Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Perfect Timing

I just watched Tommy for the first time ever this week--an event many years in the making. I sheepishly admit that, but am consoled by an article extoling the glory of Tommy wherein the author said he hadn't seen it before 2007, despite having been a long-standing fan who had actually reviewed the band for The Village Voice in the 60s. But I seriously doubt that he has as good an excuse as I do for avoiding it this long: I was frightened by it, and for good reason. My dad used to play "Boris the Spider" to my sister and I when I couldn't have been much more than 5 and she, like 3, as he recently reminded me. As if I could ever forget!

Actually it was the cover art for The Who Sell Out that made the indelible impression of a lifetime on my sib and I. To this day all I have to say to her is "remember that album cover"...to which she certainly will reply, "The one with the baked beans? Oh yeah." At that age, I had a hair ribbon wardrobe to die for and was immersed in a world of triumphant pink OshKosh corduroy overalls. I spent my days practicing the piano with a Rogers and Hammerstein songbook and doing barre exercises in ballet classes after school. During one of my forays exploring the cover art in my dad's album collection, my pastel purple universe was irretreivably altered when I was confronted by an angry guy sitting in a bathtub of baked beans ("Why would someone DO THAT?" my young mind wondered), his hawkish eyes threatening that any second he would jump out of that tub and grab me. Or not. Maybe he liked it there in that tub; more than he liked scaring little private school ballerinas, one could only hope. The several faces of the proto-Where's Waldo? group photo on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (bought the week it was released in London, I would later learn) attracted nothing more than summary curiosity, even with a gatefold, after I was introduced to the scariest image I had ever beheld. Well, not as scary as the Skeksis in the Dark Crystal, or Dragonslayer. But those were yet to enter my purview.

Much to the amusement of certain persons in my life, I've recently re-discovered how much I really do love a lot of The Who's music. Let me be clear though, my taste only extends to the EARLY oeuvre, the amphetamine-driven snarling white boy R&B married to the avant garde pop arty stuff. NOT their over-synthed stadium rock of the 70s. Pete Townshend would snarl that that early stuff is juvenile, and so be it, I can live with that.

Tommy
is the bridge between those eras. Back in 1993 when Tommy came to Broadway, being the good drama geek that I was, I knew the complete "libretto" (if I may be so bold) and had the Broadway cast recording. I watched Ken Russell's Women in Love via Netflix in December and thought it terrific. So when I saw Tommy was going to be on TCM recently, I thought, why not? Who couldn't do with a little more Oliver Reed and Ann-Margret in their life? After reading the aforementioned article, I was especially amped to see Tina Turner's turn as The Acid Queen and the much vaunted "Champagne" sequence. And now, my thoughts:

  1. Thank goodness they really didn't "go there" with the creepy Uncle Ernie sequence. That was a big concern for me. I just didn't want to watch that.
  2. Oliver Reed à la Danny Zuko who can't sing? GENIUS!
  3. How does Tina Turner do that thing with her lip? And the mirrored robot thing she put Tommy in? Who else was thinking "PUT THEM IN THE IRON MAIDEN!"?
  4. "Champagne" lived up to my expectations. My STARS, Ann-Margaret was robbed of the Oscar! Her best performance ever. What a trooper, that was serious commitment to a character. I hope being the Dame of the Month here on the blog eases the pain of being denied recognition a little.
  5. Wha? Tommy was only a pinball wizard for like 5 minutes! More pinball wizardry, fewer cults, please.
  6. Eric Clapton segment=zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Question: When you are God, why would you agree to a demotion to priest?
  7. Mixed emotions re: Sally Simpson's Tommy wallpaper. Cool effect, but could you live with it year round? Also, Sally was way younger than I envisioned her to be.
  8. Pete Townshend, 10 years on then, more than 40 now, isn't the whole "birdman" strum/guitar destruction thing a little played? How can it be an organic expression of feeling when it's progressed into an "insert trademark move here" type thing? And the corollary: Roger, you had that haircut for at least 8 years (1967-1975). I'm glad it wasn't the world's first straight perm that you were sporting before that, but my goodness, evolve already. You just wanted people to confuse you with Robert Plant, admit it.
  9. There is no way Roger and Ann-Margret didn't have an affair.
  10. Bring on Lisztomania!
The vein of Who-related arcana runs deep in my life, or better said, the lives of my parents. When I told my mom I'd watched Tommy, she said (predictably), "Oh, that movie's dis-GUSTING!" When I asked what was so disgusting about it, she said,"Didn't he have zits?" Now I am sorry but that is funny. Of all the things she could have taken exception with in that film she picks non-existent zits and says nothing about chocolate-doused silk bolster pillows. Then she went on to reveal that she and my dad walked out of Tommy and went to see Antonioni's The Passenger...and hated that too! In her defense though, she was pregnant with me at the time. That accounts for the memory loss re: the zits and the impatience with experimental filmmaking....and probably, quite a lot about me as well.

1 comment:

Sherpa said...

Funny, I saw the Broadway Touring production of Tommy.