January 21, 2021

1972-02-26 – The Los Angeles Times

1972 02 26 The_Los_Angeles_Times_Sat__Feb_26__1972_

6 Part 11—531., Feb. 26, i9 72

ROBERT HILBURN

11116 1111921st (11111115

Sensitivity Training Lesson in ‘TOmmya

While trying to piece together the reasons for my dis-
appointment with ”Tommy" at the Aquarius, 1 came
across some remarks in a book on the influence and im-
portance of pop (rock) music that helped providea
sense of direction for my complaints.

In "Revolt to Style."
E n g] i s h writer - critic
George Melly notes: "Pop
has affected all our sensi-
bilities, and to the good.
We are more open, less
stuffy, less intellectually
snobbish, more loving be-
cause of pop . . We have
become less scared of 0111‘
feelings, less t‘OHCEI‘HEtl
with imprisoning conven-
tions, less easily duped,
more spontaneous."

I'm not 11:11'1‘011'-n1i11de(l
enough to- suggest that
pop (rock) culture music
is the only art form of
value ~in these times, but I
do believe it is the vehicle through which a generation
{both here and through much of the rest 01‘ the world)
has found a common spirit, a common source of
strength. unity and confidence. 'l‘hu::. I believe there is

Peter Townshend

truth in the power and liberation of rock as suggested in .

Melly's words.

Ever since the early records of 1511i»: Presley. Chuck
ierry and Little Richard, rock has been an influential
fm’Ce. 1301' those touched by it": spirit. it is a precious
force. one that causes anger and resentment when )‘011
see it tanipet‘ed 11'i th, 111isrepresented 01' exploited.
When John I-’oge1‘t_1‘. vmnphtining about the way televi-
sion 01' pop singers have misused rock, says "Don't mess
around with my mL-k '11' roll." he‘s Using a collective
"1111'" not just an individual one.

Similarly, when Peter Townshend. the author of most
of "Tommy." sits in a West Hollywood hotel room the
day after his Inglewood Forum concert last December.
he becomes so embroiled £11 explaining what rock has
meant in his life that he doesn't take the time to get up

and turn on the lights when the sun sets, leaving the
room in semidarkness.

Can't Please Everyone

"i’eotile talk alient the power the Stone: hat‘r- (11‘ I
have, but the whole key to rock '11' roll is that it is a
strength-givet’.” Townshend said. "That's why it has
lasted so long. In a concert, you try to achieve a few
moments where. you can feel that strength. where every-
one in the room feels the same exhilaration, the same
unity, the same joy."

1n Townshend's "My Generation." he celebrates the
unity and makes it clear that his music is not—in the
early ttadition of pep musie—a compromise that is seek-
ing to please even) one. He seemed to be speaking direct-
ly to the nonroek audience. ' "Why don' t you all f- {-f-fade
away/ Don' 1 L11 and dig 11hat we all say./ I'm not trying

to cause a big sensation/ I’m just talking 'bout my gen-
et‘ation."

In another song, Townshend said "Hope I die before I
get old" and, in the enthusiasm of youth, probably
meant it. But life goes on and the ultimate test of rock
will be its ability to continue expressing the moods/feel-
ings/objectives of its audience much of which is now
into their 305. In that process, it has got to embrace, no
doubt, other serious art torms,110tably films and thea-
ter

So far, rock has found little success in the theater.Bt1t
the theater has been given little to 110111 with. Though
"Hair" was aninteresting piece of theater (showing
the exuberance of y‘outh), it wasn't rock and I found
myself ultimately resenting its success because people
seemed tobe viewing its under the false notion they
were learning about rock music and its audience.

Then came "Salvation," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and
"Godspell," works that were (at most) merely rock-fla~
vored pop. But in "Tommy," we hate at last. a genuine
piece of rock '11' roll 111usic,an exciting , stirring state-
ment about the torments of youth built around music
that reflects the splendor and outrage of one of rock's
best groups.

Worn Theatrical Technique

Rather than retaining the power of "Tommy." how-
ever. the Aquarius production leans on—it seems oh-
1'ious-—some rather 11101111 theatrical techniques. Both
the concepts and the poisonnel seem more suited, 011
the whole to the t1aditions of "Hello, Dolly!" than the
spirit of "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin‘ On "

So whe1e does all this leme 1151’ --1e lock music and
the theater mutually exclusive. Of course not If you at‘-
<~ept the premise that "'l‘ommy" is the first true rock wetk ot' the "1 out: theatei" p10duetions cited. we see that 10ck theater has 21 mt ' limited history The fact that pxodueers 11e1‘e millingyt to gamble on such an ambitious t at least financially ) production shows there' ts a maiket for rock theater and may well motivate others to think- ing in that direction. \ hat 11 e' 1 e leatned from ""lomn11"at the Aquarius is that lock theater, just as 11ith an) other form of creative expression, requires sensitivity and judgment to make it work. This week's simple lesson is that rock theater pro- ductions are going to have to reflect. the essential ele- ments of rock if they me to deserve the respect and at- tention of the touk communitv {3} UNIVERSAL STUDIO TOURS EVERY DAY 10 00 AM thruJ 30 PM “Rowland: marvelous. .Casselvery funny.” . " ; " o-Ctum: Chamnh'n. L&Iimu "Rowland: