – 0:36
  2. "Sensation" (reprise) – 2:21
  3. "Tommy the Star" (excerpted from "I'm Free" and "Pinball Wizard") – 3:55
  4. "Tommy's Holiday Camp" – 1:57
  5. "Sally Simpson" – 3:35
  6. "Welcome" – 3:20
  7. "Sally Simpson's Question" – 1:13
  8. "We're Not Gonna Take It" – 3:03
  9. "Finale" – 5:07



  • "Tommy's Holiday Camp" was credited to being written by Keith Moon on the album. Pete Townshend originally wrote it, but credited it to Moon because he had the idea that Tommy's spiritual center would be a holiday camp on the British Isles.
  • The song "Sally Simpson", in which the song's title character is injured as a result of a fracas while trying to touch Tommy, was inspired by a real-life incident. The Who were performing a concert with The Doors at the Singer Bowl (now Louis Armstrong Stadium) in New York in August 1968, and the Doors' security violently threw a young girl who was trying to touch Jim Morrison off the stage. This action was witnessed by Pete Townshend from the backstage area, and he was so shocked by what he had seen, he incorporated the incident into the opera he was writing.
  • The "Sparks" and "Underture" instrumentals come from a section of the mini-opera "Rael" on The Who Sell Out (1967).
  • The original album was dedicated to Meher Baba. (He is listed as "Avatar" in the album credits.)
  • Songs written for Tommy that didn't end up on the record include "Beat Up," "Trying To Get Through," "School Song," "Dream (Erotic)," and "Cousin Kevin Model Child." "Water," a track best known as a minor part of the later unfinished Lifehouse album, has often been linked with Tommy as well.
  • "Underture" was originally called "Dream (Psychedelic)." An instrumental called "Dream (Erotic)" was also said to have been written.
  • It is ranked 96th on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • The climax of Tommy was said by many to be the highlight of the 1969 Woodstock festival. As Roger Daltrey began to sing "See Me, Feel Me", the sun began to rise, as if on cue. The moment is captured on film in The Kids Are Alright and Woodstock. It is said that this moment helped with Tommy's popularity in the United States.
  • The album Snow (2002) by Spock's Beard has a storyline and themes very similar to Tommy.
  • In 2003 the TV network VH1 named Tommy the 90th greatest album of all time.
  • In April 2004, Uncut magazine produced a compilation CD called The Roots Of Tommy, featuring the music which inspired the album.
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ran an exhibit on Tommy called "TOMMY: The Amazing Journey" in 2005–2006.
  • In the movie Almost Famous the main protagonist, William Miller, receives a note written by his sister - "Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you will see your entire future". The song he listens to is the instrumental "Sparks", and is actually the beginning of the album version spliced with the middle and "Underture" sections from Live at Leeds.
  • In the episode "Raisin the Stakes: A Rock Opera in Three Acts" of the MTV cartoon series Clone High, a good deal of the music sounds very similar to songs from Tommy (such as JFK's "Touch me, hold me, sign my cast for me, wheel me"), and some themes are present from Pink Floyd's The Wall.
  • On the Cartoon Network series Home Movies, in Episode 412: Temporary Blindness, Brendon creates a film called "Timmy" about a child named Timmy who, from a combination of parental neglect and just sheer boredom, loses his sense of smell, loses his peripheral vision, and develops a lisp. Timmy inexplicably becomes a celebrity, and is put under the care of Dr. Robot (loosely based on The Acid Queen). Timmy then runs away, which frees all children of boredom somehow.
  • On the 2005 Criminal Minds episode, Plain Sight, the team follows the trail of a man who goes by "The Tommy Killer", who rapes and kills upperclass women in their homes. When the team gets into a discussion about why he was given that name, it was because the killer glues their eyes wide open. So they can 'see him' and 'feel them'.

External links

A number of interviews where Pete Townshend has commented on the concept and meaning of Tommy: