Tommy (The Album)

“The LP is about a deaf, dumb and blind boy, a deaf, dumb and blind boy who’s maltreated as a youngster who develops his consciousness. When he does get his sight and hearing back at the age of 22 he becomes a divine, beautiful figure who is idolised by millions. But as a kid lots of things happen to him. His homosexual uncle who is supposed to be looking after him rapes him, for example. But none of these things worries him too much.”Pete Townshend (1160)
“The thing about him witnessing a murder in order to become deaf dumb and blind, it makes the thing start off like an excerpt from a detective story and I wanted to avoid that, I would have preferred it if he could have been born deaf dumb and blind but this made the cure so much more difficult to accept in terms of normal entertainment. You see apart from the spiritual connotations I wanted it to have normal entertainment connotations as a plot. As far as plausibility goes, the point where he becomes like, a Saint figure is meant to be plausible in anybody’s terms. He gets this consciousness rush and becomes a famous kind of figure and sings inside his head. You’ve already heard him speaking inside his head. And in order to get the plausibility of the fact that he’s giving sermons and everything after being dumb, there would be another assumed time lapse there. I did actually want to date the things in order to give people the idea of this time thing as well.”Pete Townshend (1161)
“The degree of menace and violence in the album is there so that we can draw the line, show the degree of Tommy’s attitude and reactions to good and bad… good experience, had experience. And to accelerate his experience so that it’s acceptable that he becomes God-realised in a period in which normally a man just about gets it together to make a living. His remoteness made it easier to get away with all this because he was safe inside his affliction. We could really be that much more cruel to him on the outside. Drum home to the listener the feeling that there were really incredible traumatic events happening to him. They’re meant to capture periods of his life.”Pete Townshend (1161)
“Also the disregard of the family for him and his remoteness from personal affection and everything, from ‘Fiddle About’ and the parents getting angry with him in the ‘Smash the Mirror’ song and ‘Tommy Can you Hear Me’ and the father’s remoteness. This feeling of the family accepting him as a burden and the mother and the father being even more unsympathetic because they know it’s a block whereas no one else does because they obviously can’t mention it. But they know and so they’re harder on him than everyone else, But the immediate family and everyone around him are all out to exploit his disability.”Pete Townshend (1161)

Cousin Kevin

“It’s meant to be a comment on upbringing but not that much of a heavy one. The reason it was put in there was because we needed to get over to people that Tommy was going through this incredible kind of surface abuse, that he was having a hard time superficially, so that we could imply that on the inside he was getting very good results from all this. He was getting spiritual pushes from all these events because of the extreme nature of all of them.”Pete Townshend (1161)
“‘Cousin Kevin’s’ not really meant to be an event but really what happened to him when he was a kid, from other kids.”Pete Townshend (1161)

Pinball Wizard

“And ‘Pinball Wizard’s’ supposed to be a much nicer time when kids were being much more groovy to him because he had something going for him. If you’re a good football player everybody digs you, if you’re deaf dumb and blind, nobody does, nobody digs a fat kid.”Pete Townshend (1161)

Sally Simpson

“It was very difficult to get a theme which explained the kind of aura which would be around the boy at that particular time. That’s why I resorted to that ‘Extra Extra Read All About’ stuff. I had to really resort to 1930’s newspaper headlines flopping back and I thought the best thing to do was completely leap out of the story and go into a new objective: the little girl and her family, focused on him. Its a technique which I really dig and I’ll probably use it a lot more actually.”Pete Townshend (1162)
“The event actually was taken from the Doors in a concert where I did actually see a kid rush up and try and touch God Jim Morrison and get hurled off by a policeman and a metal chair leg go right through her cheek. She went off, the gash wide open, crying ‘Jim!’ and they just carried her off. That story seemed to lend itself very much… also the point of Sally Simpson is that the kid has really missed the point about Tommy. She’s built him into the wrong thing. She hasn’t realised why its good, for example, to go and hear him speak, because of what she can gain from it – She is not religiously selfish enough, as it were. She’s built him into too much. Whereas what he’s trying to do is give… even to a degree he’s not even trying to do that. He’s slightly confused by the whole thing.”Pete Townshend (1162)

