Today’s article is a tribute to the movie Tommy, the WHO cult classic 1975 movie based on The Who’s 1969 rock opera album of the same name. It was a critical and commercial smash. The film score even earned Townshend an Oscar nomination (and he didn’t even have to smash any guitars to get it either… or did he?) We’re going to be snarky and spoil every bit of it for you because that’s how we show love and affection. Don’t blame us – blame our mothers. We have insecure attachment problems.
The who, who?
The Rolling Stones. Led Zeppelin. The Detours. What? You know, The High Numbers. The who?
For all of you out there who aren’t full to the brim with geeky facts about rock bands from the ‘60s, The Who used to call themselves “The Detours” and then changed it to “The High Numbers”. Eventually they settled on a self-deprecating name that was probably born out of crushed dreams and their mother’s expired Maybelline (that rhymed and that’s the only reason we included it. Don’t worry. It’s not the worst joke you’ll read in the article – be warned.)
But in all honesty, The Who were really desperate for fame at that point. They needed publicity. It was then that guitar Pete Townshend had a stroke of genius – or a moment of insanity, who knows? – and decided to smash his guitar up on stage. Turns out busting an instrument was all they needed. They paved the way for every hard-core rocker we know today – you know, the ones who spit at the audience and do charming, sweet things like that – and then went on to build a legacy based on their actual musical chutzpah.
Looking for fame
They released a sleuth of “power pop” singles that catapulted them into fame in the sixties, but smashing instruments had become their signature and they sure didn’t disappoint. In fact, they levelled up: in 1967, Keith Moon’s drum set actually exploded on the live TV show “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.” I mean, if you could get paid for smashing stuff, wouldn’t you do it too?
But please don’t try that at home, kids. If you want to play like Townshend, take some of our guitar lessons first. Once you’ve become a professional, then you can destroy stuff. Remember: only smash for cash (We’re talking about guitars only. Get your mind out of the gutter.)
Tommy – The WHO cult movie classic prologue
Is this the opening to the Lion King?
No, it’s just some dude on a mountain. Bummer, we were just about to get our #broadway on.
The prologue is an orgy of synths, and the story begins with a man and a woman picnicking on a hilltop, kissing under a waterfall, and generally having lots of PG-13 honeymoon scenes. Suddenly, the phone rings while they’re dancing and someone tells Romeo that the honeymoon is over and he needs to join the war effort. (What a cockblock).
Dreamy synths are still the only sounds we can hear. They continue to play even as the couple clamber over the rubble of bombed houses (that didn’t take long – German efficiency at its finest) while showgirls in gas masks go running for cover. Right now it’s the only part of the movie that isn’t cliché. However, tomorrow someone will show up to the Met Ball like that and then we won’t be as impressed.
The call of duty
Our soulja boy boards a train. The ones that go choo-choo, not the boring metal phalluses we drag ourselves into today. He and his blonde lady hug goodbye. Imagine kissing someone for passing you a napkin during your honeymoon and then downgrading to a hug when you might never see them again. It’s clear what that relationship was all about.
We discover that he’s a fighter pilot. Strangely enough, Juliet is somehow able to watch the whole airborne drama unfold from her bedroom window. Although we tried to see if Shazam could recognise the background music, all it gave us was ‘Manicomi’ by Davide Van De Sfroos. Never heard that song in our lives, and it’s definitely not what was playing. However, we recommend playing it whenever something tragic happens in your life. It’ll cheer you right up.
Out of curiosity, we tried Shazam again and got ‘Organ Sonata In F Sharp Minor: III Toccata’ by Susanne Rohn. We may have just broken Shazam. Ooops.
Anyway, Juliet goes to sleep that night in a bed that’s a cage (turns out soulja boy was kinky). Long story short, her house gets bombed, it looks like he died in a plane crash, and she is now working in a factory making steel balls (and no, that’s not a euphemism.)
What sounds like a mix of rock and medieval music begins to play and it’s a mashup of “Captain Walker” and “It’s a Boy”. We’re so happy to finally hear a proper song.
Captain Walker didn’t come home
His unborn child will never know him
The unborn child in question (Tommy? You guessed it! Ain’t you a clever little bugger) is born on D-Day. He grows up in a few seconds, and we see him going to a memorial service with his mother to lay poppy-decorated crosses down in memory of her late husband/his father. Remember those crosses – they’ll star in some pretty weird stuff later.
Bernie’s Holiday Camp
This whole segment is creepy. Tommy and his mother go to the Bernie’s Holiday Camp which is owned by a sleazy oily man named Frank. He holds a “Lovely Legs” competitions on the camp, and Tommy’s mother takes part in it. He congratulates her for winning. Or, more specifically, he kisses her thighs and then takes her out dancing (isn’t this 1950? Shouldn’t it be dancing first and thigh kissing later?).
Meanwhile, Tommy looks on like this:
We feel you, son. We feel you so hard.
The segment ends with these last few lyrics of “Bernie’s Holiday Camp,” and you just know something morbid is about to happen.
I’ll make him smile
I’ll take him out to cinemas and fairs
Football and cricket
There’ll never be a happier lad
I’ll be more than an Uncle
I’ll be just like a Dad
They leave the camp together, and Tommy seems excited. The poor sods who were running in place at the entrance of the camp at the start of the scene are still there. And they’re still fat.
1951 / What About the Boy
This scene begins with the small trio moving into a house. Tommy’s bedroom is plastered in aeroplane-patterned wallpaper, there’s a model aeroplane above his bed, and a photo of his dad beside it. His dad appears then in the doorway, his face all burnt and scarred, and we think the boy is dreaming. But then Harvey Dent – sorry, Captain Walker – enters his wife’s bedroom. Unfortunately, Nora and Frank (note: their names are never mentioned, we found out through Google) are having sex.
Frank hits him over the head, and he dies. So he must be real, because dreams can’t die… unless they’re our dreams for the future.
“What about the boy?” sings Nora. “He saw it all!”
At this point, it’s not clear if she’s talking about him seeing her having sex or him seeing Frank kill his dad. Either way, it’s not good.
Anyway, like any good parent, the first thing she does is gaslight him. “You didn’t hear it, you didn’t see it!” she and Frank scream-sing at him. “You won’t say nothin’ to no one, ever in your life!”
Poor little Tommy takes these words a little too literally. He becomes deaf, blind, and dumb. Talk about an obedient child. Where can we get us some of those?
Frank and Nora are at a theme park having the time of their life, but Tommy can’t stop thinking about his father. Frank, ever the sensible soul, takes Tommy to an arcade game where he begins shooting down planes with an unhealthy dose of excitement.
Meanwhile, Tommy looks on like this:
Do we call the police now or after we finish our chili cheese dogs?
We didn’t even try to understand what happens next so here are some bizarre images from the “Amazing Journey” montage, starting with this meme-worthy one:
No, it’s not a Star-Trek-themed arcade game. We are still about Tommy, the WHO cult classic movie tribute, remember? Well, whatever this is, it begins when Tommy’s father appears holding a glowing white orb. The orb collides into a series of blue paper planes which then turn into remembrance crosses. At the centre of it all is Tommy’s dad, stretched out like Jesus on a blue cross. The white ball hits him and he transforms into a holographic cross.
It’ll make sense later, don’t worry. Just remember the white ball.
The ball at the top of the cross then splits open to reveal Tommy’s face and we are officially creeped out.
Really really creeped out.
The scene ends with him dancing weirdly in a hall of mirrors. His mother is crying. But then again, that’s not out of character – all Nora has done throughout this movie so far is cry and kiss men.
Tommy Can You Hear Me? (aka Tommy cult movie song)
The first time you hear Tommy sing sounds like something you’ll hear on the telephone right before you die. “See me, feel me, touch me… you’ll be dead in seven days.”
It’s Tommy’s inner voice, and maybe it’s not as eerie as we made it sound. Maybe our brains are just a bit disturbed by the last scene.
This whole scene is a mashup of the song “Christmas” and “Tommy Can You Hear Me?” where his parents wonder how they can save him from the eternal grave, because – being deaf, blind, and dumb – he can’t exactly sing hymns and read the Bible.
In the meantime, Tommy does this:
At this point, he may just be our spirit animal.
Eyesight to the Blind (aka Tommy the WHO cult movie classic scene)
The most famous scene in this movie is “Pinball Wizard” (it’s on its way), but in our opinion, this scene is the masterpiece of the movie.
It begins with Tommy staring into the camera. He’s all grown up now, and he looks like a real-life version of Tarzan… which is another way of saying he looks fiiiiiiiiiiiiiine. He’s played, of course, by Roger Daltrey himself. He’s got his signature blue eyes and strong jaw and gorgeous brown curls…
Ahem. Moving on.
If you need a reason to watch this scene, here is a list:
- It’s a church dedicated to the worship of Marilyn Monroe.
Do you need another reason? Do you need another reason?
(In case you do: the preacher is Eric freaking Clapton.)
A procession of men and women in wheelchairs pass by the gigantic statue of Marilyn, touching her thighs and hoping to be healed. When it’s Tommy’s turn, Nora forces him to touch Marilyn’s leg, but he stumbles and crashes into it. The whole thing falls over and smashes into pieces.
