toner, ord og tanker
Tommy studier 2
Like classical operas by Mozart, Verdi and Tchaikovski, Tommy opens with its "Overture." Eight portentously descending chords, beginning at C major, are played on guitar, bass, piano, and drums and repeated while an acoustic guitar strums beneath them - a striking introduction to a teatrically arranged segue of instrumental interpretations of the songs that will follow, most of them fairly brief and linked together by the rumbling, bass-heavy riff that will later accompany Tommy´s relationship with mirrors.
- Chris Charlesworth
The initial idea Townshend had was for a song cycle called “Amazing Journey” which would have two parallel themes based on a person’s real and illusory life.
- John Swenson
The first public announcement by Townshend that he was working on a new and quite large-scale rock opera came in May 1968, when Melody Maker´s Chris Welch visited his flat and heard “Now I’m A Farmer,” which Welch described as being “from the long-awaited Townshend opera which he had been working on, on and off, in different forms for a couple of years.” “Farmer”, of course, would not appear in Tommy, but Townshend told Welch, “I’m working on an opera which I did once before, and I am thinking of calling it The Amazing Journey. I’ve completed some of stand I´d like to put it out on an LP. The theme is about a deaf, dumb, and. Blind boy who has dreams and sees himself as a ruler of cosmos.”
- Chris Charlesworth
Nogle måneder senere, da The Who var på turne i USA, gav Pete Townshend et langt interview til Jann Wenner. De kom rundt om mange ting, men interviewet er særlig berømt for, at Townshend her for første gang offentligt fortæller mere udførligt om ideen til “Tommy” og opridser store dele af handligen. I modsætning til de kortfattede bemærkninger til Welch i maj, åbnede Townshend i august langt mere op for sine planer.
Naturligvis hænger det hele sammen. Men jeg har her valgt at se bort fra det mere perifere og blot citere det stykke, der specifikt vedrører “Tommy”
WENNER: When you work out an arrangement and figure out the bass line and the various voices, is that just directly translated onto a record that would be released?
TOWNSHEND: More or less, but then we don’t really take it that grimly; I mean, what happens is I will suggest the bass riff on the demonstration record; John takes up and goes from there. But the bass (line) I would suggest on the demo, as I said earlier, would be very simple; it would be economical, tasteful and just a vehicle for the song, making the bass line, and, if I use the them, the piano or drum, as simple and effective as possible in putting the song across to the group.
Instead of me hacking my songs around to billions of publishers trying to get them to dig them, what I’ve got to do is get the rest of the band to dig my number. If I’ve got a number that I dig, I know that I’ve got to present it to them in the best light. That’s why I make my own recordings so when they first hear, it’s not me stoned out of my mind plunking away on a guitar trying to get my latest number across. It’s a finished work that might take me all night to get together, but nevertheless it’s gonna win them over.
I’m working on the lyrics now for the next album. When we get through that, all the lyrics cleaned out, we’ll start to work through the album. We’ll probably have do to it in short sections, like fifteen-minute sections. Ideally, I’d like to record one backing track for the whole album whether it lasts for two hours or two days. We sit down and we do it in one go, and then okay, we spend the next two years adding tarty voices or whatever it is that it takes to sell the record. But at least you know what’s happening in the background is real meat and immediate meat, and it’s part of the present.
The whole thing about recording is that a man feels slightly cheated anyway, because he’s getting a recording of something which has happened, so he feels like he’s getting something secondhand. If he thinks he’s being fucked around already, this is a whole different thing. A lot of people, I’m convinced, that buy records don’t realize what happens when a group records on an eight-track machine. They don’t realize that they record half of it one time, and then another eighth of it another time. They record it in eighths at different locations, and this ceases to become music to me.
WENNER: What other ideas in this field do you have?
TOWNSHEND: Well, the album concept in general is complex. I don’t know if I can explain it in my condition, at the moment. But it’s derived as a result of quite a few things. We’ve been talking about doing an opera, we’ve been talking about doing like albums, we’ve been talking about a whole lot of things, and what has basically happened is that we’ve condensed all of these ideas, all this energy and all these gimmicks, and whatever we’ve decided on for future albums, into one juicy package. The package I hope is going to be called “Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy.” It’s a story about a kid that’s born deaf, dumb and blind and what happens to him throughout his life. The deaf, dumb and blind boy is played by the Who, the musical entity. He’s represented musically, represented by a theme which we play, which starts off the opera itself, and then there’s a song describing the deaf, dumb and blind boy. But what it’s really all about is the fact that because the boy is “D, D & B,” he’s seeing things basically as vibrations which we translate as music. That’s really what we want to do: create this feeling that when you listen to the music you can actually become aware of the boy, and aware of what he is all about, because we are creating him as we play.
Yes, it’s a pretty far-out thing, actually. But it’s very, very endearing to me because the thing is . . . inside; the boy sees things musically and in dreams, and nothing has got any weight at all. He is touched from the outside, and he feels his mother’s touch, he feels his father’s touch, but he just interprets them as music. His father gets pretty upset that his kid is deaf, dumb and blind. He wants a kid that will play football and God knows what.
One night he comes in and he’s drunk, and he sits over the kid’s bed and he looks at him and he starts to talk to him, and the kid just smiles up, and his father is trying to get through to him, telling him about how the other dads have a kid that they can take to football and all this kind of crap, and he starts to say, “Can you hear me?” The kid, of course, can’t hear him. He’s groovin’ in this musical thing, this incredible musical thing; he’ll be out of his mind. Then there’s his father outside, outside of his body, and this song is going to be written by John. I hope John will write this song about the father who is really uptight now.
The kid won’t respond, he just smiles. The father starts to hit him, and at this moment the whole thing becomes incredibly realistic. On one side you have the dreamy music of the boy wasting through his nothing life. And on the other you have the reality of the father outside, uptight, but now you’ve got blows, you’ve got communication. The father is hitting the kid; musically then I want the thing to break out, hand it over to Keith – “This is your scene man, take it from here.”
And the kid doesn’t catch the violence. He just knows that some sensation is happening. He doesn’t feel the pain, he doesn’t associate it with anything. He just accepts it.
A similar situation happens later on in the opera, where the father starts to get the mother to take the kid away from home to an uncle. The uncle is a bit of a perv, you know. He plays with the kid’s body while the kid is out. And at this particular time the child has heard his own name; his mother called him. And he managed to hear the word: “Tommy.” He’s really got this big thing about his name, whatever his name is going to be, you know, “Tommy.” And he gets really hung up on his own name. He decides that this is the king and this is the goal. Tommy is the thing, man.
He’s going through this, and the uncle comes in and starts to go through a scene with the kid’s body, you know, and the boy experiences sexual vibrations, you know, sexual experience, and again it’s just basic music; it’s interpreted as music, and it is nothing more than music. It’s got no association with sleaziness or with undercover or with any of the things normally associated with sex. None of the romance, none of the visual stimulus, none of the sound stimulus. Just basic touch. It’s meaningless. Or not meaningless; you just don’t react, you know. Slowly but surely the kid starts to get it together, out of his simplicity, this incredible simplicity in his mind. He starts to realize that he can see, and he can hear, and he can speak; they are there, and they are happening all the time. And that all the time he has been able to hear and see. All the time it’s been there in front of him, for him to see.
This is the difficult jump. It’s going to be extremely difficult, but we want to try to do it musically. At this point, the theme, which has been the boy, starts to change. You start to realize that he is coming to the point where he is going to get over the top, he’s going to get over his hang-ups. You’re gonna stop monkeying around with songs about people being tinkered with, and with Father’s getting uptight, with Mother’s getting precious and things, and you’re gonna get down to the fact of what is going to happen to the kid.
The music has got to explain what happens, that the boy elevates and finds something which is incredible. To us, it’s nothing to be able to see and hear and speak, but to him, it’s absolutely incredible and overwhelming; this is what we want to do musically. Lyrically, it’s quite easy to do it; in fact, I’ve written it out several times. It makes great poetry, but so much depends on the music, so much. I’m hoping that we can do it. The lyrics are going to be okay, but every pitfall of what we’re trying to say lies in the music, lies in the way we play the music, the way we interpret, the way things are going during the opera.
The main characters are going to be the boy and his musical things; he’s got a mother and father and an uncle. There is a doctor involved who tries to do some psychiatric treatment on the kid which is only partly successful. The first two big events are when he hears his mother calling him and hears the word “Tommy,” and he devotes a whole part of his life to this one word. The second important event is when he sees himself in a mirror, suddenly seeing himself for the first time: He takes an immediate back step, bases his whole life around his own image. The whole thing then becomes incredibly introverted. The music and the lyrics become introverted, and he starts to talk about himself, starts to talk about his beauty. Not knowing, of course, that what he saw was him but still regarding it as something which belonged to him, and of course it did all of the time anyway.
It’s a very complex thing, and I don’t know if I’m getting it across.
WENNER: You are.
TOWNSHEND: Because I don’t feel at all together.
WENNER: I know you don’t look it, but you’re coming on very together.
WENNER: This theme, not so dramatically, seems to be repeated in so many songs that you’ve written and the Who have performed – a young cat, our age, becoming an outcast from a very ordinary sort of circumstance. Not a “Desolation Row” scene, but a very common set of middle-class situations. Why does this repeat itself?
TOWNSHEND: I don’t know. I never really thought about that.
WENNER: There’s a boy with pimple problems and a chick with perspiration problems and so on.
TOWNSHEND: Most of these things just come from me. Like this idea I’m talking about right now, comes from me. These things are my ideas, it’s probably why they all come out the same; they’ve all got the same fuckups, I’m sure.
I can’t get my family together, you see. My family were musicians. There were essentially middle class, they were musicians, and I spent a lot of time with them when other kids’ parents were at work, and I spent a lot of time away from them when other kids had parents, you know. That was the only way it came together. They were always out for long periods. But they were always home for long periods, too. They were always very respectable – nobody ever stopped making me play the guitar and nobody ever stopped me smoking pot, although they advised me against it.
They didn’t stop me from doing anything that I wanted to do. I had my first fuck in the drawing room of my mother’s house. The whole incredible thing about my parents is that I just can’t place their effect on me, and yet I know that it’s there. I can’t say how they affected me. When people find out that my parents are musicians, they ask how it affected me. Fucked if I know; musically, I can’t place it, and I can’t place it in any other way. But I don’t even feel myself aware of a class structure, or an age structure, and yet I perpetually write about age structures and class structures. On the surface I feel much more concerned with racial problems and politics. Inside I’m much more into basic stuff.
Uddrag af det tidligere citerede interview fra august, 1968:
WENNER: What groups do you enjoy the most?
TOWNSHEND: It’s difficult to say. I always forget the groups that I really dig. I like to watch a band with a punch, with drive, who know what they’re doing, with a tight sound. I used to like to watch Jimi Hendrix; sometimes he worries me now because he often gets amplifier hang-ups and stuff. I can’t stand that, it kills me. I used to like to watch Cream until they got sad and fucked up. I still dig to watch a group like the Young Rascals, who just walk on with their incredibly perfect sound and their incredibly lovely organ and they’re so easy, the way their numbers flow out, just to watch a group stand and go through their thing so beautifully. I dig that. I dig a guy like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. She’s been standing still and singing the blues all night, and then when she’s really into it she’ll do a tiny little dance and just get her little feet going, very slightly; just a little jog, and in terms of what she’s doing with her voice, it’s an incredible gesture and really goes mad. I dig Mick Jagger, who I think is an incredible show, and Arthur Brown I think is an incredible show, too. What I dig in a performance, in an event, is essentially to be communicated to, to feel part of an audience. I always feel like an audience because I am an audience if I am watching anything, but I like to feel alongside the other members of the things, I like to feel a part of the audience; I like to feel that I’m being effective as a member of the audience. I don’t mind being asked to clap my fucking hands, let’s get that straight. I like to clap my hands, and it doesn’t get my uptight if someone says clap or sing or shout or scream or do what you want to do. That’s exactly what I want to do, and if I feel like jumping up and down and dancing, I don’t want everyone telling me that I’m bringing them down or that they can’t listen to the music or something. People should be an audience, and if it’s time-to-get-up-and-dance-time, everybody should do it at the same time.
This happened when Otis Redding appeared, that’s what happened. When he wanted them to sit down he said, “And now we’re going to play a soulful tune,” and sang in a soulful way and was dead still, and when he wanted them to get up and dance he said, “Come on, clap your hands, get up and dance,” and they did, man, grooved right along with him.
When you’re listening to Ravi Shankar, you know what you’ve got to do. When you’re in the Who’s audience, you know – I like to know where I am. I like to go and see a group and know what my role is. I like to know whether or not I’m supposed to listen attentively, whether I’m supposed to groove, whether I’m supposed to do anything constructive, whether I’m invited up to jam or what. I like to know where I’m am. It’s usually the most professional groups that give you this feeling.
WENNER: Performers like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, all are tremendously physical, tremendously sensual, tremendously involved with very sexual things. Does this characterize rock & roll?
TOWNSHEND: It must! It must. I mean, it does. Period. It embodies it, it’s part of its life. Life revolves, of not around it, within it, if not within it, without it, but definitely along with it. Something about rock & roll has to do with sex and everything to do with sex, like becoming together and the parting and this kind of thing. The whole thing about polluting a chick and then waving goodbye. The whole process of sex is embodied in just the rock & roll rhythm – like gospel music or like native chants or something. Just banging on the table is like it’s the demand, and it’s also the satiation as well. You bang on the table and in the same process you masturbate, you know. At the end of the show you’re finished, you know, you’ve had it. You’ve come your lot, and the show’s over.
