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Who Made Tommy

By Chris Chalesworth and Eric Dwinnells

The Who are:

Pete Townshend - Guitar (and main composer)

Roger Daltrey - Lead Vocals

John Entwistle - Bass


Keith Moon - Drums

The Who were formed in the early 1960's and had a string of hit singles in England including "Substitute", "I Can't Explain", and most notably, the international hit and time-tested rock anthem, "My Generation". They were known for their wild stage performances which always ended with the band smashing all of their equipment. Obviously, all those guitars, speakers, and such cost a lot of money to replace each week. Even though they had a few hit songs under their belt, The Who were not yet rich. Then, in 1967, Pete Townshend wrote "I Can See for Miles" which he considered to be the best song he’d written up to that point. Figuring he'd never be able to write another single as good as that, Pete decided to focus his attention on a writing an opera. A rock opera. And thus, the history of rock was changed forever.

The Who made Tommy and Tommy made The Who. That's the popular conception of the rock opera that turned them into superstars and millionaires within the space of 12 months. There is no doubt that Tommy rescued The Who from financial ruin, but it also proved to be a weight around their necks which lingers to this day. Although their second rock opera, Quadrophinia, was a more complex work on which the writing, playing, singing, and production are superior in every way, it is Tommy for which The Who will be remembered above all else.

Recorded in 1969, Tommy brought together all of Pete's influences and aspirations in one great mix-bag of ideas and ideals: Tommy is a Messiah figure elevated despite enormous disabilities to an otherworldly loftiness, brought down by reality, and, finally, turned into a rock superstar-style deity. That's one view anyway. That's the one that explains why Meher Baba, the Indian spiritual leader whom Pete had recently become a student of, is credited as avatar on the original album's liner notes. The other view is that Tommy is simply great rock music.

The album hit #2 on the UK Charts and #4 on the US charts. The Who were invited to play Tommy at The Met and that lead directly to the film version which featured a star-studded cast including Anne Margaret, Jack Nicholson, Eric Clapton, and Elton John who recorded "Pinball Wizard" with his own band and it became a hit single for him.

Eventually, The Who got sick of playing Tommy and put it to bed. They went on to record some of there most famous songs including "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Who Are You?" (which is the theme for the TV show CSI), and the epic "Baba O'Riley" (often times incorrectly referred to as "Teenage Wasteland" do to it's catchy chorus). Drummer Keith Moon passed away in 1978. He was replaced and The Who made a few more rather crappy albums before calling it quits in 1982.

Then, 20 years after the original albums release, The Who reunited for a limited run to perform Tommy with special guest stars including Elton John as "The Pinball Wizard", Patti Labelle as "The Acid Queen", Phil Collins as "Uncle Ernie" and Billy Idol as "Cousin Kevin".

In 1992, Pete created the stage show The Who's Tommy with director Des McAnuff. It won 11 1993 Tony awards including "Best Score".

The Who reunited again in 1996 to tour again and had been touring every couple of years with Ringo Starr's son Zack on drums and backed by a large orchestra. Bass player John Entwistle passed away in 2002 and Pete and Roger have done few tours together since then however they are rumored to be recording a new album due to be released sometime this fall and they will most likely tour to promote it in late 2006. There is also talk about a Kieth Moon bio pic set to star comic actor Mike Myers and a documentry about The Who will be released this fall.

Pete Townshend

Roger Daltrey

John Entwistle

Kieth Moon