THE TAMPA TIMES. Wednesday. April 2. :19‘75
Fans may not expect real ‘Who’
By ROBERT HILBURN
Los Angeles Times Service
Peter Townshend, going throughthe
final morning sturggles of waking up after
a night’s celebration. leaned back in the
sofa in his Beverly Wilshire Hotel suite
and tried! to piece together his feelings
about Ken Russell's “Tommy," the con--
troversial film of the rock opera that
Townshend wrote and recorded with the
Who in 1968. More than the success or ac-
curacy of the film. Townshend seemed
concerned, on the morning after the Los
Angeles premiere of “Tommy," with the
effect it would have on the Who’s audif
“I‘ve been listening to a tremendous
amount of people, at. parties; and; things
like that, just gushing and gushing about
how ‘beautiful’ and ‘wonderful’ the film is,'
but I haven’t been able to sample the peo-
ple I‘m most concerned about —— therhard—
core Who fans. the people that have lived
with ‘Tommy’ for so long and the ones who
know everything about us. They’re the
ones who are most important to me.
They're the ones I write for."
The other thing that worries me is the
matter of who is going to show up at Who
concerts,” Townshend continued. “If peo-
ple judge us on the basis of that film, it’s
going to be very peculiar on the next tour.
The newly curious ones attracted by the
film are going to be expecting something
very David Bowiesque, which the Who is
“I’ve got this nightmare in mind of a
simply disastrous tour in which one part of
the, audience —- the one new to the Who —-
walks out saying, ‘Well, they‘re sure not
like the movie’ and the other part -- the
old Who fans —- saying, ‘Well, they sure
were good until the movie.’ We’re very
nervous in the band about what is going to
On a personal level. Townshend was re-
lieved that the band’s lengthy effort to
fected by the movie “Tonnny.” If people.
judge us on the basis of that film. it’s
going to be very peculiar on the next
tour," he said
Townshend (second from left in photo
of Who above) is worried about future
Who concerts and how they will be at-
bring “Tommy” to the screen was over.
Ever since the rock opera was recorded in
1968, the Who and its management have
been talking to various directors -- from
Federico Fellini to Richard Lester —
about “Tommy.”.They also went through
a hundred or so scripts from potential
“Russell didn’t seem to have a lot of
preconceived ideas,” Townshend said. re—
tracting his involvement with the stylish
director who has been described as Bri-
tain's aging enfant terrible. “When we
first met on the project. I gave him a huge
file of all the press clippings from the first
US. tour the Who did after ‘Tommy‘ was
released. I did about four interviews a day
about ‘Tommy‘ on the tour and a lot of
them were printed inhlengthy question-and
answer form, so it gave Russell a lot of
’my own analysis of ‘Tommy.’
“After he read through it... he came
back and we discussed it some more. The
thing he seemed most keen to get right.
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from the beginning. was the story. That
surprised me because it‘s a silly little
story, really. I mean it‘s got a couple of
dramaticeliches in it. —— like Capt. Walker
suddenly coming back from the war -
that I’ll be ashamed of forever.
“But I’m proud of the dramatic device
of the mirror as a way of talking about the
illusory world. the whole fragmentary
quality of what we call reality. And I'm
proud of the device of the deaf. dumb and
blind boy representing our sort of spiritual
In line with Russell's efforts to make
the rock Opera's story more plausible.
Townshend composed some additional ma-
terial and allowed Russell to change some
of the words in the original sbngs to under~
score what was happening on the screen.
“The result was a much more literal
film than I had expected.” Townshend
added. “Russell wanted to make the mum-
a real mum and Tommy like a real little
boy rather than someone who just sort of
floats around. Every other script we saw
(over the years) was much more abstract.
"One of the things about "I‘ommy' is I
tried to do so much in it that you could
probably make six films and they‘d each
be totally different. I wanted to talk about
the family. comment on society. on adoles-
cence. on rock music. on organized reli-
gion. on the individual spiritual path.
phony messiahs‘ capitalist exploitation of
youth's love for superstars.
“This ifilhii is one way of looking at
‘Tommy.’ It‘s Ken Russell's way. not.
mine. but a film is always a director’s:
statement. That‘s what we wanted. We:
wanted a fresh look. After writing;
.‘Tommy‘ and performing it so many;
times. I really wanted to get away from it?
For me. one of the reasons the film is en-Z
joyable is that it is kept. at. a distance. .