Who Tommy: Rock Commentaries Selection

Tommy 1969

Rock opera is potentially a quantum leap in the art, though one that was not taken. Drama, as Aristotle explains, is the highest imitative art form, and it is clear upon reflection that all music has a dramatic intention. Every human articulation wants to be part of a drama, which would fully show the human histories imagined or involved. Aristotle writes that drama is the highest art form (Poetics) because it attempts the highest imitable object, showing human action in both deed and speech. The move from music to drama is like a move from two to three dimensions, as is evident in the move from the treatise to the Platonic dialogue, showing the speeches with the body.

Pete Townsend is Tommy, and the pinball wizard is the rock star. That much seems obvious, though it won’t occur to us, as it did not to Pete himself, until we think about it. He is also the questing mod of Quadrophenia, and the genius behind the writing of the Who. Townshend himself had to think about this one, as Jessica Siegel writes:

Originally, Townshend said he conceived of pinball as a metaphor for the hypocrisy of institutionalized religion, a topical theme in the 1960’s. With hindsight, he sees that pinball was really a stand in for rock and roll. The pinball machine was a fender Stratecaster guitar. And he was Tommy Walker.

And Siegel then quotes Townshend:

 When you have time to look back on your work, you suddenly think, ‘My God, I didn’t realize I was wearing my heart on my sleeve to that extent.’ I went into a kind of shock…In actual fact, what I had done was told my (expletive) life story and projected it into the future.

 The Chicago Tribune, Sunday section

Tommy is apparently a British legend surrounding the son of a World War I soldier, reported killed in action, who returned by surprise and was murdered by his wife’s new husband or lover. Townshend writes that for the movie, the circumstance is reversed, so that the father is killed in the movie, while the wife’s lover is the one killed in Tommy. The circumstance is similar then to Casablanca, where Humphrey Bogart falls in love with supposed war widow Lauren Bacall, and demonstrates noble action in the circumstance, in the end. Yet here in Tommy, in the movie, the lover responds tragically, killing the lawful husband from the unwillingness to give up his new love. On the album, then, the character is not the stepfather, but the father with a murderous secret. In his book (p. 261), Townshend discusses the change:

One of the first changes Ken (Russell, the director) wanted to make was to nudge the story towards a kind of modern version of Hamlet, with the lover of Tommy’s mother killing Tommy’s father- rather than the other way around, as on the album. I was concerned about this at first, then I saw the dead father would become a symbol of Tommy of the “master” he sees in his dreams.

The lover is first shown in the optimism of this new love, and the first breaking through of beautiful poetry occurs in the lines of the lover: “Got a feelin’ twenty one is gonna be a good year / Especially if you and me see it in together.” The love is genuine, and so tragic, when it apparently leads him to kill the true father of Tommy when he returns. The stepfather or father character is ambiguous, and we are made sympathetic with him even while he is the murderer, the cause of his blindness, and the master of the bungling attempts at securing the cure and salvation of Tommy. Tommy sees the murder, and is told he did not see and hear it. The result is a psychosomatic blindness and deafness that is like autism. Also like some autistic children, Tommy shows certain rare abilities. With some it is music, some math. For him it is to be pinball wizard, apparently through sensation felt as musical vibration. On one hand, the equation of sense and music is strange, because while he can feel, he is deaf, and would only produce music from his understanding of sound before the trauma.

Yet there is something more to Tommy than pinball, just as there is something more to Townshend than music. The song “The Amazing Journey” completes the work of the first of the four sides of the double album, which is our introduction to the character and background of Tommy. Tommy lives at age ten in a world of sensory deprivation:

Deaf Dumb and blind boy

He’s in a quiet vibration land

Strange as it seems, his musical dreams

Ain’t quite so bad

Tommy is like Helen Keller in American history, blind and deaf, limited to touch. As in her case, the story is in part about her breaking through. In the Rolling Stone interview, conducted when Townsend was still working on Tommy, he describes the idea:

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 is a song describing the deaf, dumb and blind boy. But what its 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’s all about, because we are creating him as we play.…

Townshend emphasizes that what he really likes, or finds endearing is that

 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 father’s touch, but he 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.

