The Who are no strangers to revealing the contents of their archives, nor are they a band that find it difficult being on film, as demonstrated by the numerous documentaries, concerts, and video compilations released over the years.
Sensation: The Story Of Tommy is just another version of an album that has already been re-packaged in deluxe and super deluxe versions, played live, performed as a stage play in theatres, transformed into film, and talked about at length since its release in 1969.
The record went on to sell over 20 million copies, and although it has been covered previously, the story behind the album is an interesting one.
This documentary couples new interviews with The Who’s Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, along with archive interviews with the late John Entwistle, Keith Moon, and former Who managers, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp.
They are also joined by friends of the group plus their sound engineer, Bob Pridden; Tommy artwork creator, Mike McInnerney; and journalists Jann Wenner, Chris Welch, and David Wild.
The inspiration for Tommy stems from Townshend’s spiritual search, finding enlightenment in the form of an Indian guru named Meher Baba. It was around this time that Townshend had the idea of creating a character.
He’d be a young, deaf, dumb, and blind boy who went through a series of adverse circumstances (including witnessing a murder and being abused). He would undertake a spiritual journey and be lauded by his peers, but would misuse his powers on his path to god realisation.
The documentary goes through every track on the album, including the cover of Sonny Boy Williamsons’ ‘Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker)’, with the album broken up by a series of titles cast over a pinball machine.
The film is also peppered with excellent and candid anecdotes. Townshend was always one of the most eloquent and articulate men in rock, and thanks to this creation, he became respected as a composer. Daltrey, meanwhile, would go on to be a formidable frontman and actor.
A downside to the documentary is that it attempts to cover a lot of ground in its short 80-minute runtime, resulting in some elements being inevitably glossed over.
Sensation: The Story of Tommy offers a rich look at rock’s first opera. It is an interesting feature, but some fans may be left wondering just how many more times the protagonist Tommy can be forced out into the limelight.
Originally published on 24 February 2014 at the following website: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/reviews/film/387741/sensation-the-story-of-tommy.htm
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