‘TOMMY: The Amazing Journey’ Opens at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Rock Hall displays Pete Townshend’s never-before-seen archives of the Who’s concept album Tommy

CLEVELAND, March 16 /PRNewswire/ — The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is pleased to announce the new exhibit “TOMMY: The Amazing Journey.” The exhibit will open on April 7, 2005 at the Cleveland music museum and will remain until March 2006.

Tommy is one of the earliest and most important rock operas. The iconic rock opera had many incarnations, including an album, movie, soundtrack, a Broadway play as well as an orchestral version and a ballet interpretation. Conceived and primarily written by Pete Townshend, the Who’s critically revered concept album, Tommy, was released in 1969.

March 18, 2005 marks the 30th anniversary of the motion pictures version of Tommy, directed by Ken Russell.

When the album Tommy was released over 35 years ago, the media divided in two distinctive groups. On one side, critics labeled it “shattering” and “remarkable.” On the other side, some media viewed the work as exploitative. The story of Tommy is one of a handicapped child who is exploited and abused by family members and others and goes on to become a spiritual leader. This is an area that no pop album had dared to tread before Tommy.

The controversy of Tommy led to the album being banned by the BBC and various radio stations, an act that did little to hurt its sales.

Richard Barnes wrote in the liner notes of the 1993 Tommy reissue, “Its story covers murder, trauma, bullying, child molestation, sex, drugs, illusion, delusion, altered consciousness, spiritual awakening, religion, charlatanism, success, superstardom, faith, betrayal, rejection, and pinball.”

While Townshend did not intend for Tommy to be autobiographical, he has said that in 1991 — when the Broadway show was released — he realized it indeed was.

The album chronicles the story of a boy who becomes deaf, dumb and blind after witnessing the murder of his father. Through his mastery of pinball, he is cured, elevated to prophet status and then turned on by his followers. Without his major senses, Tommy is left to feel everything through rhythms and vibrations.

This examination of spirituality and self was a massive success and hit Number 4 on the U.S. album charts. The Who’s subsequent tour included a full performance of Tommy at each show. Ultimately, the barrier-shattering piece was performed at several major opera houses, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.

In 1975, director Ken Russell released his film version of Tommy, starring the Who, Ann-Margaret, Oliver Reed, and Jack Nicholson. The film also featured appearances by Eric Clapton, Tina Turner and Elton John. A Broadway musical version debuted in 1992.

“The Who are one of the great bands in rock and roll history, and Tommy is one of their greatest works,” said Jim Henke, the Museum’s vice president of exhibitions and curatorial affairs. “We have worked closely with Pete Townshend, who created Tommy, and the result is a comprehensive look at the first rock opera.”

The exhibition features Townshend’s handwritten manuscripts and production notes as well as costumes, instruments, posters and other artifacts from the numerous incarnations of Tommy.

Artifacts in the exhibit include:
— Track Listing and Conceptual Notes, 1968
— This handwritten manuscript reveals Pete Townshend’s evolving concept
of the opera.
— “Tommy Can You Hear Me/Go To the Mirror” handwritten lyrics, 1968
— UK Tour Concert Program, 1970
— Roger Daltrey Suit from Ken Russell Tommy film, 1974
— Fillmore East Program, 1969
— Ticket and brochure from Woodstock
— Program from Theatre de Champs Alysses, a European opera house where
the Who performed Tommy.
— A typed letter from Pete Townshend to the fan club, Fall 1969
— Posters for both Isle of Wight concerts, 1969 and 1970
— Letter from Pete Townshend to Ken Russell with detailed casting
proposals for the movie
— Posters from 5 different countries for the movie
— Poster for the Who, James Gang and James Taylor performance at Public
Hall, Cleveland, 1970

About the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum exists to educate its visitors, fans and scholars from around the world about the history and significance of rock and roll music. The Museum carries out this mission through its efforts to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret this art form.

The Museum is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Wednesdays the Museum is open until 9:00 p.m. Museum admission is $20.00 for adults, $14.00 for seniors (60+), $11 for children (9-12) and children under 8 and Museum members are free.

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