August 4th 1975

“Started back at Francis – Great! Got some record covers and Free Tommy tickets”

Yes, you read that right.

I’m back behind the counter in Francis Records’ pop department.

How did this happen? Weird really… it seems the elderly Mrs Francis suddenly decided to retire. Actually, semi-retire as I was to find out a little later.

Despite getting unceremoniously fired by her – for reasons still unknown – I continued to go back in the store as a customer to look for stuff, always popping in to the classical department downstairs to say hello to her son John.

During one of these visits he informed me of his mother’s decision and asked me if I would be interested in returning to the fold. Would I?!!

So here I am during my Summer holidays, providing my services to the recording industry once again. Pig back in the poop.

Looks as if my timing was perfect too? My first day back and John gifted me four complimentary tickets to Ken Russell’s new film “Tommy”

I need to say a few words about Tommy…

Apart from – obviously – their singles, Tommy was perhaps my first proper introduction to The Who. Released in 1969 this expansive double album was the first concept album billed as a “rock opera”, a term I have always liked!

It – as anyone will inform you – tells the detailed story about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who – via his love for pinball – becomes the leader of a weird messianic cult. When you say that ‘out loud’ it sounds utterly preposterous doesn’t it?

The album’s tale is held together by a set of terrific songs though, Pete Townshend proving his worth as a terrific songwriter. 40 years later they still sound strong and fresh, standing the test of time magnificently. Indeed, much of the subject matter still has a relevance in the 21st Century:- “Amazing Journey” & “The Acid Queen” (The growth of psychotropic drugs), “Eyesight to the Blind” (religious beliefs), “Cousin Kevin” (bullying), “Pinball Wizard” (OCD), “Tommy Can You Hear Me” (child abandonment), “Sally Simpson” (celebrity fanaticism), “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” (religious cults) and, somewhat ironically given Townshend’s own brush with the law in this general arena, “Fiddle About” with its graphic depiction of pedophilia.

As with many of my other eventual album purchases I had listened to “Tommy” on tape first, drawn initially to Sides 3 & 4 moreso than 1 & 2, mainly thanks to the inclusion there of the hits “Pinball Wizard” and “I’m Free”. (“I’m Free” took on special significance for me in 1997 when I blared – and I mean BLARED – it on repeat for an hour straight when getting home after selling my business)

For me, it’s not as perfect a concept album as I later discovered “Quadrophenia” to be, but it comes pretty damned close. As I remarked to my wife just the other night my adoration for The Who is based almost entirely on these two double LPs. Personally I never felt “Who’s Next” to be as brilliant as everyone else kept/keeps telling me (“Won’t Get Fooled Again” obviously excepted) much preferring this pair of pairs. (I also have a soft spot for “The Who Sell Out”… if that even counts as a proper Who album anymore?)

The impending movie adaptation would merely take my love for “Tommy” to a whole new level, but more of that later. In the meantime here’s all of its GREAT cuts…

Overture
It’s a Boy
1921
Amazing Journey
Sparks
Eyesight to the Blind (The Hawker)
Christmas
Cousin Kevin
The Acid Queen
Underture Pt 1
Do You Think It’s Alright?
Fiddle About
Pinball Wizard
There’s a Doctor
Go to the Mirror
Tommy, Can You Hear Me?
Smash the Mirror
Sensation
Miracle Cure
Sally Simpson
I’m Free
Welcome
Tommy’s Holiday Camp
We’re Not Gonna Take It

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