Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tribute: "Tommy", Townshend

The other day (Wednesday) was Pete Townshend's 65th birthday. Yesterday was a special 35th-anniversary screening of Ken Russell's movie, "Tommy", featuring The Who's rock opera and a great cast (Roger Daltrey as the lead, Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, the other Who members, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Tina Turner....)

I will never forget (or discuss publicly) my experience watching the movie in 1975, but it was both a lot of fun (ever seen the part where Ann-Margret is covered with gooey mud? Or is it baked beans?) and a bit of a revelation. I had always loved the music to "Tommy", but I hadn't really gotten the point too much. In a very recent interview, Townshend discusses the inspiration for "Tommy" (the teachings of Sufi master Meher Baba were very much behind it, with the deaf-dumb-and-blind Tommy--before the cure--being us unenlightened folk) and praises the movie for bringing out the images more than their recordings or even their performances.

As for Mr. Townshend, he would get my nomination for the Best Live Rock Performer--ever. At least, the best I've ever seen. I love his songwriting (check out "Scoop" sometime), his musicianship, and I appreciate (but don't necessarily get) his efforts to raise up our consciousness. He is much more than the guy who blasted feedback and smashed his guitars. He has written anthems that will (or should, at least) resound forever with young adults. He has given us so much, and I feel he is more unappreciated than ever. Happy Belated Birthday!

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