Monday, February 24, 2014

The WHO: "Sensation The Story of Tommy" DVD

Rating: DVD
Label: Eagle Vision 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Tommy is basically the late 60's version of Timmy @ the South Park kids. They're both special and constantly fighting society and the pre-judgemental person. Trauma-Tommy's problem is his catatonic state where he becomes deaf, dumb, and blind. Tortured by his cousin and molested by his uncle, it can only get worse and uglier. Prostitution, hallucinogenic drugs, the strange fascination of Pinball? Who's The Wizard? (pun intended).

The Who originally released the double album in 1969 and it's basically the first album ever billed as a "Rock Opera". This 113 mins long documentary film explores the whole she-bang through both new interviews with Townshead (most) and Daltrey and the archive ones with the late and great John Entwistle. Obviously there's also been Tommy the Movie and the stage production over the years and I believe a certain Elton John did his part too. Keith Moon? There's never enough input and old quotes from this mad 'over the Moon' legend of a drummer (RIP). But I guess there's always all those mad stories floating around on the internet.

What's more? You have the usual feedback from the sound engineer and other people involved in the creation of the original release. The artwork director gets to shine too and this DVD release contains an extended version of 'The Story Of' programme as well as previously unreleased Beat Club footage from the swinging 60s (Bremen, Germany, September 27th 1969). It's basically the odd interview with Townshend including German subtitles and the tracks from the album. It's badly recorded in black and white and there's even the pinball machine effect with German letters and everything. It's always interesting to find out more and everything about these sort of albums even if I definitely prefer their great 70's releases, 'Who's Next', and the in my opinion, ultimate concept rock opera sort of album by the Who, 'Quadrophenia' (1973).

I must confess not knowing that much about this particular release prior to watching the DVD and the manner of its story and the whole progress of its bodywork. According to Townshend, "Because Tommy is deaf, dumb & blind, he's seeing things as vibrations which we translate as music. That's really what we want to do, create this feeling that when you listen to the music you can actually become aware of the boy, and aware of what he is all about, because we are creating him as we play". The legend also tells us about Pete's typical late 60's bad trip with LSD - 'so disturbing that I left my body and the trip stopped. I sat there looking at my body and I knew that I'm not just my body', 'this  lead him to seek answers and inspiration from Indian Spiritual Master Meher Baba (also very typical the late 60's) who had kept a vow of silence since 1925. Thus what inspired him to create the character of Tommy and you'll learn as you watch. Tommy woke up only to drop back? I don't know.

I do miss a couple of more critical points and voices and perhaps more about the problems such as the ban and everything. The journalists are all praise and one of them describe Townshend as "one of the most sensitive souls who's ever found their way into rock n roll" and that he's frank about his lyric which include bullying and abuse. It's the original source of all the rock operas out there. Respect.

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