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Review Offenbach, Sun, 13 September 1970

Opera Hero Tommy

The English Beat Band The Who on Tour in Germany

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 15-09-1970

The English Beat Band The Who, who introduced themselves on their German tour in Offenbach, swims in the main stream of pop music. There are neither extended reminiscences of the blues, as with Savoy Brownm Chicken Shack or Bacon Fat for example, nor are they trying to be progressive and to try out new sounds, to loosen rhythmic bonds or to extend the improvised parts as Pink Floyd, East of Eden or Soft Machine are doing. Solo guitarist Pete Townshend’s improvisations are not only modest by quantity, but also by technique and by compisition. The music is loud through and through, has a lot of drive and clearly recognizable melodies and stresses the repetition of simple rhythmical and melodic patterns. Townshend’s show acrobatics with splits and Cossack jumps is nothing special either.

But what is special with The Who and what made them such a succesful band (their latest album is in the top of the charts) is the compact precision of their arrangements which are build like a sinfonie: with changes of rhythm, breaks and three-part-singing. This makes the band appear like a musical battering-ram in a four-fold line-up.

Tommy, the first beat opera, is like a sinfonie, too. The Who causes much excitement with it and the fans in Offenbach wanted to hear it, too, and they heard it. The opera, which will be performed as a play and made inot a movie next year, is about a boy who becomes blind, deaf and dumb. After a miracle cure he becomes a kind of messias of whom other kids expect the solution of their problems. His uncle begins to use his religious image commercially. Tommy recognizes that he can’t help anyone in his search for wellbeing and that he is in fact more dependent on them than they are on him.

This »opera«, which lasts more or less than an hour, depending on the versions, doesn’t contain any especially original or strong music, even though it corresponds with the lyrics. But the connections between these parts is created with a dramatic effect, and the symbolic lyrics and action are more worthy of interpretation than many other prophesying lyrics of the new pop music. The spiritual achievement to creat such an action and to remember such a complex part (it was played without notes) indicates the intention of the young rock musicians: they aim for more than just entertainment.

The concert in the crowded Stadthalle hat style, and instead of the apathy which can be found often at similar events, you could find great enthusiasm.

Ulrich Olshausen


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung