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Author Topic: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road  (Read 2352 times)

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peterbell1

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The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« on: March 07, 2012, 10:35:21 PM »

Just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on whether or not the second side of Abbey Road was put together under the influence of the first true rock opera, The Who's Tommy, which was released in May 1969.

Recording of Abbey Road took place from early 1969 until August, so The Beatles would have had plenty of time to listen to The Who's great album and let that influence bleed through into their own work.

Personally, I do think that Paul was trying to emulate a Tommy-like piece of work, but he didn't have the control over the creative output of The Beatles like Townshend did over The Who. Townshend could dictate exactly what the Who would sing and play (listen to his demos of Tommy and the album is about 90% finished before the rest of the band has even touched it).

Paul couldn't do this with The Beatles though. There was a very loose concept idea on Sgt Pepper, but aside from the first two songs and the last two, there wasn't really much linking going on between individual songs. The second side of Abbey Road (well most of it) was a true attempt to create a suite of music, in an operatic style, where themes come and go within one long piece of music.

The concept album was a big deal in 68/69, with Tommy, SF Sorrow, Ogdens and Village Green etc, so I do think that Paul was trying to emulate these great albums on the second side of Abbey Road.

What do you think?
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pc31

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2012, 12:43:31 AM »

i don't think paul was influenced at all by tommy...ringo starr played uncle ernie  in the uk stage production...he and keith moon were buddies then...paul was already into every type of music...as for copying someone it is always the last thing paulie wants to do...he values the critics opinion and wants rave reveiws...thats why he always has to out do himself...

Bobber

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2012, 08:50:36 AM »

It's an interesting thought, but I doubt if Paul and the other Beatles were thinking in that direction. First of all, most of the snippets on Abbey Road side 2 were written earlier and there's hardly an operatic style with themes coming and going within a strong bond of music. Secondly, I think The Beatles were not trying to make another concept album. They had already done that, although it didn't work out as a truely concept album in the end. Even if they were looking forward -which I doubt. It's clear that they were just recording their best songs from the moment and take it to an end-, they would have realized that concept albums were maybe hot in 1969, but not in the future.
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Kangaroo Kev

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2012, 11:21:01 PM »

I agree with Bobber, anyway you could say that townsend was influenced by the Moody Blues Days Of Future Past which was probably the first full blown concept/operatic album -made in 1967 (if you dont count Pepper), hell they even had an orchestra !
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Normandie

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2012, 04:33:53 PM »


Interesting thread....Also, I had no idea Ringo played Uncle Ernie on the UK stage version.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2012, 06:40:32 PM by Normandie »
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peterbell1

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2012, 12:42:51 PM »

I'm not trying to suggest that Abbey Road is in any way a "concept" album, just querying whether the rock operas such as Tommy might have had some bearing on the decision (presumably led by Paul, but that's just my guess) to link all those shorter songs on side 2 into a single long piece of music.

Is there any mention anywhere of who's idea it was to merge the Abbey Road tracks into a long medley?

And one other note on the Abbey Road medley - aside from the reprise of YNGMYM as part of Carry That Weight, there are other links between the songs in the medley. Her Majesty was originally inserted between Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam, so Paul follows up Lennon's mention of the queen in Mr Mustard with his love song to "Her Majesty", and then Lennon replies to that with "Well you should see Polythene Pam...".
Also, Pam gets a name-check in Mr Mustard (she was originally called Shirley in the song!).
So there is a little bit of lyrical continuity in this group of songs - they aren't all just completely isolated fragments.

The Who had been doing this same thing since 1966 when they released the album "A Quick One" - the song "A Quick One While He's Away" is made up of six short song fragments which Pete Townshend hadn't completed. Their manager suggested he put them all together into one longer piece and so he wrote a very loose lyrical theme to tie together the six musical parts in a "mini-opera" as he called it....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Quick_One,_While_He%27s_Away

So I suppose Abbey Road side 2 has more in common with A Quick One than Tommy. Tommy was written as one hour-long piece of music in true operatic style, whereas in Abbey Road and Quick One you have short fragments of songs being stuck together to create a longer piece of work.
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Toejam

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2012, 10:54:49 AM »

I'm not trying to suggest that Abbey Road is in any way a "concept" album, just querying whether the rock operas such as Tommy might have had some bearing on the decision (presumably led by Paul, but that's just my guess) to link all those shorter songs on side 2 into a single long piece of music.

Is there any mention anywhere of who's idea it was to merge the Abbey Road tracks into a long medley?

And one other note on the Abbey Road medley - aside from the reprise of YNGMYM as part of Carry That Weight, there are other links between the songs in the medley. Her Majesty was originally inserted between Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam, so Paul follows up Lennon's mention of the queen in Mr Mustard with his love song to "Her Majesty", and then Lennon replies to that with "Well you should see Polythene Pam...".
Also, Pam gets a name-check in Mr Mustard (she was originally called Shirley in the song!).
So there is a little bit of lyrical continuity in this group of songs - they aren't all just completely isolated fragments.

The Who had been doing this same thing since 1966 when they released the album "A Quick One" - the song "A Quick One While He's Away" is made up of six short song fragments which Pete Townshend hadn't completed. Their manager suggested he put them all together into one longer piece and so he wrote a very loose lyrical theme to tie together the six musical parts in a "mini-opera" as he called it....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Quick_One,_While_He%27s_Away

So I suppose Abbey Road side 2 has more in common with A Quick One than Tommy. Tommy was written as one hour-long piece of music in true operatic style, whereas in Abbey Road and Quick One you have short fragments of songs being stuck together to create a longer piece of work.


One of the things about the medley is that neccesity was the mother of invention. As Mark Lewishon said 'new songs were thin on the ground' around this time esp. from John. MM & PP were both written before the White album session started in India I think and so they seem to have been recorded for AR just 'cause he didn't have any other songs. It's interesting who's idea it was and also considering Lennon's disatisfaction with Paul and the Beatles at that time it's even more interesting that he bothered to get involved at all in a medley. His songs on it aren't great but they are fun and very entertaining which is a bit ironic considering how little fun he seemed to be having by that time with the Beatles and his life in general. I can't see any real influence from Tommy or even concept albums. I'd guess it was mainly Paul's inspiration to do a medley with some help from George Martin. John turned up and added something but I'd guess he didn't imput much apart from perfoming his old songs. I can't even hear his voice on the 'boy you're going to carry that weight' shouting. Ringo's voice is the most prominent on there. Also it's been pointed out that he (Ringo) seems to be shouting 'Paul. You've got to carry that weight'. Listen carefully. Once you know it's there you'll hear it all the time.
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Hombre_de_ningun_lugar

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2012, 06:36:41 PM »

I've always thought that the B-side of Abbey Road could have been a little influenced by Tommy. For example, "Carry That Weight" reminds me to "See Me, Feel Me", which in turn could have been influenced by the coda of "Hey Jude". The kind of pop symphony thing.
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ibanez_ax

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2012, 12:03:35 AM »

I read somewhere, years ago, that The Who's "A Quick One" mini-opera inspired the Beatles to make Sgt. Pepper's seem unified.  I don't remember where I read it and have no idea if it's true.
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Bobber

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2012, 07:32:52 AM »

I read somewhere, years ago, that The Who's "A Quick One" mini-opera inspired the Beatles to make Sgt. Pepper's seem unified.  I don't remember where I read it and have no idea if it's true.

Mmm, let's see if we can find something on that.
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peterbell1

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2012, 10:23:39 AM »

I found this excerpt in a book called "Amazing Journey: The Life of Pete Townshend" by Mark Ian Wilkerson. It's a quote from Pete Townshend in 1975 ...

“Just after we’d finished A Quick One we became a big clubbing band; we used to go down to the clubs a lot, I got to know [Paul] McCartney pretty well and he was really raving over the album and saying that track ‘A Quick One’ was exactly the sort of thing that The Beatles were working towards. He said they’d been really inspired by it. And when Sgt Pepper came out [June 1967] I remember very smugly thinking, ‘It’s all because of A Quick One’”

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=b03CYc9UWSIC&lpg=PP1&dq=amazing%20journey&pg=PA73#v=onepage&q=amazing%20journey&f=false
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ibanez_ax

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2012, 10:09:50 PM »

I found this excerpt in a book called "Amazing Journey: The Life of Pete Townshend" by Mark Ian Wilkerson. It's a quote from Pete Townshend in 1975 ...

“Just after we’d finished A Quick One we became a big clubbing band; we used to go down to the clubs a lot, I got to know [Paul] McCartney pretty well and he was really raving over the album and saying that track ‘A Quick One’ was exactly the sort of thing that The Beatles were working towards. He said they’d been really inspired by it. And when Sgt Pepper came out [June 1967] I remember very smugly thinking, ‘It’s all because of A Quick One’”

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=b03CYc9UWSIC&lpg=PP1&dq=amazing%20journey&pg=PA73#v=onepage&q=amazing%20journey&f=false


Thanks for that.  I'm not senile after all.  ;D
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Kangaroo Kev

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2012, 11:27:32 PM »

Just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on whether or not the second side of Abbey Road was put together under the influence of the first true rock opera, The Who's Tommy, which was released in May 1969.



Im surprised Todd didnt jump in here and state that The Pretty Things - SF Sorrow was the first rock opera :)
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peterbell1

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Re: The Who's Tommy - influence on Abbey Road
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2012, 10:51:12 AM »

In Geoff Emerick's book (I can't give a page reference as I'm reading the i-book version) it has the following passage in the Abbey Road chapter ...

But by the time I arrived, an agitated John was deeply involved indeed. More specifically, he was having a row with Paul and George Martin.
'We've already done the concept album,' he argued, presumably referring to Pepper. 'Why do we need to do another one?'
'Look John, we're just trying to think symphonically,' George replied. 'We're trying to create a complete work out of song fragments.'
John was derisive at first, saying, 'You're taking yourselves too seriously,' but when Paul invited him to contribute some compositions of his own to the medley, he seemed to capitulate. 'Well I might have one or two that could fit,' he said sheepishly.

Some proof (if Emerick can be believed) that it was Paul's idea, with the support of George Martin, to create a "symphonic" piece by joining up some shorter song fragments.
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