Welcome/Tommy’s Holiday Camp

“It’s where the institution of these vague beginnings of the church, or beginnings of the holiday camp thing, the beginnings of a formalised religion occurs. He feels that people just want to be in his presence so he welcomes them into his presence because they benefit by being in his presence. He wants them to enjoy themselves, drink, have fun and generally just ‘the more the merrier’ you know! But towards the end it starts to get very obsessional and this is why there are a number of false starts in the thing: ‘There’s more at the door’ and ‘We need more room’, ‘Extention’ and then this obsessional ending to indicate the growing dissent and unrest in his house, in the circle of companions. They’re beginning to demand more action and its at this point that Uncle Ernie re-appears to establish the holiday camp. You’re supposed to be able to gather that its a separate institution [the holiday camp – Ed] by the fact that Uncle Ernie is running it. That’s supposed to be enough! Again its one of those bits where it does tend, I agree, to go generally, just vaguely uphill.”Pete Townshend (1162)
“What actually emerged is that the holiday camp starts and he starts to feel that the thing has got out of hand. He still has an incredible love for everyone and its because of this that he takes upon himself this… its a kind of crucifixion representation, that he takes on, he invites this revolution. In other words he realizes that he is going to have to be rejected and abused in order for people to get back to their world, their own path. He realizes that he’s instrumental in all these people thinking that if they become deaf, dumb and blind and play pinball and so on and so on that they’re going to be like him and that they’re going to get God-Realisation. And he sees that people like Uncle Ernie are cashing in and the whole thing’s getting very concentration camp like. So Tommy decides to use some of his real power and become incredibly tough, he starts to really lay down some very unpleasant laws which are still fairly straightforward. He welcomes to the camp but he says like ‘You got to do it this way, You’ve got to do it the way you asked to do it. If you’re going to do it the way I did, you’ve got to put the fucking eyeshades on and put the cork in the mouth and play pinball and no shit! And you getting drunk – thats out! and you smoking pot – thats out! and there’s no good trying to look conventional either because that’s out too! You’ve got to do it my way!’ And then the dissent starts and he suppresses it in the early days with more laying down of the law, saying ‘You can’t speak, you can’t see, or anything’ and like ‘Here comes Uncle Ernie with stage four’ and eventually the revolution does completely break out where they completely reject him. They say ‘We don’t want the religion, we don’t want you, we forsake you, we rape you, we forget you!’ Then afterwards he makes his reprise. He establishes the fact that he’s still the same Tommy. Still more or less deaf, dumb and blind, only in a completely different way. He’s still very far away from them, as far away as he was in the beginning, just to emphasise that nothing ever really changes. Then we go out on this devotional music, worshiping music which just means to be like your heavenly chorus! Or really it’s meant to he him, it’s meant to be him worshipping.”Pete Townshend (1162)

Quadrophenia (The Album)

“What I’ve really tried to do with the story is to try and illustrate that, as a study of childhood frustrations, the reason that rock is still around is that it’s not youth’s music, it’s the music of the frustrated and the dissatisfied looking for some sort of musical panacea. Then we have difficulty relating to the business. We’re not pure innovators, and we never really have been. We’ve always been people who have latched onto things which were good and reflected them, and I don’t feel anything at the moment. I mean, if someone like Bowie, who’s only been a big star for eighteen months or two years, feels the need to start talking about his past influences, then obviously the roots are getting lost. The meat and potatoes, the reasons why people first pick up guitars, are getting forgotten.”Pete Townshend (1163)
“Really what I’ve tried to do in the album is put the band in perspective. Each member of the band obviously thinks that he’s God’s gift to the music business and to The Who and that the world won’t revolve without him. In actual fact, each member of the band is a very small piece of the band, and each member of the band is a very small piece of the boy. That’s where the idea came from, the idea of casting the four guys in the band as four facets of an archetypal mod kid’s personality. It’s obviously a kind of schizophrenic thing that I can relate to, because I know everybody in the band.”Pete Townshend (1164)
The Who - Quadraphenia (The Album)

Who By Numbers (The Album)

“I suppose the other simple lesson is that when I thought the only way to change life in the Who was to walk away from it, I actually realized that the guys in the band were very sympathetic to my problems. weren’t over-anxious to force a compromise, loved me and were prepared to do whatever was necessary to keep me happy. And that was a fucking shock, because I’ve always regarded the Who as a bit of an enemy – I mean in a business sense, like when it comes to a tour – the way you regard your work as an enemy. [Did this revelation about the Who come after Who by Numbers? – Ed] Oh yeah. [Were certain songs on that album meant to cry out to the band in any way? – Ed] To some extent. I think it was just me whining about certain things. I’ve never felt it’s wrong for a man to cry, any more than – I was going to say something chauvinistic, but I won’t. “Pete Townshend (1165)

Squeeze Box

“In the case of ‘Squeeze Box’, that was supposed to be a funny song. It came from hearing somebody referring to a women’s tits as a ‘squeeze box.’ A ‘squeeze box’ to me had always been an accordion and I just wrote that little rhyme about it.”Pete Townshend (1165)

Sister Disco

“With ‘Sister Disco’ I felt the need to say that the group would never, ever, in any way do anything like the Bee Gees. We stand over here and what we stand with is alright. They might say we’re boring old farts but we still feel more at home with the boring old farts than any of that crowd.”Pete Townshend (1166)