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Liner Notes › Tommy

TOMMY
 

Roger Daltrey Vocals 
John Entwistle Bass Guitar, French Horn and Vocals 
Keith Moon Drums 
Pete Townshend Guitar, Keyboards and Vocals
Paul and Simon Townshend background vocals


Produced by Kit Lambert at IBC Studios, London 
Executive producer: Chris Stamp 
Engineer: Damon Lyon-Shaw 
Cover Design and Paintings: Mike McInnerney 
Photos: Barrie Meller 
Avatar: Meher Baba

Liner notes by Brian Cady

 

The recording dates of the individual tracks, with the exception of "Pinball Wizard," are unknown. Recording proper began September 19, 1968 at IBC Studio A, London. The studio was block booked on weekdays starting at 2pm and sessions would often go pass midnight (weekends were reserved for U.K. concerts to keep some money coming in during Tommy's long gestation). Recording continued on-and-off until March 7, 1969. According to Roger, the total time spent in studio was about eight weeks; the total cost, $36,000. The moment of Tommy's conception is equally unclear. The earliest mention was in a report in Disc magazine May 4, 1968 where Chris Welch reported that Pete was then hard at work writing the new opera under the title "The Amazing Journey." Pete said at that time that "Now I'm A Farmer" would be included.

Tommy was released in the U.S. May 17, 1969 reaching #4 and remaining in the charts for 126 weeks. The U.K. released followed on May 23, 1969 and reached #2 (1st place went to Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline).
 

In addition to the standard album, selections from the album were given to U.S. disc jockeys as a box set of four 45's, an EP of four tracks ("See Me, Feel Me;" "Christmas"/"Overture;" "I'm Free") was released in the U.K. November 7, 1970, two budget-priced LP's Tommy Part One and Part Two were released in the U.K. May 13, 1972 and June 24, 1972 respectively and a one album abridgment called The Best From Tommy was released in the Netherlands. A version remixed and remastered from the original multi-track master in Pete's possession was released March 4, 1996. The cover was changed to eliminate the faces of The Who in the diamonds which were not intended by the cover's creator, Mike McInnerney. On Oct. 28, 2003, Tommy was released as a two-CD Deluxe Edition set.

 

Overture 5'21 
(Pete Townshend) Eel Pie Publishing Ltd. (BMI) 
It was released as the B-side of the single "See Me Feel Me" which constituted the first 4'00 of the Overture. A cover version by The Assembled Multitude reached #16 in the U.S. in June 1970. It has also been covered by Henry Mancini and Liberace among many others.

 

It's a Boy 0'38
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
In an early song list, this song was preceded by sound effects of "war noises, crying woman, then baby." This song was adapted from the ending of the then-unreleased song "Glow Girl."

 

1921 2'48
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
Pete Townshend: "The father shoots the mother's lover. Tommy's father was assumed missing -- 'Don't expect to see him again' -- before Tommy was born. Then we move to 1921 -- three years after the war -- and we see that the mother is obviously involved with someone else; she is saying, '1921 is going to be a good year.' Then Tommy's father bursts in, throws open the door, and shoots the lover. There was a gunshot that was taken off the record. Our producer, Kit Lambert, was very much against all sound effects, except for the mirror smashing...[Tommy] witnessed a traumatic event, and the key which people have missed is that it was mirrored. We purposely obscured the fact of his witnessing a murder in the mirror; but the key is that in the background vocals of '1921' you get reflections -- 'You didn't hear it (I heard it)' and so forth."
All of this got further obscured by the movie which reverses it; the lover shooting and killing the father.
An early draft had the line "I had no reason to be over-optimistic, but I dreamed that you'd be faithful and wait for me forever." The demo version has the lines: "Gotta feeling '29 is gonna be a good year, especially as you and him saw it out together." On the U.S. LP it was called "You Didn't Hear It." 

 

Amazing Journey/Sparks 7'08 [this was divided into two tracks on later CD's: 3'25/3'46 (1996 edition), 5'04/2'05 (2003 edition)]
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
The first song written specifically for the work, with lyrics taken from the first lines of an Townshend poem. In an early song list, this song was followed by a link called "Beat Up."


Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker) 2'13 
(Sonny Boy Williamson) Arc Music Corp. (BMI) 
This song was originally written by Sonny Boy Williamson (the second artist to record under that name), real name Alex "Rice" Miller, and was released in February 1951. Pete picked up the song from Mose Allison's 1959 cover version although The Who's version more closely resembles the Williamson original. There is a change to the lyrics. Williamson's lyric is "Her daddy must have been a millionaire, 'cause I can tell be the way she walks." Allison changed it to "Her daddy's got some money..." and The Who to "Her daddy gave her magic..." Early drafts of Tommy also included Mose's "Young Man Blues" and "One Room Country Shack." In most early song lists, this song came immediately before "The Acid Queen." A version with an alternate vocal surfaced in the U.K. in 1972 and was included on the Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs CD and also as a bonus track on the Japanese issue of 2004's Then and Now. (Thanks to Ron Crandall for additional help on this item.) 

 

Christmas 4'34
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
In an early song list, this song came immediately after "Amazing Journey." Before "pinball" was incorporated in the lyrics, the line was "playing with himself he sits and smiles."


Cousin Kevin 4'06
(John Entwistle) Gowmonk, Inc. (BMI) 
According to John, Pete commissioned him to write this song and "Fiddle About" during a discussion in Detroit during the "Magic Bus" tour, which would make it July 13, 1968. John was sent off to "write something horrible." John: "I actually based Cousin Kevin on a boy who lived across the street. Our parents thought we should play together, and he was completely sadistic. Musically, I wanted the piece to sound both sinister and childish, so I came up with a kind of 'Chopsticks' theme on the piano to make it sound like a simple children's song." In an early song list, this song followed "Fiddle About" and was preceded by the bridge song "Cousin Kevin Model Child" which was finally released on the 1998 Odds & Sods CD. It was then followed by a song called "Dream (School Song)." "Cousin Kevin" was rarely performed in the live version. 

 

The Acid Queen 3'34
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
In an early song list, this song was known as "Gypsy Song." Pete: "It was the first slightly 'anti-drug' song I had written. It portrayed the pusher as a prostitute, but selling souls rather than bodies. When the then Vice President of the U.S.A., Spiro Agnew, wanted a song to use as an example of Rock's bad influence on the high drug use of young Americans, he mentioned this song. It really brought it home to me what uninformed, blinkered idiots many politicians are. Speech over."


Underture 10'04 (original and 2004 edition) 10'09 (1996 edition)
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
In an early song list, this song was known as "Dream (Psychedelic)." It is a longer version of the song which comes earlier as "Sparks." The music also appears in the song "Rael" on The Who Sell Out. The track was not performed in the live version.

 

Do You Think It's Alright? 0'24 
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)

Fiddle About 1'30 
(John Entwistle) Gowmonk, Inc. (BMI) 
Another commission from Pete, John wrote this in his head while trying to find his room in the circular Pontchatrain hotel in Detroit on July 13, 1968. In an early song list, this was followed by a song called "Dream (Erotic)."

 

Pinball Wizard 3'00
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
From Richard Barnes' 1995 release notes: "Part way through the recording a rough mix of 'Tommy' played to influential rock journalist Nik Cohn got a lukewarm reception. They desperately needed his favorable review, so, on impulse, Townshend, knowing Cohn was a pinball fan, decided that Tommy might play some sort of sport like football or perhaps even...'pinball.' 'It'll be a masterpiece,' was Cohn's immediate response. It was meant to be 'teenage-like and slightly sleazy' according to Townshend. 'Something a school teacher would disapprove of.'" In an early song list, this song preceded the above two songs. The original beginning of the lyrics was "Since I was sixteen I've been attracted by silver balls. Used to go to the fairgrounds straight to the slot machine halls." It was recorded at Morgan Studios, London on February 7th, 1969 and was released as a single ahead of the opera on March 7th, 1969 in the U.K. and March 22nd in the U.S. On the U.S. picture sleeve it was described as being from the rock opera "Tommy (1914-1984)." It reached #4 in the U.K. and #19 in the U.S. It was also a Top Twenty international hit for The New Seekers in March 1973 and a #7 for Elton John in the U.K. in March 1976.

 

There's a Doctor 0'24
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
In an early song list, this song was preceded by a cover of "Young Man Blues."
 
Go To The Mirror! 3'50 (original edition) 3'47 (2003 edition)
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
This song was written in a Holiday Inn in Rolling Meadows, Illinois around August 1st, 1968. The demo had the following lines: "I've kicked him, licked him, rubbed him, hit him, loved him. Everything in vain to let him know. I'm here my son, your dad, I wait for your sign and in my heart frustration overflows." In an early song list and the demo version, this song was followed by a very short song called "Success!"

 

Tommy Can You Hear Me? 1'35
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
This song became the theme song for UNICEF in 1972. A longer version appears on the soundtrack to The Kids Are Alright.

 

Smash The Mirror 1'38 (original edition) 1'34 (1996 and 2003 edition)
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
Original lyrics: "Why do you stare into that mirror? You seem to see yourself but not us all. I know what I'm going to do with that mirror, fix you once and for all. Smash it!" In an early song list, this song was followed by "Lost Chord (Dream)."

 

Sensation 2'26
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
This song was originally called "She's a Sensation" and was written about an Australian groupie with a "spiritual presence" that Pete met during The Who's disastrous Antipodean tour in February 1968. This originally was placed in the opera to express Tommy's cure. It was often dropped from the live version.

 

Miracle Cure 0'12
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)

Sally Simpson 4'11
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
This song was inspired by Pete's witnessing of Jim Morrison's dangerous teasing of his fans when The Doors followed The Who at the Singer Bowl in New York City August 2nd, 1968. The original draft was about a rock and roll star named Danine instead of Tommy and the car was an Eldorado instead of a Rolls Royce. One early song list has this song preceded by "Water." This song was often dropped in the live version. 

I'm Free 2'38
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
Pete: "'I'm Free' came from 'Street Fighting Man.' This has a weird time/shape and when I finally discovered how it went, I thought 'well blimey, it can't be that simple,' but it was and it was a gas and I wanted to do it myself." This song was originally intended as a "sermon" by Tommy long after his cure and expressed his freedom from materialistic values. It was only during the live version that its power eventually moved it to being at the point of Tommy's cure. "I'm Free" was released as a single throughout the world except for the U.K. In the U.S. charts it reached #37. A single sung by Roger Daltrey from the London Symphony Orchestra version reached #13 in the U.K. in June 1973.

Welcome 4'32 (original and 2003 edition) 4'34 (1996 edition)
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI) 
Another song written prior to the opera about Pete's growing feeling of spirituality. This track was not performed in the live version.

 

Tommy's Holiday Camp 0'57
(credited to Keith Moon but actually composed by Pete Townshend) Gowmonk, Inc. (BMI) 
Not only did Keith not write this song, he does not even perform on it nor does anyone but Pete. This track is, in fact, Pete's original demo. See the Tommy Deluxe Edition for a band version of this track. In an early song list, this song preceded "Welcome." Pete: "As we were leaving IBC Studios one day, I said to Keith and John as they were walking down the stairs, 'I've really got to do something with this whole business of the establishment, the church, or what turns out to be the church at the end of the story. I've got to work out something to give it life, to make it real, to make it palatable, but not something churchy, which would make the whole tone of the album pretentious.' Keith said, 'Well I've been thinking that it would be a good idea to set the whole thing in a Holiday Camp.' I said, 'What a great idea,' and Keith said, 'Well O.K. I'll write that tonight.' I thought, 'God Almighty, if Keith goes off and gets into writing songs about Holiday Camps, I don't know how they'll fit in.' So I said to him, 'Don't worry Keith, I've already written it.' Keith got the credit for it because it was his idea, and also I felt, it turned out just as he himself would have written it."

 

We're Not Gonna Take It 7'05 (original edition) 7'09 (1996 and 2003 edition)
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
Pete: "Again something written before Tommy had actually been formed as a total idea, and that particular song wasn't about Tommy's devotees at all. It was about the rabble in general, how we, myself as part of them, were not going to take fascism, were not going to take dreary, dying politics; were not going to take things the way they were, the way they always had been and that we were keen to change things." Another Pete explanation of the song: "They've paid their money and they've walked in the door thinking they're going to get a shortcut to God-realization. [Tommy] starts to make the rules hard. He says 'you can't drink, you can't smoke dope, you can't do this, you can't do that, you've got to play pinball, you've got to do it my way; if you don't do it my way, you're out.' And he starts to get so tough that they rebel. 'We don't want your religion. What we want is a shortcut away from all our problems.' That's what they really want." Additional lyric lines: "You're gonna do it my way or you won't get home at all.. You won't hear Uncle Ernie say 'Let's play pinball!' You don't have to take it but one in a million will."

 

The finale, usually known as "See Me, Feel Me," was released as a single in the U.S. to capitalize on its appearance in the hit movie Woodstock. It hit the charts there September 23, 1970 and reached #12. It was released in the U.K. on October 10 but failed to chart. "See Me, Feel Me" constituted the last 3'22 of "We're Not Gonna Take It." It appears in the single form on the CD The Who: The Ultimate Collection.

 

Tommy - Deluxe Edition
In 2003, Pete headed a team that released Tommy as a two-CD set. Disc one was a hybrid of the stereo version of Tommy, taken from the original two-track master tape and playable on a regular CD player, and a new 5.1 surround mix from the multi-track master tape, playable on SACD or DVD-audio players (depending on format purchased). Disc two featured 17 bonus tracks with the first 12 available in the same hybrid format followed by 5 stereo only tracks. The DVD-audio edition includes a 33-minute video interview with Pete plus a demonstration of how he remixed the original recording into 5.1 sound.


I Was 0'17
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes
"I Was" does not appear in any of the surviving and published early track lists for Tommy. In one early draft, Tommy was to die and be reincarnated as a new character. Perhaps "I Was" refers to this?

Photo by Baron Wolman

Christmas (out-take 3) 4'44
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
Instrumental version of the song. Pete leads on electric guitar.

 

Cousin Kevin Model Child 1'26
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
The same take as previously released on the 1998 Odds And Sods reissue CD but with double-tracked vocals and a different mix. The lead vocal is by Keith with Pete and John on backup.

 

Young Man Blues (version 1) 2'53
(Mose Allison) Jazz Editions, Inc. (BMI)
This is the take that was previously released only on the 1969 British compilation album The House That Track Built and was supposed to be the one used on the 1998 Odds and Sods reissue. Despite being the same performance, the Tommy Deluxe Edition version features a "dry" sound (the original used a great deal of echo) and a higher mix on drums and vocals. "Young Man Blues" was probably recorded in the first Tommy sessions in late September 1968. This track was placed right after "Cousin Kevin" in early Tommy song lists.


Tommy Can You Hear Me? (alternate version) 2'00
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
An instrumental version which, unlike the album version, has Keith on drums. Pete leads on electric guitar.

 

Trying To Get Through 2'51
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes (BMI)
Another track unreferenced in early Tommy song lists. Also another song about the difficulties of communication, perhaps by Tommy to his followers.

 

Sally Simpson (out-takes) 4'10
(Pete Townshend a/k/a "Bone") BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
A fine example of how pretentiously The Who approached this project. Does anyone know what issue of Record Mirror is the one to which Pete refers? It might help date this recording. Pete leads on acoustic guitar.

 

Miss Simpson 4'20
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
A loose, and apparently early, take of "Sally Simpson" featuring overdubbed piano by Pete and overdubbed background vocals.

 

Welcome (take 2) 3'44
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
An early instrumental version of the track with Pete leading on piano.

 

Tommy's Holiday Camp (band's version) 1'09
(credited to Keith Moon but actually composed by Pete Townshend) Gowmonk, Inc. (BMI)
This is John, Keith and Pete performing an unused backing track for the song. Pete leads on electric organ. Ultimately Pete's demo version was used for the album.

 

We're Not Gonna Take It (alternate version) 6'12
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
An early version in a loose mix that closely follows the demo version by Pete that has appeared on bootlegs.

 

Dogs Part Two 2'30
(Keith Moon) Gowmonk, Inc. (BMI)
Recorded Feb. 12, 1969 at IBC Studio A, London.
Originally released March 7, 1969 as the b-side to "Pinball Wizard," this track has been out-of-print since the removal of the Two's Missing CD/LP from the market not long after its 1987 release. The U.K. single credited authorship to "Moon/Towser/Jason." Towser was Pete's dog and Jason was John's. As with "Young Man Blues" above, this features a drier, less echo-y mix than the original with louder drumming. There is also an additional bass track in the right channel resulting in a rearranged stereo spread.


It's A Boy (Pete's demo version) 0'44
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
All of these demos were recorded by Pete at his home in Twickenham on a Revox G36 stereo reel-to-reel at 15 ips. Instruments used were a Gibson J200 guitar, a Gibson SG special guitar, a piano, drums and electric organ.



one of many bootleg issues of Pete's Tommy demos

Amazing Journey (Pete's demo version) 3'43
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
Compared to this version, the bootleg version of this track features a longer introduction plus a track overlay of "psychedelic" sounds created with alternate speed playback of a tape machine and guitar effects.

 

Christmas (Pete's demo version) 1'58
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
Unlike the version previously released on Pete's 1987 solo album Another Scoop, this version is a two-track mix with additional echo. There is an alternate take available on bootleg with slightly different lyrics ("playing poxy pinball" as "playing with himself" and "only if he's cured" as "only by a cure") which does not end at 1'58 but continues through the rest of the song as The Who performed it on the final album.


Do You Think It's Alright? (Pete's demo version) 0'29
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)

Pinball Wizard (Pete's demo version) 3'47
(Pete Townshend) BMG Music o/b/o Towser Tunes, Fabulous Music, ABKCO (BMI)
Previously released on a flexi-disc included in the 1982 edition of Richard Barnes' The Who: Maximum R&B book and, in a truncated form, on Pete's 1987 solo album Another Scoop.


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