The London Symphony Orchestra (w/ guests) (1972)

Tommy (1972)
Pete’s Money Machine.

I actually considered (for just a moment) gathering together all the Tommys that had been released under Pete Townshend’s guidance over the years. The original, movie soundtrack, stage shows (yeah, there was even an ‘understudy cast’ release), Deluxe reissues, Broadway, etc, etc. Then I thought better of the idea. Listening back-to-back to, maybe, a dozen different Tommys was the notion-killer. So, instead, here’s the London Symphony Orchestra’s version of Tommy, first released on Ode Records in 1972, featuring The Who, Rod Stewart, Merry Clayton, Ringo Starr, Richie Havens and Maggie Bell, among others. It’s actually an OK rendition, as long as you can separate it from The Who’s original, which isn’t hard to do. At the time of its release (in an elaborate 2-LP box with libretto) it just seemed like so much overblown nonsense to me. Hearing it again, almost 40 years later, it’s easier to appreciate the inventive orchestrations and the lively mix of talent – though, it should be noted that the lead vocals are pretty much lacking across the board. So, it’s no substitute, but it’s a strange ride that was actually kinda fun to hear in my old age… for probably the last time. Tommy is available @ Amazon on CD, and was just reissued in 2009.


Overture (3:14)
It’s A Boy (Sandy Denny) (2:28)
1921 (Steve Winwood) (1:55)
Amazing Journey (Pete Townshend) (6:35)
Sparks (3:21)
Eyesight For The Blind (Richie Havens) (2:30)
Christmas (Steve Winwood) (4:42)
Cousin Kevin (John Entwistle) (4:23)
The Acid Queen (Merry Clayton) (3:48)
Underture (4:38)
Do You Think It’s Alright? (Maggie Bell) (0:31)
Fiddle About (Ringo Starr) (1:25)
Pinball Wizard (Rod Stewart) (3:47)
There’s A Doctor I’ve Found (Steve Winwood) (2:47)
Go To The Mirror (Steve Winwood) (1:47)
Tommy, Can You Hear Me? (Maggie Bell) (1:51)
Smash The Mirror (Maggie Bell) (1:26)
I’m Free (Roger Daltry) (2:32)
Miracle Cure (0:12)
Sensation (Roger Daltry) (2:37)
Sally Simpson (Pete Townshend) (5:13)
Welcome (Roger Daltry) (4:43)
Tommy’s Holiday Camp (Ringo Starr) (2:22)
We’re Not Gonna Take It (Roger Daltry) (5:29)
See Me, Feel Me (Finale from We’re Not Gonna Take It) (Roger Daltry) (3:05)

 

29 Comments

  • 1
    Willard
    June 28, 2011 - 13:30 | Permalink

    Search HERE

  • 2
    June 28, 2011 - 14:53 | Permalink

    I’ve been looking for this forever. I’ve yet to hear it, and even if some of the vocals aren’t up to standard I doubt it’s any worse than some of Ann-Margaret’s vocals from the 1975 film.

    • 3
      Willard
      June 28, 2011 - 15:57 | Permalink

      Ann-Margaret! God, it’s coming back to me.

  • 4
    June 28, 2011 - 15:00 | Permalink

    I have great admiration for the music Pete Townshend has created over the years….except for Tommy. To my ears, the endless variations on this one idea has belittled Townshend’s original work.

    • 5
      Willard
      June 28, 2011 - 15:55 | Permalink

      I’ve got a funny relationship with Tommy, too. I actually like the Live At Leeds version, but it’s hard for me to even listen to the original, and generally all of the variants. Even this one, to a degree. It still has a few solid Townshend compositions, though, regardless of how one perceives it all. Thanks JP.

  • 6
    June 28, 2011 - 17:10 | Permalink

    I agree Cap — the Live at Leeds version has really stood the test of time. Keith Moon’s energy adds — how you say? — a certain panache to the entire thing.

    • 7
      Willard
      June 28, 2011 - 22:54 | Permalink

      Without a doubt. But, I get why Townshend would want to hear it with an orchestra – even if only as a creative excercise. It’s just that listeners only have so much time, and a couple of lesser Tommys are bound to get no needle time as a result.

  • 8
    pete
    June 29, 2011 - 00:11 | Permalink

    I have a soft spot for the original — sounds a little thin but I like the sound. I do recall Kit Lambert moaning that they spent months making the recording and then the bastards went out and played it better live. Which must have been frustrating for him, as producer. But it was true. We have Leeds as proof, and I saw them do it in Oxford and was blown away. By the time the LSO all-star version came out I was rolling my eyes and I don’t think I ever heard it. By now I can probably listen without (much) prejudice. Thanks for the opportunity. (And I love the concept of “lesser Tommys”!)

  • 9
    Willard
    June 29, 2011 - 00:46 | Permalink

    Like most Tommys, this one isn’t indispensable. But… its got its moments. Never had a chance to see them in their prime.

  • 10
    Steward
    June 29, 2011 - 08:05 | Permalink

    Thanks for this. Must be because the LSO version was my first exposure to the complete Tommy that I have a soft spot in my heart for it. I’ll take the original, LSO and Leeds versions over the Broadway version any day. Pete, why’d you rewrite the ending for Broadway?

