The Who - Sensation: The Story of Tommy

For most fans there wasn't a whole lot of thinking that needed to be done when The Who released their destined-to-be-a-classic rock opera Tommy in 1969; loaded with radio-friendly gems like "Sensation," "I'm Free," "We're Not Gonna Take It," "Listening to You/See Me, Feel Me," "The Acid Queen" and massive hit "Pinball Wizard," fans needed only to listen casually to recognize the effort as a masterpiece. Of course there was a lot more to it than that and Sensation does an admirable job of explaining all.

A couple of rock scribes weigh in with opinions as Tommy is analyzed track-by-track but the film's gravitas comes straight from the horse's mouth as guitarist and Tommy composer Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey, the two surviving members of the line-up that made the record, offer insight through newly-filmed commentary.

Daltrey reveals that he had difficulty summoning the proper emotion to sing some of the material in the studio but that on stage he "grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and made this person (Tommy) come alive." Daltrey also marvels at how the record took the band to a whole new level of fame; prior to Tommy The Who was primarily known for a string of hit singles and their appearance at Woodstock while after they were consistently selling out venues that held 120,000 rabid fans.

Tommy is Townshend's baby though and here he recaps some of the ways his personal life story was woven into the album's concept. Townshend was sexually molested by a family member as a young lad and so was the titular Tommy, Tommy literally goes deaf, dumb and blind while Townshend metaphorically did the same through the taking of LSD and, as he puts it, "having sex with whoever he wanted." Tommy eventually tunes in to the spiritual and finds lasting fame and that is exactly what Tommy did for Townshend and The Who (Townshend says if the record had of flopped that would have been it for the band.)

A little vintage interview footage of the band's late bass player John Entwistle is included as is some commentary from the also deceased Kit Lambert, the band's producer and manager. Keith Moon, the band's late drummer, is seen only in the film's performance snippets.

The film also explores Tommy the Broadway production and the ensuing Tommy movie. Considering its thoroughness and the sensitive nature of some of Townshend's revelations, Sensation could just have easily been entitled Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Tommy (But Were Afraid to Ask.)

For those who don't particularly care about all the details there's still a good reason to obtain the film; here for the first time is bonus footage from the band's 1969 appearance on German television show Beat Club featuring performances of songs from Tommy interspersed with an interview with Townshend.

Release Date: 3/11/14

Order on DVD here or Blu-Ray here.

The Who - Sensation: The Story of Tommy

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