May, 1969. The Who’s new record, Tommy is released and shakes up rock lovers all around the globe. Selling as many as 200,000 copies in the first two weeks after the US release, the record was widely regarded as the standard to which future rock albums would be held. Being the inspirational force behind Tommy, Pete Townshend’s work was praised by many for it’s power and innovation, in particular due to the fact that, despite the record essentially being one extended rock opera, every single track works as a single, and tells a story of it’s own. This was a unique and never-before-seen approach to rock music, and in combination with the hard rock sound of the record, Tommy was a breath of fresh air and The Who became the pioneering band in sub genre that grew into a musical phenomenon.
The main feature on the disc focuses on the creation of the Tommy record, and most of the people involved in the process. Naturally, the biggest contributor to the documentary is Pete Townshend himself, who shares some great insights and details on what inspired him to create Tommy and how the music is to be interpreted by it’s listeners. His parts of the documentary are by far the most informative, and really give the viewer a sense of understanding and realization in regards to what it took for The Who to bring us this record. Roger Daltrey talks about giving the Tommy character life and the impact the record had on his personal life, as well as how much of a gamble the entire project really was. There are a few excerpts from archival interview footage with the late John Entwistle, which is a great addition to the documentary as a whole. Although much has been said about Tommy in the past, by both the band’s members and many other people – there are new things to be found here. In particular, segment on psychedelic drugs, which talks about the come-up of LSD and goes into detail on Townshend’s “bad trip” experience on an airplane – I had never heard about before. It’s a significant insight into what brought Townshend to Meher Baba and becoming free of spiritual restrictions, which was a huge contributor to creating the Tommy record.
There are a number of mandatory interviews with music critics as well, but i found their segments to be lacking in terms of bringing new things to the viewer. Their words feel like a rehash of what they and many other critics have said before. There is nothing wrong with it, I just much preferred the interviews with the actual band members, seeing as those are personal to the music itself and show us real involvement and genuine emotion in regards to the record and everything around it. As a whole, though, this documentary is short on run time but definitely not short on substance. In fact, I believe the 80 minute duration of the main feature is plenty, considering long time fans of The Who have inevitably heard the meat of this piece before, but younger generations and new fans of the band will get exactly what they need without too much excess. It’s a great watch, and does the band and the record justice.
The video presentation is as expected. The new interview footage looks the way it should, with plenty of detail and clarity. Seeing as we’re watching people talk, it’s important for them to look natural and real, and they do. Skin tones look good and detail in clothing and hair is great. In particular, I personally really enjoyed the Townshend & Daltrey shots in the studio. As for the clips and excerpts from classic The Who footage, I think they did as well as they could. Truth be told, I firmly believe that stuff like this shouldn’t look too polished and “remastered” – for the dirty old imagery only adds to the coolness and realism of the entire picture.
The disc comes with a LPCM Stereo track as well as a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. Both of these sound good, but I personally prefer the LPCM track. Again, being somewhat of a purist when it comes to this kind of material, I like to see and hear things the way they were back then, as opposed to what it can be turned into today. However, the most important thing in a documentary is easy-to-understand dialogue, and this is spot on for both audio tracks. As stated above, there are many clips from old concerts and other band related recordings, and they sound just fine on either one of the tracks included.
The one extra included on the disc is the entire show The Who did for Germany’s “Beat Club” in 1969. This is a great addition to the package, and it will put a smile on every fan of The Who or classic rock lovers in general. The entire thing is black and white and the band plays a number of songs from the Tommy record. It’s fun to watch, for the boys seem to be having a blast.
If you’re a fan of The Who, you will most definitely enjoy this package. It’s a solid documentary on one of rock music’s biggest genre-defying and influential records, and a great watch for people whom are unfamiliar with the happenings surrounding Tommy. Eagle Rock Entertainment did a great job with the technical aspects of the disc and I am happy to have this release in my collection of music Blu-rays. Recommended.