    • 11
      Willard
      June 29, 2011 - 08:30 | Permalink

      Never even heard the Broadway version. How did he change the ending?

      • 12
        Steward
        June 29, 2011 - 10:35 | Permalink

        Swiping from Wkipedia:

        The most fundamental difference in the story is the finale, which was rewritten in 1993. Originally, Tommy instructs his followers to become deaf, dumb, and blind themselves to find a heightened state of enlightenment. The crowd rejects this and turns on him. In the stage version, Tommy tells them the opposite: to not try to emulate him, but to rather live out their own normal lives. Upon hearing this message, the crowd still rejects him out of a desire to hear a bolder message from him.

        Something about that change really rubbed me the wrong way when I saw a student production of it last year at the local university. It just rang false somehow.

        • 13
          Willard
          June 29, 2011 - 10:52 | Permalink

          Thanks. A student production of Tommy? You’re a braver man than I.

          • 14
            Steward
            June 29, 2011 - 12:16 | Permalink

            Not so brave, they made some interesting adaptations (Tommy played Wii instead of pinball). Most of the time, the remembered sound in my head drowned out the weaker on-stage performances. Except at the end, when in-head and on-stage music and lyrics were widely divergent. I thought the student performance had taken liberties there; found out later it was Townsend himself who had done the rewriting.

          • 15
            Willard
            June 29, 2011 - 12:29 | Permalink

            Very interesting. “Wii Wizard” doesn’t have quite the same ring, though.

  • 16
    Anonymous
    June 29, 2011 - 09:05 | Permalink

    Even the Smithereens released a cover album of “Tommy” songs a year or so ago.
    JB

  • 17
    June 30, 2011 - 11:42 | Permalink

    I remember coercing a friend to give me a ride to the closest record store – then about 10 miles away – to buy this, and how excited I was when I got it home and shut myself away in my room. I opened it up, paged through the book (I *still* miss proper inserts and artwork) while listening to all four sides of the vinyl in one sitting. Thank you for the chance to hear it again.

    • 18
      Willard
      June 30, 2011 - 12:34 | Permalink

      So did you like it?

  • 19
    Rob
    June 30, 2011 - 19:09 | Permalink

    I downloaded a beautiful vinyl rip of the original “Tommy” last week, by the grumpy but great “pbthal”, who unfortunately shut down his website just a few days ago. And let me say that the original, as produced and mastered in 1969, sounds magnificent. As though I had never heard it before, which might explain why I never liked the album very much.
    I might even give one a single listen, out of new-found zeal.

  • 20
    Art Ducko
    July 1, 2011 - 03:44 | Permalink

    You can’t beat the original version which will always be my favorite incarnation to hear, but the Leeds version will rank a mighty close second, especially the full version heard on the Deluxe Leeds edition.

  • 21
    Rob
    July 1, 2011 - 17:43 | Permalink

    Actually, there’s another truly noteworthy version that could easily be overlooked. It’s Pete Townshend’s demos, which I’m listening to right now. They are/were available on “and your bird can swing”. Really nice to hear such an intimate take on the whole overblown construction. I’m at “Amazing Journey” right now, full of home-made psychedelia like John Lennon used to do with a four-track, I swear it’s better than on the album.

    • 22
      Willard
      July 1, 2011 - 17:54 | Permalink

      Good call. I’m partial to the later, Lifehouse demos myself, but Pete’s readings are always truly noteworthy. Here’s the Birdie link.

  • 23
    Dr Phil
    July 6, 2011 - 00:07 | Permalink

    Rod’s Pinball Wizard is fab, never liked the Elton soundtrack. Isle Of Wight Fest 1970 “Tommy” is the best live set

  • 24
    lemonflag
    July 7, 2011 - 00:29 | Permalink

    Re Ann-Margret All I remember is that H-P baked beans never tasted the same after that. Also I think she sang wonderfully compared to Oliver Reed!
    BTW I know that the “sound” of the music required tapes of Pete’s music at live concerts, but the first time I saw them play I never forgave them for using tapes, I felt like I had been cheated. Roger tells some funny stories about tapes breaking and its the least of the ways some people cheat nowadays.
    Anyway thanks for this LSO version it will be fun to hear it again. I think I only played it once or twice when I bought it. I wonder what became of my copy?

  • 25
    Craig
    July 8, 2011 - 16:40 | Permalink

    The Flaming Lips rolled into Austin for the first time in the mid-eighties, the longest-haired Okies in the world, and opened for “the Shitty Beatles” at The Beach. Their set—TOMMY,(although, I may be the only one who recognized it!). Thanks for the amazing journey!!!

  • 27
    Chris
    January 9, 2014 - 15:29 | Permalink

    Just curious – Is this the 2009 edition or the 1989 version? I think there is even a 2011 Japan remaster. Whichever it is, thank you!

    • 28
      Willard
      January 9, 2014 - 19:34 | Permalink

      I believe it’s the late 80s CD issue, but don’t quote me.

      • 29
        Chris
        January 9, 2014 - 21:52 | Permalink

        Thank you. Whatever version it is – It’s much better than the crackle of my vinyl version!

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