In the interview, there is yet no hint of the mysterious origin of the inner block of Tommy, the concern with Christmas and salvation, the vision that begins the amazing journey, nor of the pinball wizard parallel with the phenomenon of the cult rock star. Tommy is beaten by his father and molested by his uncle, and interprets these sensations as sound vibrations, or musically, without association to “sleeziness” or “any of the things normally associated with sex. It is meaningless, as it is in such actual instances, “you just don’t react.” The sensory deprivation of Tommy is at points related to literal traumas of the soul. He manages to hear his own name, “Tommy,” and “gets really hung up on” it. “He decides that this is the king and this is the goal, Tommy is the thing, man.” (p. 99). Similarly, when he sees his own image in the 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 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…

Here the interview breaks off into a different direction, Townsend complaining that he does not “feel at all together.” What he has in the mirror was himself. But does Townsend think that the tall stranger with the silver gown and golden beard is, similarly, himself? And if not, what does he think it is?

His condition allows the perception of musical dreams from within, and this also leads to bold thoughts, wisdom and simplicity, as if demonstrating the theory that we are corrupted by our experience and by the outside world, yet perfected in mind and the imagination by music and thought, or, by what arises from within. He retains an inner simplicity uncorrupted, but this is only the beginning of the amazing journey, what makes him open to it. The paradox of this openness to the inner things through mental and physical defects is stated directly:

 Sickness will surely take the mind

Where minds can’t usually go

Come on the amazing journey

And learn all you should know

His sensory deprivation is the result of a sickness, yet this very sickness allows him access to the inner school. Sometimes our defects prove our commodities, as Shakespeare’s Gloucester says (King Lear, IV, i, 19-21). His inner world of musical dreams and bold thoughts in the pursuit of wisdom prepares him for the psychic experience or vision of the wizard, a manifestation of what Jung would call the archetype of the Wise old man:[12]

A vague haze of delirium

creeps up on me.

All at once a tall stranger I suddenly see.

He’s dressed in a silver sparked

glittering gown

And his golden beard flows nearly down to the ground.

This is a vision or visitation. The wise man is not an actual person, such as Socrates, because humans are not wise. Our particular teachers, though, might embody or make manifest the wise man that is the guide, and our relations with them makes the archetype active in our lives. The figure is like a combination of Merlin, the ancient British seer, and John’s vision of Jesus at the opening of the Revelation. His gown is silver and his beard gold, or he is clothed in the spirit and has grown wisdom. Before elaborating further on the figure, two sets of lines repeat the points, adding that his deprivation of sight and hearing leads him to convert sensation into music, and that it is sickness that takes the mind where minds can’t usually go, opening the way to the amazing journey. In a final set of lines, he then elaborates regarding the wise man:

His eyes are the eyes that transmit all they know

Sparkle warm crystalline glances to show

That he is your leader

And he is your guide

On the amazing journey together you’ll ride.

His eyes transmit knowledge. The seeker knows that he is the leader or guide because the crystalline glances or the divine glance of one whose sight is the light, are also “warm,” or yet friendly and welcoming to the human seeker. This figure will accompany Tommy on the amazing journey that is to follow, as everyone around him attempts to treat his soul and his condition.

The journey first concerns the question of salvation and a series of traumatic unfortunate encounters with the Hawker, Cousin Kevin, the Acid Queen and Uncle Ernie. The Hawker is like a pimp who presents the woman that is his whore as having the power to bring eyesight to the blind and make the deaf able to hear. It turns out the step father in the dual father figure represents conventional or even Anglican Christianity. It follows that the sensory deprivation of Tommy may be like the alienation of the inspired musician from both the conventional and the radical forms of spirituality.

The father or step father is, as has been noted, strangely presented sympathetically. His poem on Christmas morning opens the second disk. This song demonstrates the meaning of certain aspects of Christmas, as the background of his concern for the salvation of Tommy. I like to play the song around Christmas for its explanation of the meaning of gift giving:

 Did you ever see the faces of the children

The get so excited.

Waking up on Christmas morning

hours before the winter sun’s ignited.

They believe in dreams and all they mean

Including heaven’s generosity

Peeping round the door to see what parcels are for free

In curiosity.

The meaning of dreams includes the generosity of heaven, and the children anticipating Christmas believe in the meaning of dreams. Their excited curiosity anticipates the curiosity that leads adults to the true beneficence of heaven. When humans give gifts to one another, we embody and recall the generosity of the heaven, and gifts from heaven’s overflow, as the winter’s sun will soon light Christmas morning. The poetry is beautiful here beyond commentary, and, once again, demonstrates a rare understanding of the meaning of the Christian things embodied in the bungling father.

