Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / Tommy

Go To

  • Accidental Innuendo: The songs "See Me, