Artist: The Who
Genre: Hard Rock/ Rock/ Rock Opera
Heal MeSee Me
Here it is. THE Rock Opera. The rock opera of the ages. The Rock Opera to end all rock operas. The Rock Opera so big it completely overshadowed what was considered the first Rock Opera (S.F. Sorrow) and was often considered to be the first despite having been inspired by SF Sorrow. And by The Who no less. Who would have thunk that these crazy rockers with their penchant of smashing their equipment at the end of sets and generally giving no fucks would be the ones to create something as sophisticated as this? No one I’m sure and it definitely came as a shock when it first came out with people screaming to the heavens “THE WHO DID THIS?!?! LORD I NEED AN ANSWER!!!”
Only The Who can take the rather ridiculous story of a kid who goes deaf, blind and dumb and becomes a master of Pinball and turn it into a successful Rock Opera. Honestly, reread that, a kid who goes deaf, blind and dumb and is a master of pinball… what… the… fuck… How in the hell did an idea like that somehow become one of the most famous Rock Operas of all time? How did they make this freaking work??? I think in part the success of it comes from the fact that it’s such a ridiculous premise that you have no choice but to just go along with it. We really get a whole journey from start to finish, Tommy’s birth to his older age, where he eventually exploits people using his fame (fantastic isn’t it?). It’s no wonder a lot of people did make parallels with SF Sorrow, but other than the fact that both tell the story of a boy growing up and are structured similarly, the similarities end there between the two.
I can only speculate but I think in part why it made such a splash is because it was quite an ambitious project for a band that was known for it’s proto-punk attitude. They hadn’t really shown any interest in playing to that level of musicianship and although their cleverness and maturity does shine in previous efforts (The Who Sell Out in particular) they come across more as smart-asses there. Here there’s a level of sincerity and genuine feeling (despite the subject material) that The Who hadn’t really shown before and which would open the gates for their future endeavours shying away from their Hard Rocking young years into musicians growing and perfecting their craft. Here The Who finally showed what they really could do and created something that felt bigger than anything they had before. It was an ambitious project on their parts but they pulled it off with the utmost skill and craft. There really is a charm to the whole album and even though you’re hit with one ridiculous story after another in this poor boy’s life, it’s charming affect really shines through and instead of making you cringe or shut it off it has you playfully laughing along with it.
If there was one thing I could say I didn’t like about it was that it’s wayyyy too long. As I was listening I kept asking myself when is this going to end? It felt like it kept going on and on and on and when I finally saw the time length it all made sense to me. It’s 75 minutes long and fuck, it feels 75 minutes long. It’s quite bloated as an album and there’s probably a lot that could have been cut here that didn’t really serve any purpose to the whole story. I know what you might say… but it’s a Rock Opera, it’s a shows length hence why it’s so long! and to that I say, yeah, true. Also, as a listening experience I do find it kind of underwhelming especially since there’s no distinctions between the characters voices as it’s all sung by the same person essentially. I find, just like any Rock Opera I suppose, it’s meant to be seen LIVE as a show. I saw it once produced for stage and it was a really fun experience! Seeing all the characters come to life and having some blanks be filled that could have only been filled through visuals really helps with the whole presentation of this album. It is OK on record but should be seen visually I feel (which they did make a movie version, so Yeah!).
Pinball is such a weird arcade game. Never really understood the appeal to be honest. I enjoy a good game of pinball and I guess the flashy lights and fun little things that pop up are enough to keep any young person entertained for a solid minute and a half. Especially when you play themed pinball machines that have tidbits and fun “events” from your favourite movies and pop culture media. I guess there’s a joy to unlocking those and finding all the references… but… if you suck at pinball it’s not really fun at all. You get increasingly frustrated as he ball keeps dropping in between the paddles, especially when it falls directly between them and no matter what you did you could never hit the ball which isn’t fair and is just pure bad luck and has nothing to do with skill. For the more competitive types, I guess the appeal comes from trying to have the highest score and getting the prestige of being a high score ranker (what an achievement, really aiming for he stars). I don’t know, I enjoy a quick round but will never run for the pinball machine. But then again I guess I don’t enjoy many things in general… so there’s that. But if you ever meet a deaf, dumb and blind kid, bring him to the arcade and see if he plays a mean pinball.
He honestly probably won’t…
Favourite Tune: Pinball Wizard