September 19, 2020

1993-04-11 – The Index Journal

1993 04 11 The_Index_Journal_Fri__Apr_11__1993_

.. lB-Thelndox-Joumal Greenwood S. C. Sun.

til 11 1993

‘TOmmy’ finds way
, to Broadway

NEW YORK (AP) - Guitarist
Pete Townshend says that working
in music theater “has made me
realize there is an equal, parallel
craft in rock.”

The music theater he's working
on is “Tommy,” the mck opera he
composed in 1969 for the English
rock group the Who. It's now on
Broadway, at the St. James Theater,
with a cast of 28 and 14 musicians.

Townshend, 46, sa ys “What my

eneration of rock has suffered
romis, we didn’ t develop a craft.
We deveIOped a lifestyle and an
attitude. We felt it would be
pretentious to try to develop a craft
around something which was
evolving unformed. We were
convinced that it was destined to
destroy itself. Nevertheless, there is

“We rock artists who are aging,
instead of becoming objects of
ridicule, need to start to nefine our
craft rather than let it blunder on
like a lumbering machine until it
crumbles to dust."

Townshend had time iecently to
work on a theatrical production of
”Tommy" because of a Fn'day the
13th bike accident in 1991. He,
singer Roger Daltrey and bassist
John Entwistle did a Who 25th
anniversary tour in 1989. Who
drummer Keith Moon died in 1978.

After the tour, Townshend
started making a solo album. It was
due Sept 30, 1991. Then he fell off
a bicycle Sept. 13, 1991, and
smashed his right arm. He says, “I
was sailing. I stopped at the Scilly

Isles and tented a bike. I hit a hole,
went over the handlebars, landed
on my right shoulder and the bike
hit my hand. A helicopter took me
to the mainland. Somebody else
sailed my boat back. I was in and
out of hospital six weeks, then had
a long period of physiotherapy.

“There are metal plates in my

am. I can’t flex my wrist or twist

my amt at all. I can’t do my Pete
Townshend thing on the guitar. It
sounds like somebody else.

“Virgin Records encouraged me
to go on with the album. Some was
recorded before the accident and
some afterwards.” Atlantic

Records will release
“Psychoderelict’ on June 15 in

While he was recuperating, Pace
Theatrical Group, which had been
trying to get the rights to tour
“Tommy," tried again.

Townshend says, “They put me
together with Des McAnuff, artistic
director of the La Jolla Playhouse.
who directed ‘Big River’ on
Broadway. I liked him
immediately. We had long
brainstorming sessions. When I


P9 to
To vnshend

was happy mm me malenal, Hey missmg 1n a war, relum an! E“ his

did a workshop production in La mother's lover. (Because of
Jolla, last year." protests from parents of autistic
When Townshend was children, Tommy is no longer
composing “Tommy," which called autistic.) Tommy's Cousin
became the most famous of a new Kevin bullies him; Uncle Ernie
musical genre, rock opera, he was molests him; a gypsy gives him
thinking about saving the Who. LSD. His silent plea is, “See me.
“We were a singles band facing feel me, touch me, heal me.”
ignominy. We’d had a hit, ‘I Can Tommy becomes a pinball
See for Miles,’ in America. It wizard, develops a following. A
wasn’t an intemational hit. doctor notices that he responds to
“I sat down to write to save not his image in a mirror. His mother
just the Who but the process that breaks his minor. He suddenly can
the Who had begun. Every band talk. He becomes a religious leader.
thought they had a cause. We again gets followers but they turn
believed rock ’n’ roll was an against him. The final song is

ideology rather than a lifestyle.” Tommy’ 3 statement of
The Who was saved. lt recorded wondennent.
“Tommy” and toured performing Townshend says, “In the

original story, Tommy was very
much a rock star figure. Pinball
was a metaphor for rock ’n’ roll
and celebrity, decadence, power
and the misuse of power.

“Emerging from silence, he
rushed straight into some kind of
spiritual emancipation, which
solved all his childhood problems
and left him facing only God. It
was a nice airy-fairy ending for the
’60s and ’705, not right for this day
and age, I don't think.

“We've rewritten the second act.
Now, as soon as Tommy emerges,
he takes charge of his life.

. “1 think the great In ment.for
me was disCovering ‘To my did
have an ending. Instead of the!
abstract ending of him turning
away from everything difficult in
life and going up the mountain, he
goes home. At the end, he is off to
restart his life.

“In these dark days we havedo
be optimistic. We have to believe
we can start again and make this
life work.” Townshend was the
author in 1965 of the rock lyric
line, “Hope I die before 1 get old."
He no longer feels like that, either.

it, sometimes in opera houses. The
group got a funher boost when Ken
Russell made “Tommy” into a
movie in 1975.

Townshend liked the film, which
had Roger Daltrey as Tommy,
Ann-Margret as his mother, Tina
Turner as the “Acid Queen" gypsy
and Jack Nicholson as the doctor.
Townshend, who worked on the
music, says, “The style tumed each
scene into kind of an MTV video.
revolutionary at the time.”

But he's even happier with the
Broadway “Tommy."

“For me it really is such an
exciting thing to happen,”
Townshend says, ”partly because
I’m so sure that ‘Tommy’ is a good
solid piece of work. The work we
have done on it I think has revealed
that there was a very solid heart to
it in the first place. It wasn’tjust a
bunch of hippies getting stoned and
listening to a story that wasn’t
really there. It is a story.”

But there’s a new ending for the

Originally, Tommy goes into
“traumatically induced isolation”
after he sees his father, reported