‘Tommy at 50’ Book Celebrates The Who’s Rock Opera

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Tommy at 50, a new book celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Who’s legendary album, was published on May 21. The title, from authors Chris Charlesworth and Mike McInnerney (who designed the original album cover), also features a foreword from Pete Townshend as well as new interviews with the legend himself.

The book, via Apollo Publishers, is described as “the definitive illustrated guide to the album,” showcasing original art from the album’s iconic case.

On May 23, 1969, The Who released their fourth studio album, Townshend’s rock opera, Tommy. It received wide critical acclaim and was ultimately inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The double album, about a “deaf, dumb and blind kid,” features such classic rock favorites as “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Pinball Wizard” and “Christmas,” as well as the instrumentals, “Overture” and “Sparks.” It was subsequently made into a film and Broadway musical.

More from the announcement: With eye-opening text and 200 color photos, Tommy at 50 considers the Tommy album from four distinct angles, examining the mood of its creation, the origins and content of its music, the look of its iconic artwork, and the album’s enduring legacy. It draws on new interviews from key players in the story and features art created exclusively for the book by McInnerney.

A two-page spread from Tommy at 50 (Photo: Jack Mitchell; Used with permission of the publisher)

Charlesworth is a music journalist, Who expert and memorabilia collector, and friend of the band. He joined the staff of British music paper Melody Maker in 1970, going on to serve as news editor and American editor before leaving the paper in 1977. During this period, he became particularly close to The Who, traveling with them on tour. In 1977, he joined SIR Productions, the New York-based company that looked after The Who’s U.S. affairs. Charlesworth has written and edited several books about the band, including The Who: An Illustrated Biography (Omnibus, 1982), and compiled the 1994 four-CD Who boxed set Thirty Years of Maximum R&B.

McInnerney, a longtime friend of Townshend, created psychedelic posters, murals, and work for alternative journals to promote the music, arts, politics, and events of the era. He designed album sleeves including The Who’s Tommy, and did work for leading journals such as the Sunday Times and Nova magazine. His work is exhibited at major institutions around the world, including London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Whitney Museum in New York City.

Related: A ‘lost’ Townshend interview from 1974

The Who are touring for the first time since 2017, performing many selections from Tommy, with an orchestra. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster and here.

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  1. steve b
    #1 steve b 24 May, 2019, 13:08

    tommy is except for the Doors,the most over rated thing in rock history .No one listens to this any more

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