The Who, Tommy
The Who, Tommy
The Who, Tommy
The Who, Tommy

The Who, Tommy

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Tommy is the fourth studio album by the English rock band The Who, a double album first released in May 1969. The album was mostly composed by guitarist Pete Townshend as a rock opera that tells the story about a deaf, dumb and blind boy, including his experiences with life and the relationship with his family.

Townshend came up with the concept of Tommy after being introduced to the work of Meher Baba, and attempted to translate Baba's teachings into music. Recording on the album began in September 1968, but took six months to complete as material needed to be arranged and re-recorded in the studio. Tommy was acclaimed upon its release by critics, who hailed it as the Who's breakthrough. Its critical standing diminished slightly in later years; nonetheless, several writers view it as an important and influential album in the history of rock music. The Who promoted the album's release with an extensive tour, including a live version of Tommy, which lasted throughout 1969 and 1970. Key gigs from the tour included appearances at Woodstock, the Metropolitan Opera House and the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. The live performances of Tommy drew critical praise and rejuvenated the band's career.

Subsequently, the rock opera developed into other media, including a Seattle Opera production in 1971, an orchestral version by Lou Reizner in 1972, a film in 1975, and a Broadway musical in 1992. The original album has sold 20 million copies and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It has been reissued several times on CD, including a remix by Jon Astley in 1996, a deluxe Super Audio CD in 2003, and a super deluxe box set in 2013, including previously unreleased demos and live material.

AllMusic Review by

The full-blown rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy that launched the band to international superstardom, written almost entirely by Pete Townshend. Hailed as a breakthrough upon its release, its critical standing has diminished somewhat in the ensuing decades because of the occasional pretensions of the concept and because of the insubstantial nature of some of the songs that functioned as little more than devices to advance the rather sketchy plot. Nonetheless, the double album has many excellent songs, including "I'm Free," "Pinball Wizard," "Sensation," "Christmas," "We're Not Gonna Take It," and the dramatic ten-minute instrumental "Underture." Though the album was slightly flawed,Townshend's ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music. Despite the complexity of the project, he and the Who never lost sight of solid pop melodies, harmonies, and forceful instrumentation, imbuing the material with a suitably powerful grace.