2. Tommy (1969)
Giving Tommy another close listen is a revelation, subtle moments coming to the fore: John Enwistle's bass popping on the denouement of "Amazing Journey" and into "Sparks," Moon's rolling rhythms on "The Acid Queen," and the way Townshend's guitar fires off on "Pinball Wizard." And, hey: Why hasn't "Christmas" become a wintertime standard?
The first rock opera, Tommy entered the musical fray in what most might be the most important year in the history of rock 'n' roll: 1969. Recorded in six months and mixed in two, it was epic out the gate: A story of a deaf, dumb, and blind pinball wunderkind nearly paralyzed by his father's murder of his mother's lover. And, after wading through the 75 minute concept album -- full of repeated themes, a Sophoclean narrative, and thrashing rock -- it was readily apparent a revolution was afoot.
Tommy's "problem" might have, at first, appeared to be its translation. How could a rock band make an epic partially inspired by Meher Baba work live? Released in May, the Who only had to wait until August to put the doubts to rest on biggest of stages: Woodstock. Rifling through a late-night/early-morning set, the Who played much of Tommy. The self-hatred on "Go to the Mirror!" and then the funk of "Smash the Mirror" echoed out. Picking up the leitmotif from the former, "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "Listening to You / See Me, Feel Me" were two of the most obstinate and emotional songs performed at the festival. Nothing could've been more epic.