Frank decides to try a different approach.
Frank is at a strip bar looking creepier than ever, and Tommy is at a table drinking coffee and staring off into the distance. Frank decides to hook him up with Gypsy, “the Acid Queen” – and it’s Tina Turner herself, just so you know.
She takes him upstairs (because, you know, she’s a private dancer) and proceeds to attack the bastard. The boy is in staring at the ceiling in terror, but it doesn’t seem to faze her. After all, what’s love consent got to do with it? She scream-sings at him “I’m guaranteed to tear your soul apart!” and we honestly don’t need another hero. We just need the cops.
You think something NC-17 is about to happen, but instead, two assistants pop up out of nowhere and reveal this:
Is it a sex toy for vampires? A BDSM-friendly iron maiden? We never find out – she just forces him to step inside. And yes, this is still Tommy the Who cult movie classic tribute.
It proceeds to extract and inject blood into his body via a dozen syringes. Maybe it’s a futuristic STD purifier? That would make sense. Gypsy’s an expensive you-know-what, too expensive to risk getting a disease from you. Show some respect.
The Iron Maiden / STD Purifier (we’ll call it IMSP for short) opens and Tommy has magically transformed into his father. It closes and when it opens he’s himself again, in his underwear and laughing. Typical male. They only smile at you when you take off their pants.
In round 3 of the IMSP peekaboo game, he’s bleeding and covered in poppies. There are steel balls on the ground and his mother is on the floor screaming. (No comment.)
The IMSP opens for the last time, and he’s no longer one of the living – he’s a skeleton. The only movement is coming from a long thick object dangling from his legs and almost reaching his feet.
It’s a snake. Don’t worry.
When all that heartache is over, Tommy falls to the ground, and that’s how Frank finds him. Can someone call 911 already? Frank looks freaked out by Gypsy, and for good reason – at first, it looks like she’s twerking, but when you look at her face she’s having some sort of seizure.
Never in your wildest dreams did you think you’d find Ms Turner here in this movie, looking this insane.
Forget the police and 911. Call the exorcist.
So, here’s our interpretation of what happened: he lost his virginity and it made him feel like a grown-ass man, and really began toenjoy it… but then they tried some nasty freaky things and it went horribly wrong. He was incapable of saying the safe word (or even knowing it to begin with), and he wondered how he’d explain his injuries to his mother. It ended with him feeling dead inside but like a sexual deity. Then he fainted.
We’ve been there. We get it.
…Or maybe he took some LSD. The “Acid” in “Acid Queen” would suggest that.
Forget we said anything.
(P.S. We packed this to the brim with references to Tina Turner songs. Sorry not sorry.)
IMDb Trivia: David Bowie was originally meant to play the role of Gypsy. Do. You. Realize. What. We. Missed. Out. On.
Do You Think It’s Alright? / Cousin Kevin / Fiddling About
These segments were actually disturbing so we’ll go through this really fast.
Tommy is now paler and more dead-eyed than ever. Frank and Nora decide to leave him with his shady Cousin Kevin. “Do you think it’s alright?” sings Nora, and Frank assures her.
Cousin Kevin, in short, has a bright future ahead of him if he ever wants to become a terrorist. He loves putting black bags over people’s heads, tying them to chairs, and waterboarding them.
Alternatively, he could join the [this part has been censored for political purposes. I love you, Big Brother.]
Unfazed, Frank and Nora choose another twisted babysitter to look after Tommy. This time, it’s the drunk and raggedy Uncle Ernie, who actually rapes him. You don’t see anything, but this whole part is nightmarish and downright sick.
Just skip it. And in the future, don’t trust anyone who cracks raw eggs directly into their coca-cola.
Extra, Extra, Extra
“Do you think it’s alright…” Nora starts to sing, and by this point, we’re sure you hate her guts too. But this time she’s not about to leave him with a psychopath – she’s watching him standing in front of the mirror. When his reflection walks away, so does he.
He follows his reflection – now an actual version of him dressed in a white suit – to a car park. He stumbles around and bumps into legions of washing machines until he sees a glowing white orb. It’s the same one he saw in his arcade hallucination back when he was a kid. He follows it and it leads him to an abandoned pinball machine.
What follows is the most aggressive game of pinball you’ve ever seen in your life. Eventually, people find him there, see the record-breaking score he managed to reach, and he becomes an overnight sensation. He and his family become millionaires. This is Tommy, the WHO cult movie classic tribute PART ONE
Carry on with TOMMY the WHO cult movie classic tribute – PART TWO – IF YOU’RE READY FOR THE 3 Bs: BLOOD, BEANS AND BALLS.
ALWAYS FREE, ALWAYS ON GYMTAR.