Tommy, Can You Hear Me?

June 1969
Tommy, a double-album rock opera by The Who, is released. At first banned by the BBC and certain U.S. radio stations (probably because of the child abuse that features so prominently in its story), it eventually reaches #4 on the U.S. Billboard album charts and #2 in the UK.

Tommy makes its initial bow at New York's Lincoln Center, performed as a rock concert by The Who.

Entrepreneur Lou Reizner presents two concert versions of Tommy at the Rainbow Theatre in London. The concerts feature The Who plus an all-star guest cast, all backed by the London Symphony Orchestra to promote a new recording of an all-symphonic version of Tommy. Both concert and recording feature performances by David Essex, Steve Winwood, Rod Stewart, Richie Havens and Ringo Starr.

The film version of Tommy, produced by Australian entrepreneur Robert Stigwood and directed by British bad boy Ken Russell, is released. The movie stars Roger Daltrey in the lead and features other members of The Who plus an eclectic cast of Hollywood and British stars, most notably Ann-Margret as Tommy's mother and Oliver Reed as his stepfather. Superstars Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, and Jack Nicholson also make appearances in the film, one of the first musicals released with a multi-channel hi-fi soundtrack. Reviews are mixed, but this Tommy is an instant commercial success.

A documentary called The Who's Tommy: The Amazing Journey, directed by Barry Alexander Brown, is released.

Pete Townshend and San Diego playwright Des McAnuff write and produce a Broadway musical adaptation of the original rock opera, now called The Who's Tommy. The production features several new songs by Townshend and an all-star cast. The show opens to mixed reviews.

The Who's Tommy receives five Tony Awards, including Best Original Score for Townshend.

The Who's Tommy closes at New York City's St. James Theater after 899 performances. Various touring revivals immediately hit the road.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela