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Author Topic: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)  (Read 3129 times)

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Ovi

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Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« on: September 29, 2012, 04:34:49 PM »

Side One

Overture - Just like its title suggests, this is an instrumental introduction to The Who's first rock opera and it's formed by snippets of the album's main themes and songs. 0:35 - the riff of 'We're Not Gonna Take It' played on a french horn (probably by John Entwistle) and it sounds good. The same horn can be found in 1:12 on what seems to be a fragment of 'Go To The Mirror!'. During 1:36 and 1:52 we have the best part of the song, a wordless 'See Me Feel Me'. It sounds exactly like a heavenly prayer. 2:21 - nice organ-driven fragment of 'Listening To You'. 3:48 - great gong-like effect. According to Wikipedia the song should've ended at 3:50, yet on my copy it still goes on for 1 and a half minute more. There's also the lyrics joining in and introducing us to Tommy's birth.

It's A Boy - A 40 seconds touching little tune sung by Pete.

1921 - One of my favourite songs on the album. A superb ballad with Pete's voice at its best. Love the part in which Pete sings from the father's perspective telling Tommy that he didn't hear or see anything, while Roger, representing the poor boy says the exact opposite (I heard it, I saw it). Amazing track. Note to self : Don't forget to listen to the song in 2021 for the lyrics to make sense!

Amazing Journey - Not a personal favourite, but it's a decent tune. I'm not a big fan of that little effect that constantly keeps repeating (keyboards maybe?). However, love the drums at 0:45. This segues into :

Sparks - Another instrumental, though not quite as good as 'Overture'. Lots of special effects to give it a psychedelic journey-like feel. 1:41 another album theme, this one having its origins from 'Rael', a mini-suite from their previous album, 'The Who Sell Out'. Good enough tune.

Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker) - A remake of an old blues song with changed lyrics so they fit the story. The first failed attempt to heal Tommy. Good song, but not really a highlight.

Christmas - Another one of my personal favourites. It's Christmas and Tommy doesn't seem to be enjoying it. The histerical laughs in the background are funny (Pete, I suppose). 0:54 nice, energetic drum break. The song is made from 3 parts : the main verses, describing Tommy, the funky "Tommy can you hear me?" reprise and the majestic 'See Me Feel Me' prayer sung by Roger. The way these 3 parts blend together is a proof of Pete's genius in my opinion.

Cousin Kevin - Tommy gets abused by his cousin. Written and sung by John Entwistle and I must say, the dark humourous lyrics are typical of him. Nicely performed song, though it may seem boring upon the first few listens.

The Acid Queen - Hands down, my favourite song on the album. Never fails to make me smile (though the Tina Turner scene from the movie is rather weird). One of their catchiest numbers to date. Simple, yet effective guitar solo. 1:34 my favourite part of the song, lyrics-wise. 1:51 and 3:13 love Pete's stretchy voice. Makes the song to my ears.

Underture - Terrible over-long filler instrumental. It's practically the same themes repeated over and over again. This has the same role as 'European Son' on 'Velvet Underground & Nico' : it keeps the album from being perfect. Even Pete himself realized it later and cut it from the live performances. Quite a shame, really.

Side Two

Do You Think It's Alright? - Tommy's parents decide it's alright to leave the boy with Uncle Earnie. Big mistake. Inoffensive little tune. What's great about this album is the fact that even the 20-seconds songs are quite tuneful.

Fiddle About - John's second contribution here and it seems that Tommy gets molested by his own uncle this time. Nice horn-driven melody. Catchy as hell, too. The Keith Moon scene from the movie is probably one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen, though.

Pinball Wizard - Excellent opening with acoustics getting faster and faster until the electric guitar comes in, blistering the right channel. One of the best moments on the album, really. I've always wondered how did Pete come up with the idea of making Tommy a pinball player?! Never mind, this is a kick-ass rocker. Just The Who doing what they know best.

There's A Doctor - Another short fragment. This one sounds like a commercial but probably that's the purpose of it.

Go To The Mirror! - I've always loved this song's riff. The 'See Me Feel Me' reprises are sung by Pete here and they're a little more upbeat, but I've always thought Roger was better at singing it. Good song over all though.

Tommy Can You Hear Me? - One last desperate attempt from the parents to interact with Tommy. Love Roger's 'Tommy, tommy' right  at the end, like a far-away cry.

Smash The Mirror - The album's climax, plot-wise. With his mother's constant yellings, Tommy finally snaps out of his trance and comes back to reality. This is all happening once a mirror is broken, but I've never been sure whether Tommy or his mother breaks it. The "rise, rise" part is terrible. Though a very important moment for Tommy, I, myself, never enjoyed the song very much.

Sensation - A good song that for some reason always reminded me of '1921'. Nothing much to add, really.

Miracle Cure - Lasting for only 13 seconds, this is the shortest song on the album. Another advertising-sounding tune.

Sally Simpson - Another song I really love. Love the piano and the catchy chorus. I'm not really sure what was Pete trying to say with this song. Never understood what was Sally's character supposed to mean. Who cares, though? A nice little story in itself and a very pleasant melody.

I'm Free - Continuing the tradition of the last song, it features a piano. The riff sounds very familiar, but I just can't quite put my finger on it. Fine performance by Roger. I like the atmosphere of the song a lot. Somehow mystical, especially during the verses. The 'Pinball Wizard' riff is reprised right at the end of the song, and very welcomed. Another winner.

Welcome - Maybe a bit boring, but I tend to like this one, too. The quiet and tender (female?) backing-vocals give it a somehow sad and desperate feel. Love the instrumental break at 1:40. There's even some harmonica playing by Roger. Nice tune.

Tommy's Holiday Camp - A funny song that features keyboards and a banjo. Pete's voice always cracks me up. I think the 'welcome!' at the end is suppose to be Uncle Earnie's.

We're Not Gonna Take It - A big highlight. Another 3-part suite. Love Pete's harmonies during the verses. The first chorus is almost whispered and it sounds awesome. Great protest lyrics as well. 3:30 - 'See Me, Feel Me' makes its last appearance and it's simply stunning. The single most emotional moment on the album. The only problem I have with the song is that the 'Listening To You' part at the end just goes on for too long. But that's only a small flaw, really. A wonderful album closer that leaves you thinking. Did Tommy die or not?

All in all, though not as good as 'Quadrophenia' (the only Who album I consider to be perfect), it's still my 2nd favourite from them. A highly influential piece of work and the fact that Pete wrote all of it makes him one of the best song-writers of his time.

P.S. I also read that the original plan was to add some strings/brass to the album. As opposed to many people's opinion, I think it would've slightly improved the album.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2012, 06:08:52 PM by The 5th Beatle »
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Hombre_de_ningun_lugar

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2012, 06:54:22 PM »

WOW, I was thinking about reviewing the Who albums after the Byrds, but you were faster! ;D

No problem, and I will add my review of this classic masterpiece when I get some time.

P.S.: Great review 5th Beatle!
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Ovi

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2012, 07:01:24 PM »

WOW, I was thinking about reviewing the Who albums after the Byrds, but you were faster! ;D

No problem, and I will add my review of this classic masterpiece when I get some time.

P.S.: Great review 5th Beatle!

Yeah, The Who are definitely worthy of some reviews. I would participate to your Byrds reviews, but, to be quite honest, I've never really been into the band.

Thanks for the compliment, I can't wait to read your opinions.
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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2012, 07:21:32 PM »

Yeah, The Who are definitely worthy of some reviews.

Yes indeed, actually they are my second favourite band after the Beatles.

Quote
I would participate to your Byrds reviews, but, to be quite honest, I've never really been into the band.

I'd recommend you to dig into some essential Byrds' albums at least for historical reasons, they're a key band of the 60's. This doesn't mean that you will like them.

Quote
Thanks for the compliment, I can't wait to read your opinions.

You're welcome.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2012, 07:25:50 PM by Hombre_de_ningun_lugar »
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Ovi

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2012, 07:18:36 AM »

Yes indeed, actually they are my second favourite band after the Beatles.

That's cool. For me, The Who ranks as my 5th favourite, right after The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd and The Kinks. I haven't heard all of their stuff yet though, so things might change.

I'd recommend you to dig into some essential Byrds' albums at least for historical reasons, they're a key band of the 60's. This doesn't mean that you will like them.

Actually I do own 'Mr. Tambourine Man' and I've given it a few listens. It's pleasant and the melodies are pretty catchy, but it never impressed me or made me wanna come back. Also, the album is not really varied. I'll keep listening to it though, maybe it's a grower. I also prefer Bob Dylan's version of the title track.
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stevie

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2012, 10:03:36 AM »

Nice review!

I have the LP of this album but not the CD. I like the better songs on it but you have to appreciate the sheer scale of the whole thing.

'Sally Simpson'' was based on a true incident from a Who concert, where a young fan was injured. I remember reading this years ago.

Keith Moon's bio, 'Dear Boy'' is one if the best rock bios ever written.

The Who are my fourth favorite band, after our lads, the Stones and Zep.
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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2012, 10:11:01 AM »

'Sally Simpson'' was based on a true incident from a Who concert, where a young fan was injured. I remember reading this years ago.

That's a cool fact. Thanks for sharing.

The Who are my fourth favorite band, after our lads, the Stones and Zep.

You have great tastes, stevie. I love all of those.
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ibanez_ax

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2012, 01:09:01 PM »

I don't hate Underture.  If I listen to it with headphones, Entwistle's bass sounds like  rows of double basses and cellos.
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Ovi

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2012, 01:39:27 PM »

I don't hate Underture.  If I listen to it with headphones, Entwistle's bass sounds like  rows of double basses and cellos.

It's got its fair share of good moments, but overall it's just way too long and repetitive.
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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2012, 03:27:48 PM »

It's got its fair share of good moments, but overall it's just way too long and repetitive.

While not necessary to Tommy and could have been left off the album and by no means my favorite Who song, I find it oddly symphonic in a understated kind of way.  It has always held a strange attraction to me.

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2012, 07:03:20 PM »


Wow, great review, 5th Beatle. And here I was thinking I was one of the only Who fans who love "1921" so much.

You seem to know so much about the band; I have kind of a stupid question for you and others: At live concerts,
why does Roger repeat the word "heat" in the "Listening to You" choruses, i.e., I've noticed that he sings the word
twice ("I feel the heat / heat"). Just for flow/effect, maybe?
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Ovi

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2012, 07:28:06 PM »

Wow, great review, 5th Beatle. And here I was thinking I was one of the only Who fans who love "1921" so much.

Thanks. You're not alone, I just checked out my iTunes and '1921' together with 'The Acid Queen' are my most played songs from 'Tommy'. I think they're both brilliant.

Just for flow/effect, maybe?

I think so.
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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2012, 08:16:23 PM »

That's cool. For me, The Who ranks as my 5th favourite, right after The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd and The Kinks. I haven't heard all of their stuff yet though, so things might change.

I love anything they did with Keith Moon (1965-1978). After that, I think Face Dances (1981) is pretty good.

Actually I do own 'Mr. Tambourine Man' and I've given it a few listens. It's pleasant and the melodies are pretty catchy, but it never impressed me or made me wanna come back. Also, the album is not really varied. I'll keep listening to it though, maybe it's a grower. I also prefer Bob Dylan's version of the title track.

The Byrds are actually a very diverse band (I mean, comparing their different albums). They started with Folk Rock, but also did Psychedelic Rock, Country Rock, Acid Rock, Hard Rock. Mr. Tambourine Man (as well as Turn! Turn! Turn!) is no more than a Folk Rock record, revolutionary at the time, but if you're not a fan of the genre it's logic that you don't get much from it. Maybe you should try with Fifth Dimension, Younger Than Yesterday and The Notorious Byrd Brothers, as they have a psychedelic sound. Particularly Younger Than Yesterday is a very diverse album and in my opinion it's their very best work.

But here we must talk about the Who, and I'll add my review in few days.
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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2012, 07:33:01 PM »

Sally Simpson - Another song I really love. Love the piano and the catchy chorus.

"Sally Simpson" is one of those songs I find almost impossible NOT to sing along to (alone with "You Better You Bet")  ;D
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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2012, 12:00:08 AM »

Great review 5th.

Ovi

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2012, 10:43:05 AM »

Great review 5th.

Thanks. Do you like the album/The Who ? If so, I'd love to read your opinions on it.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2012, 10:45:06 AM by Ovi »
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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2012, 10:49:55 AM »

Thanks. Do you like the album/The Who ? If so, I'd love to read your opinions on it.

Absolutely. Like you, i'm a huge 'Quadrophenia' fan and its my favorite. 'Who's Next' reads like a greatest hits album its so good. 'Tommy' is good and I have it on vinyl and CD, but I dont play it very often. Its a sporadic record in my opinion. Awesome highs, but some low spots too and thats ok. Anyways, love the Who. Remember listening to 'Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy' constantly in the record player when I was about 10 years old.

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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2012, 11:33:20 AM »

Absolutely. Like you, i'm a huge 'Quadrophenia' fan and its my favorite.

I think 'Quadrophenia' is their most complete effort and the only time they came very, very close to perfection. I've heard many complaints like "there are too many synths", but in my opinion, the album is the perfect example of how to make use of the latest technology (regarding music, of course) without abusing it and letting it suck the life out of your songs.

Another thing I really about 'Quadro' is (like the great reviewer George Starostin said) the fact that the message is simple and universal : love is all that matters. I think Pete realized that complicating things more and more (plot and message-wise) was not a really good solution.

'Who's Next' is pretty good, but from what I've read, 'Lifehouse' was a pretty interesting and ambitious project. I've yet to hear the bootlegs or anything that concerns it though.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2012, 11:39:06 AM by Ovi »
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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2012, 03:26:55 PM »

I love Quadrophenia, and it may be the work where Pete Townshend put more forces on. But I think Tommy is more tuneful and entertaining, a most definitive rock opera in my opinion. Quadrophenia has a better performance, but it suffers more the "rock opera disease", with too many instrumental parts and repeated themes. Anyway, my very favourite album by the Who is Who's Next: a failed rock opera, but a peak in songwriting and performance.
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Re: Microscope : Tommy (The Who)
« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2012, 09:51:55 PM »

I love Quadrophenia, and it may be the work where Pete Townshend put more forces on. But I think Tommy is more tuneful and entertaining, a most definitive rock opera in my opinion. Quadrophenia has a better performance, but it suffers more the "rock opera disease", with too many instrumental parts and repeated themes. Anyway, my very favourite album by the Who is Who's Next: a failed rock opera, but a peak in songwriting and performance.

I love all three albums, but I wore out a lot of vinyl copies of Who's Next back in the day.  "Bargain" might have had a bit more wear than the rest of the album, actually.
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