“THE WHO’S TOMMY”
Original Cast Recording (RCA)
It's a shame that life doesn't come
equipped with a giant “TILT” sign in the
sky that ﬂashes blood-red and stops the
game every time someone sets out on
some goofy endeavor, such as concocting
another dumb version of “Tommy.”
Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff’s
Tony Award-winning “The Who’s
Tommy” is the fourth incarnation of the
psychedelic classic, following the original,
a symphonic version and a movie.
The music’s not all bad. Great melodies
are hard to mess up. But the premise
behind the revamped stage version will
come as a shock to fans of the Who’s
“The Who’s Tommy” is a paean to
family life. That’s right, when “that deaf,
dumb and blind kid" finally comes to his
senses, he decides there’s just no place
like home. “You don't need to claim/A
share of my pain/You’re normal after all”
he sings near the stage version’s end.
The new Tommy is not a street-fighting
man, the sort of fellow you might have
seen in the streets of Chicago in the sum-
mer of ’68 or marching on Washington to
protest the Vietnam War or racism. The
stage Tommy is more likely to cry “I'm
not gonna pay a lot for this muffler,”
rather than the classic Who line “We're
not gonna take it, never did and never
Regardless of whether you find the new
premise repulsive or refreshing, you have
to wonder just what it is about the 19903
that compels us to dip into the ’605 and
'703 for our inspiration. Pop music has
been trying for years through recordings
of countless lame tribute albums to prove
there’s barely a chord of creativity left in
it. Now, the Great White Way has followed
Like the original, “The Who’s Tommy"
gives us a lot of music to consider. The
soundtrack is long, clocking in at just un-
der 100 minutes. That includes countless
reprises and a Townshend tune (“I Be-
lieve My Own Eyes") not in the original
Purists probably wouldn't cross the
street to catch the latest version, but even
casual fans aren't likely to find bellowing
vibratos and brassy instrumentals a fair
trade for the cyclonic power of Town—
shend’s guitar and the thunderous drum-
ming of his sidekick, the late Keith Moon.
Both are sorely missed throughout.
“Amazing Journey," perhaps the finest
song on the original, is a bad trip here.
“Sensation," one of the brightest spots on
the old vinyl version, is stripped of any
sernblance of its original, understated
beauty and puffed up to bear a saccharine
likeness to a diet-soda jingle. Truly horrid.
It would have been ridiculous, of course,
to have expected a volcanic “Live at
Leeds" take on the original. Acid rock just
doesn’t cut it on Broadway.
Besides, the original version registered
a few tilts of its own. The stage version of
“Fiddle About” is insidiously superior and
downright fun, which can’t be Claimed
about the cloddish original. “Smash the
Mirror” was cracked to begin with and
does not get any better here.
The rest, including the classics “Pinball
Wizard," “Underture” and “We’re Not
Gonna Take It" get the generic show-tune
treatment and are the worse for it.
Townshend and McAnuff may have cre-
ated a warm tribute to family life, but
those who favor art that is a bit more
subversive are likely to be sorely disapc
pointed with this soundtrack.
— Paul Hampel
Junior Reid (Greensleeves'L
Delroy “Junior" Reid, one of reggae's
,most talented singers, is back with 14 new