DVD Review: Sensation – The Story of The Who’s Tommy
Reviewed by: Roger Scales
The Who’s double LP Tommy (1969) truly set the standard as the first rock opera and took Pete Townshend from brash guitar player to legendary songwriter in one fell swoop. Some of my all time favorite Who tracks such as ‘Pinball Wizard”, “See Me, Feel Me” and “I’m Free” are featured here and tells the story about that deaf, dumb and blind kid. It’s hard to believe that the album was banned by the BBC and certain US radio stations who felt it was exploitative. I actually remember the movie from 1975 more from my childhood than the album itself, probably because I had such a mad crush on Ann- Margret. I was really looking forward to this DVD from Eagle Vision because as an album I have a much better appreciation for it now than I ever did then. This release does not disappoint and I found out a lot more about this album than I ever did especially the art work and a lot of what inspired Pete to create these songs in the first place.
This DVD includes newly conducted interviews with Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend, archive interviews with John Entwistle, artwork creator Mike McInnerney plus others involved in the creation of the album. Some of the live footage we have seen before from Woodstock and Live at the Isle of Wright show from 1970. But it also includes some not so well seen TV footage of the band performing the early, pre-Tommy track “I Can See For Miles”. There doesn’t seem to be much focus on Daltry’s portrayal of Tommy both live onstage and in the movie but shifts much of the focus on Pete as the main contributor. The Blue Ray version includes a 33 minute bonus feature from the German TV show “Beat Club” which includes live performances from The Who and a vintage interview with Pete. This is the highlight for me because it’s more in the moment as opposed to be reflective.
Although some of this DVD covers some familiar territory one thing this for certain The Who’s fourth album is their most important release in their history. At least from my ears some of my favorite concept albums such as Streets by Savatage, Operation Mindcrime by Queensryche, The Crimson Idol by WASP, Abigail by King Diamond and Metropolis, Pt.2: Scenes From A Memory by Dream Theater all have their roots in Tommy. If you’re a fan of any of the records I just listed take some time and dive into what came first and rediscover Tommy for what it is rock’s first true masterpiece of the mind.