I was watching a program the other night and was surprised to learn that next year Freddie Mercury would have turned 65 years old. Wow! Of course, it's almost 20 years since he died (November 24, 1991 - the same day as KISS drummer Eric Carr, who died a few days after undergoing open heart surgery). During the program the commentator seemed to confirm something I've thought for a very long time. I have had the opportunity to see many great bands in concert. Among my many memories is seeing the Rolling Stones at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. About half way through the show the stadium went black. Suddenly, the opening chords of "Sympathy for the Devil" began to play. A spotlight came on and there, at the very top of the stadium, bathed in red, was Mick Jagger, who proceeded to belt out the song for all it was worth. That to me is the 2nd greatest live performance I've ever seen. Number one took place during Live Aid, when Queen did "Radio Ga Ga." The power in Mercury's voice and the way the crowd followed his every gesture, is something to behold. See for yourself:
GIVE TIL IT HURTS (the bottom line)
If you've been anywhere near a television recently you've probably seen the McDonald's commercials that feature cute kids eating Happy Meals while an even cuter kid tells the viewer that McDonalds is raising money to build new Ronald McDonald houses. Buy a Happy Meal, the cute tyke tells us, and "some of the money" will go towards the project. Yesterday I was at McDonalds and noticed a big lit signboard basically giving the same information. Once again I was informed that "some" of the money would go to help. At the bottom, in very small letters, was a note telling me that for EACH Happy Meal sold, ONE PENNY would be donated to the project. ONE MEASLY PENNY! Way to go, McDonalds...thanks for giving away part of your fortune!
Tommy - Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Chambre Choir with Guest Soloists
Tommy - Original Soundtrack Recording - featuring Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey, Elton John and Tina Turner
There are very few projects that go from conceptual album to the Broadway stage to movies. "Jesus Christ Superstar" is one that followed that path. "Evita" did it also. Another project switched the last two elements, going from album to film to stage. That album is "Tommy."
Conceived by Pete Townshend, "Tommy" tells the story of young Tommy Walker. His father is thought to have been killed in the war so Mrs. Walker takes up with another man. When Mr. Walker finally comes home he is killed by the missus and her beau. Tommy witnesses the killing. He is told repeatedly that he never saw anything. He never heard anything. And he's not to tell a soul. From that moment on Tommy becomes blind, deaf and dumb. He is passed off to various relatives as well as doctors and others who attempt to heal him. He stumbles onto a pin ball machine and, despite his ailments, becomes the greatest pin ball player in the world.
In December 1972, producer Lou Reizner staged a two night presentation of "Tommy" with a full orchestra and guest singers. The role of the specialist was performed by Peter Sellers. The next year Reizner recorded the event in studio, replacing Sellers with Richard Harris. Among the vocalists: Sandy Denny, Steve Winwood, Richie Havens, Roger Daltrey, Ringo Starr and Rod Stewart. Pete Townshend and John Entwistle also make appearances. Townshend wrote the majority of the music, with Entsistle contributing "Cousin Kevin" and "Uncle Ernie." Who drummer Keith Moon is credited with writing "Tommy's Holiday Camp." The performances are well done though someone should have told Richard Harris that he's really not the best of singers, "McArthur Park" being a great example. The event was released as a double album which came with a great booklet and gatefold sleeve, all in a boxed jacket with the lone image of a pin ball on it. The album won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Album Package.
In 1975 director Ken Russell released his film version of "Tommy." Starring Roger Daltrey, Ann Margaret and Oliver Reed, the film touched a nerve with teenagers and rocketed both the soundtrack and the original Who album up the charts. Russell dotted his film with such popular musicians as Eric Clapton, Paul Nicholas (2nd week in a row for this guy...and yes, I liked "Heaven on the 7th Floor"), Tina Turner and Elton John. This time the specialist is played by Jack Nicholson, who sings about as well as Harris did. The film was also recognized at awards time, earning two Academy Award nominations; Best Actress for Margaret and Best Song Score for Townshend. Margaret also won a Golden Globe for her performance. A little foreshadowing of the future took place during the recording of the soundtrack album. Because Keith Moon was filming the movie "Stardust" when the album was recorded, Kenney Jones played drums on the majority of the tracks. Of course, Jones would replace Moon after he died in 1978, just after the Who released their album "Who Are You?"
Here's a look at the film:
As mentioned above, "Tommy" later became a very successful Broadway musical, which I was very lucky to see. Considering the producers had to squeeze the entire show onto one stage I thought the show was well done. Give it a look. The clip is from the Tony Awards but because of copywright issues there isn't a lot available on the net:
"Tommy" went on to win 5 Tony Awards, including one for Best Oringal Score, Townshend adding enough incidental music to make the show eligible in that category.
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!
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