Pop Goes The Movies: THE TOMMY SOUNDTRACK - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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In the annals of film history, the 1975 rock musical "Tommy" occupies a unique space. Based on The Who's 1969 rock opera album of the same name, the movie and its soundtrack push the boundaries of both musical and cinematic conventions, offering a kaleidoscopic exploration of trauma, isolation, and redemption.

The film, directed by Ken Russell, features performances by an eclectic ensemble cast, including The Who, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Tina Turner, and Eric Clapton, among others. Each brings their unique musical stylings to the soundtrack, creating a rich, textured soundscape that marries rock, pop, and orchestral elements.

Opening track "Overture" introduces the central themes of the narrative, a lavish instrumental that sets the tone for the fantastical journey ahead. We're then launched into "It's a Boy", sung by the movie's central figure, Tommy's mother Nora, played by Ann-Margret, setting up the character's tragic beginning.

"1921", performed by The Who, narrates the pivotal incident that triggers Tommy's psychosomatic disorders. Its cheerful melody contrasts sharply with the dark narrative, marking the beginning of Tommy's silent and blind world.

"Amazing Journey" and "Sparks", both performed by The Who, guide us deeper into Tommy's internal world. These tracks are characterized by their lush and immersive instrumentation, creating an aural representation of Tommy's sensory journey.

"Pinball Wizard", performed by Elton John in the movie, is perhaps the most memorable track from the soundtrack, bringing a punch of pop flamboyance to the album. It accompanies a scene where Tommy, despite his lack of sight and hearing, becomes a pinball champion. This song enjoyed success as a single, reaching number 4 in the UK and number 19 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The soundtrack also includes "I'm Free", a triumphant anthem where Tommy, having miraculously regained his senses, embarks on a spiritual journey as a messianic figure. Sung by Roger Daltrey, the frontman of The Who, it's a liberating track that signals Tommy's break from his past.

The album hit number 2 on the UK Albums Chart and number 21 on the US Billboard 200, reflecting its broad appeal. Compared to other 70s film soundtracks like "Grease" or "Saturday Night Fever", which leaned more toward pop and disco, "Tommy" stands out with its emphasis on rock and its operatic narrative structure.

"Tommy" pushed the boundaries of what a film soundtrack could be, marrying a rock opera narrative with a cinematic visual style. Its influence can be seen in later music-based films such as "Pink Floyd: The Wall" and even in more recent entries like "Across the Universe".

In conclusion, "Tommy" isn't just a soundtrack—it's a testament to the limitless potential of music in storytelling. It blends musical genres, challenges narrative norms, and unites a varied cast of performers, resulting in a unique sonic tapestry. Its influence has spanned across decades, impacting the way we perceive the relationship between film and music. It reminds us that music, when combined with the visual power of cinema, can be a conduit for an immersive, deeply emotional experience.

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