The father, having just described the meaning of Christmas, complains that Tommy doesn’t know what day it is. / Doesn’t know who Jesus was or what prayin’ is.” He asks, “How can he be saved?” emphasizing “From the eternal grave.” Salvation is made possible by the knowledge of what day it is,[13] or what Christmas day is, and this is identified with the visible light: “How can men who’ve never seen light be enlightened?” The quest for a cure for the blindness and deafness of Tommy thus becomes identified with the goal of enlightenment or the salvation of his soul.

Meanwhile, Tommy within is singing “See me, feel me / Touch me, heal me.” The song therefore does have something to do with the reaching up to Jesus, a dual meaning that accompanies the more direct meaning for many listeners. It is the longing of our souls for the healing of the divine, in whatever form this reaching arises.

Before the crisis and attempted cure, Tommy is abused by the bully babysitter Cousin Kevin. Tommy is then apparently given acid. The experience is symbolized in the image of a night locked in a room with a sadistic Gypsy whore. After the experience, the innocence of the boy is gone, having had his soul torn apart. He is told to gather his wits and hold on fast, “Your mind must learn to roam” Her work done, she says he’s “Never been more alive,” while he is shaking his head and clutching his fingers with his body writhing. Her night with him is like a rendezvous “guaranteed to break your little heart.” Townsend and the Who are the most anti-drug of the Rock bands, apparently having overcome the mod fascination with leapers and alcohol. This would be the most negative presentation of LSD as a path to enlightenment of any of the rock bands. The position is for example opposite the Grateful Dead and others on the matter.

The third disk opens with the molestation of Tommy by his wicked uncle Ernie, with whom his parents have left him as a sitter. This is somehow the prelude to the Pinball Wizard. Has he discovered sensation and response through sexuality, though perverted by Uncle Ernie? Since such things are fundamental traumas of deep and lasting impact, does he again succeed in making lemonade from the lemons life gives him? The connection between Ernie and pinball is underlined later when Ernie reappears at Tommy’s Holiday camp to guide the recruits to their very own machine.

The story of the pinball wizard is told through the eyes of a third party, another pinball champion that is defeated by Tommy. Tommy plays by sensation or touch, and the lack of the distractions of sight and sound are said to allow for his astonishing ability at the pinball machine. The song is anthem like because of the phase of our youth in the seventies when pinball was a fashion activity in the social lives of kids down at the arcade, replaced now by video games. Yet, as the further adventures of Tommy will demonstrate, the primary meaning of the pinball wizard is the analogy with the rock star, and the comment of Townsend himself on this phenomenon.

The father, meanwhile, has found a doctor who can cure the deaf dumb and blind pinball wizard. This doctor is considerably more helpful than the doctor in Quadrophenia, who cannot take the meaning of the mods weekend when he tells him during a visit. Here the doctor notes that while tests have shown he does not sense at all, his eyes react to light, and he does physically hear. Meanwhile Tommy within sings “See me, feel me / Touch me, heal me.”

The doctor comments that there is no hope from an operation or any outside stimulation, apparently because the condition is an inner block, and so all hope lies with the action of the patient. Yet he fears the shock from isolation when the boy is suddenly able to hear and speak and see. Tommy continues to sing for healing in his isolation. The doctor then sends Tommy to the mirror.

At the mirror, while his father wonders what is happening in his head, Tommy is apparently in contact with the figure of wisdom that appeared earlier to him. The contact, though, is a little too close, since he apparently becomes possessed by the archetype,[14] and for a while identifies himself with such a figure. He says to what he sees in the mirror:

Listening to you I get the music

Gazing at you I get the heat

Following you I climb the mountain

I get excitement at your feet!

Right behind you I see the millions

On you I see the glory.

From you I get opinions

From you I get the story

Meanwhile the father and mother outside contact the boy. His mother is amazed that he doesn’t respond to her at all, but can apparently see himself, as he gazes at his own reflection. Inside, as we have seen, Tommy is in the presence of the one from whom he gets the music, etc. The figure is especially Christ-like in the second set of lines, as he on whom the glory of the Lord appears and whom one sees the millions following. Is Tommy in direct contact with the Christ? He is also the one whom one follows up the mountain, and the source of the music, which are characteristic of wisdom or the wise old man. His mother becomes angry, and senses that Tommy fears her. She then attempts to compel him to answer, by insisting: “Do you hear or fear or do I smash the mirror?” When he does not respond, she fulfills her threat and smashes the mirror.

In his book, Townshend writes:

I decided my deaf, dumb and blind hero could be autistic. This way, when I wanted to demonstrate the glorious moment of god-realization, I could simply restore my hero the use of his senses. It was a good plan; the boy’s sensory deprivation would work as a symbol of our own every-day spiritual isolation.

(Who I Am, pp.146-147)

The language of “god-realization” comes from Maher Baba, though Townshend’s Tommy is more skeptical of becoming a guru or spiritual leader than it is a “proselytizing vehicle” for the guru.

The result of the smashing of the mirror is that the pinball wizard becomes a “sensation,” something like a rock star, in a very nice double meaning. Apparently this occurs when he can suddenly see, hear and communicate. As the third disc concludes, Tommy overwhelms those he approaches, who hold their breath, and lovers break their embrace to gaze on him. The spirituality of his presence is apparent as their love is enhanced after he has passed by. In the refrain, A new vibration” reminds of the Beach Boys Good Vibrations, a new sound intended to be spiritual sound.

The career of Townshend is carried throughout by his hearing of a celestial music, from the time of his youth. This sound is to music as physical sensation is to the ability of Tommy to play pinball (Who I Am, pp.30-32, 34, 45, 93, 205). It is connected to Jesus and the angelic choir from the time of Townshend’s youth, accounting in part for the strangely sympathetic portrayal of Christmas in Tommy. Townshend (p. 35) writes:

Because of Tril’s faith in me, I became a bit of a mystic like her. I prayed to God, and at Sunday school I came to genuinely admire Jesus. In heaven, where he lived, the strange music I sometimes heard was completely normal.

The new vibration is related to the perfect note, addressed later, and to the single note said by some, both mystics and scientists, to be at the root or basis of the cosmos, whether an Ohm or a note left over from a Big Bang.

The music or notes of these words sound as though they were about to shatter glass, or through some sound barrier to the other or above side. The conjunction of pinball wizard / rock star / religious figure or pop idol / spiritual leader is fulfilled in the lines:

They worship me and all I touch

Hazy eyed they catch my glance,

Pleasant shudders shake their senses

My warm momentum throws their stance…

Refrain…You’ll feel me comin,

A new vibration

From afar you’ll see me

I’m a sensation

I leave a trail of rooted people

Mesmerized by just the sight,

The few I touched now are disciples

Love as one, I am the light…

The second instance of the word “hazy” is a clue. Tommy has become identified with the figure seen apparently through his own image in the mirror. He says, as Jesus did, that he is the light. For Jesus, or the messiah, and for him alone, it is a question whether or not he is correct, or whether this depiction of what he teaches about himself is correct. When other men see themselves and are taken with the beauty of the image of god within, and have seen nothing higher, they can become possessed by the archetype, a content of the collective unconscious, and this is a sort of madness. Yet all the while it may be so that there is something divine in us, that it is our true selves, and that we do not know this very well, nor live much in accordance with it. The wise man is the true self, but it is of course not the Most High.

Jung discusses these in terms of the “ego,” archetypal functions, and the “self.” In some instances, that is, without sacrifice, penance and humility, the ego becomes identified with the “self” in the wrong way. The effect is similar to the image in love, when it is the first hint of the divine or intelligible ever seen. The little self is an image of the big “self,” the soul an image of God, which, if the greater is not seen, allows for the error of megalomania, even of the sort where a guy thinks he’s Napoleon, or a Napoleon that he is “the guy.” The truth is that there is a spark of the divine in man, and that it is our true self, and we might be astonished at the intelligence in us, but “we all shine on” as Lennon said. Still, some are extraordinary, heads above their equal fellows, both by nature and by cultivation.

The third disc ends with the newsboy announcing the miraculous cure of the Pinball wizard. This coincides, as was said, with the sudden fame of the rock star, when he can finally communicate the depth of the thought within, or when the greatness of the inward vision that is at the root of his music seems finally to be received if not understood, or at least to have an impact proportionate to its greatness.

The fourth disc opens with the story of Sally Simpson and her love fantasy regarding the rock star Tommy. Here pinball is explicitly replaced by the rock star and the effect of those like Elvis or the Beatles on the fantasy life of their young female fans. The song is touching, as Townsend writes:

She knew from the start

Deep down in her heart

She and Tommy were worlds apart.

But her mother said never mind your part

Is to be what you’ll be.

Sally of course gets a sixteen stitch gash on her face when she tries to enter her fantasy by jumping onstage, and the result disillusions her, so that she is able to settle for marriage to a real musician aspiring in California.

Meanwhile, a world apart, in the world of Tommy, he is singing of his spiritual discovery that the highest truth is freedom:

I’m free- I’m free,

And freedom tastes of reality,

I’m free, I’m free,

And I’m waiting for you to follow me.

  The center of this song seems to me genuinely profound. It is Townsend’s comment on religion or spirituality of the sort “out here in the fields.” It is spiritual, but free of worldly spirituality, and disdainful of all worldly appearances, including the cult-like gullibility of the followers of the rock musicians like Tommy, in so far as they exercise a spiritual dominion over the youth. Townsend’s genuine message:

If I told you what it takes

to reach the highest high,

You’d laugh and say ‘nothing’s that simple’

But you’ve been told many times before

Messiahs pointed to the door

But no one had the guts to leave the temple!

But there is another thing that gives occasion to comment on Townshend and the Who. There is an attempt of the seeker, in the song named in part after Townshend’s Guru Maher Baba, to find a spiritual basis independent of the Christian or Biblical foundations of Western civilization, which is perceived at the start as bankrupt. The Who, Beatles, Clapton and others attempt to go east for spirituality, rather than do without. The path of rock then becomes a self conscious independent spiritual quest. The ground of this attempt or this quest is what he means by:

Out here in the fields

I fight for my meals.

I get my back into my liv’in

I don’t need to fight

To prove I’m right

I don’t need to be forgiven.

He is out independent in the spiritual fields, and does his own work toiling there. This is another way of saying “no one had the guts to leave the Temple.” He accuses Christendom of sustaining and spreading the religion by force, or associates Christianity with the militarists, as in the Viet Nam war. His spirited denial of the need for forgiveness calls for an apology or explanation. It seems, as a hypothesis, that it is toward other men, and not toward God, that he asserts that he does not need to be forgiven, as a way of climbing out from under the oppressive human authority of the Christian tradition. He does not need to be forgiven for his work out there in the fields, or for the spiritual independence of the seeker. Baba is the name of Townshend’s own guru.

The many say “how can we follow?” and one is reminded of the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, when Brian, for his preaching, is telling the crowd, “You must be individuals. You must think for yourselves,” and the crowd chants after him in unison, “We are individuals. We must think for ourselves.” In Tommy, the many simply cannot follow, any further than the mere repetition of the phrase that they must stop mere repeating. Tommy finds contact with the higher things through his musical dreams because he suffered a trauma that led to a psychosomatic loss of senses. His heightened sensation makes him a pinball wizard, but it is not true that the many can gain the same result by doing the same things, especially if they are not poets or musicians. Both Tommy and the followers confuse the accidental particulars with the higher things revealed through these particulars, demonstrating the universal human propensity to idolatry. So the next song, “Welcome,” depicts a cult-like atmosphere, yet one of drinking all night and never sleeping–one of the clues that it is the cult of the rock star. Their followers are the “comfortable people.” Everyone is welcome to be one of them, the milkman, baker, little old lady, shoemaker. The members gather in others from everywhere, like the expanding of a cult. In an aside that reminds one of a Shakespearean subplot occurring alongside a greater action, even Uncle Ernie has become a P.R. man for Tommy’s Holiday camp. Is there a suggestion that the cult, and the rock and roll scene, is a bit like molestation regarding the gullibility of the mind of the participant?

The rock opera concludes with the revolt of the followers from Tommy’s religion of pinball, or music. This is the apparent answer to what it takes to reach the highest high. Yet after the followers revolt, Tommy, again worlds apart, is in the presence of his visionary wise man, and asking to be healed. The many are freer in revolt, and one hopes the distinction has been restored between Tommy himself and the figure whose glance is light, seen when he first set out on the amazing journey.

The scene opens as Tommy is speaking at the ceremony welcoming followers to the camp. “My name is Tommy, and I became aware this year” This demonstrates that his literal perception– opened when the inner block was surpassed at the smashing of the mirror– is identified with spiritual enlightenment or an opening awareness. But Tommy tells them that if they want to follow him, they have to play pinball. He passes out blindfolds, earplugs and a cork for their mouths.

The difference between his movement and the hippie rock followers becomes apparent when he tells those drinking and smoking pot that that is not the way. Strangely, there is a difference between the written line on the album sleeve, “Hey you smoking mother nature, You missed the bus” and the spoken words recorded, …Hey you…This is a bust.” In the recorded version, the religious movement of Tommy begins to become authoritarian. At this, the followers begin to revolt, saying “we’re not gonna take it.” Tommy then finds them all deaf, speechless and blind from the things he has himself passed out. Pinball is said to complete the scene, and Uncle Ernie enters to guide them to their very own machine. The image is uncertain, but it is likely that the musical path of imitating the particulars of Tommie’s character results in perversity or masturbation. It can be said, though, that the primary meaning of what has occurred as a result of Tommy’s breakthrough into contact with the world is just like the mass result of Townsend’s breakthrough, and the poet is disgusted by these things in our music culture. The followers continue their revolt, saying they do not want religion, as far as they know. They resolve to forsake him, then to rape him, then simply to forget him.

Yet the story does end in the failure of the Holiday camp, but in the glory of the vision of Tommy, and it is these lines that have become the most moving and the most memorable. Finally alone the Opera concludes in Tommy’s solitary epiphany, beginning with his prayer:

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

And concluding with his description that most reminded of the identification of the wise man with the actual Christ, with the glory upon him, followed by the millions:

Listening to you I get the music.

Gazing at you I get the heat

Following you I climb the mountain

I get excitement at your feet!

Right behind you I see the millions

On you I see the glory.

From you I get opinions

From you I get the story.

The interesting elements, to sum up our inquiry, are involved in the question of who or what it is that Tommy addresses when he is praying or asking to be healed, the analogy between pinball and being a rock star, and the comparison of the rock star to a religious cult figure, and therefore rock and roll as a replacement for religion. The rock writer is indeed in touch with something, even due to his inner block, caused by something that is like having been told not to see. What he is in touch with, when he is singing “See me, feel me, Touch me, heal me” is nowhere described more clearly than in the vision described in the “Amazing Journey.” It is somehow both Christian and philosophic or based on the wise man, though it is a free encounter with the concrete divine, rather than the traditional religion of the step-father, who identifies access to salvation with the ability to see the visible regarding Christmas. Simultaneously, the poet’s understanding of the deep and high truth in the celebration of Christmas makes it clear that while it is not the same establishment of religion, the poetry is not opposed to but is ultimately consistent with the truth of that tradition. We have to go all the way to “Love Reign Over Me,” at the end of Quadrophenia, to show this fully.

The final question is the first question: what is the meaning of the murder of his true father by his step father or the murder by his father of the lover of his mother, that caused the inner block and sent Tommy along on the Amazing Journey? Townshend indicates a connection to a personal trauma, and this may be part of what occurs regarding the musician as autistic savant. But following the symbols, we will say that the father figure in Tommy considers how Christian tradition blocked poetry or a high sort of spirituality, allied with wisdom, that is the true inheritance of Britain and the Western world. In the end, this poetry and spirituality is not inconsistent with Christianity, but may even be a fulfillment. The path of Townsend leads to the reign of Love, which is one Christian teaching of what God is. This is found concretely, through the quest, rather than through the mediation of the Temple, as Monks and Essenes seem always to have known. And it may be that Tommy and Townshend are uniquely enduring and inspiring, as though a repressed content of the Western unconscious were what is represented by the Who, with the sharp and pounding drum, wall of sound percussion of Kieth Moon announcing that it will break through, or is breaking through. This, contra Bloom, is what the rebellion of the mod leads to, and, though unknown, has been all about.

Townsend himself comes closest to indicating something like this, even while rejecting attempts at interpretation, when he says in the interview:

…obviously the story has got something to do with your sexual relationship; you know, obviously it’s got some spiritual significance: “does Pete Townsend think he’s Jesus?” or whatever the hang up is, man, it can all be read into it. I’m sure a lot of it is there, but one doesn’t know because one is trying to avoid all this. We, of all people, have got to be afraid of seriousness in the Who, because if we were serious, we’d admit that we don’t like each other. But because were not serious, we don’t have to admit it…

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