“Rock me baby until my back ain’t got no bone.” That is the line. Man, it’s such a funny line, I can never believe it. I imagine some very skinny, wizened old Negro blues singer singing that in a very frail old voice: “Rock me baby ’til my back ain’t got no bone.”
WENNER: I forget if I read this or whether it is something Glyn Johns told me. You and the group came out of this rough, tough area, were very restless and had this thing: You were going to show everybody; you were a kid with a big nose, and you were going to make all these people love it, love your big nose.
TOWNSHEND: That was probably a mixture of what Glyn Johns told you and an article I wrote. In fact, Glyn was exactly the kind of person I wanted to show. Glyn used to be one of the people who, right when I walked in, he’d be on the stage singing. I’d walk in because I dug his group. I’d often go to see him, and he would announce through the microphone, “Look at the bloke in the audience with that huge nose” and of course the whole audience would turn around and look at me, and that would be acknowledgement from Glyn.
When I was in school the geezers that were snappy dressers and got chicks like years before I ever even thought they existed would always like to talk about my nose. This seemed to be the biggest thing in my life: my fucking nose, man. Whenever my dad got drunk, he’d come up to me and say, “Look, son, you know, looks aren’t everything,” and shit like this. He’s getting drunk, and he’s ashamed of me because I’ve got a huge nose, and he’s trying to make me feel good. I know it’s huge, and of course it became incredible, and I became an enemy of society. I had to get over this thing. I’ve done it, and I never believe it to this day, but I do not think about my nose anymore. And if I had said this when I was a kid, if I ever said to myself, “One of these days you’ll go through a whole day without once thinking that your nose is the biggest in the world, man” – you know, I’d have laughed.
It was huge. At that time, it was the reason I did everything. It’s the reason I played the guitar – because of my nose. The reason I wrote songs was because of my nose, everything, so much. I eventually admitted something in an article where I summed it up far more logically in terms of what I do today. I said that what I wanted to do was distract attention away from my nose to my body and make people look at my body instead of at my face – turn my body into a machine. But by the time I was into visual things like that, anyway, I’d forgotten all about my nose and a big ego trip, and I thought, well, if I’ve got a big nose, it’s a groove and it’s the greatest thing that can happen because, I don’t know, it’s like a lighthouse or something. The whole trip had changed by then, anyway.
WENNER: What is your life like today?
TOWNSHEND: Mainly laughs, actually, mainly laughs. The Who on tour is a very difficult trip: it’s a delicate one, and it could be dangerous. So it’s best to keep this on the humorous side. If we take this situation seriously, we tend to feedback. Like one person gets a slight down and the rest of us get a slight down, and so we have to keep spirits up even if it’s false, even if it’s jokes that aren’t funny, just in order to get someone to laugh. That is what it’s all about to me now.
Kit Lambert had steered Townshend onto the idea of writing song cycles and turning them into minioperas. Townshend took it from there, and searched awhile for a theme that could serve as an allegory of his own life as well as a medium to talk about the spirituality of rock. Like many rockers of his time, Townshend was terrible moved by the religious impact the music had on its audience and turned to Eastern mysticism in his search for the next step beyond himself. Townshend found himself drawn to Meher Baba, the smiling avatar whose basic message to his disciples was “Dont Worry. Be Happy” and who exercised the tremendous good taste to inspire his followers by imposing a forty-year silence upon himself instead of issuing a constant stream of rules, admonitions, and sermons.
- John Swenson
Tommy was built from one simple statement, heard as the opening four chords of the “Overture” and repeated throughout the work. These chords are used as the basis for the “Amazing Journey,” in which we see an innocent and mostly senseless Tommy interpret everything he experiences in musical terms: “Each sensation makes a note in lifes symphony.” This line signals the beginning of “Sparks,” which borrows a theme that The Who had used before to convey the idea of a spiritual journey. It had been the basic theme for “Rael,” their second miniopera, and is a derivation of Tommy´s main theme. It is also used later in the “Underture”.
- John Swenson
It´s not the clearest plot is it? Some of the songs just don´t fit it in any plot. But I´ll tell you what, when you play Tommy in it´s entirety, it´s so complete, it´s so wonderful. The simplicity of it. The power in the lyrics. The journey. It builds and builds ... it was genius. And Pete deserves everything he got from it.
- Roger Daltrey
N.B. - Se også kompendiet "Tommy-traumet".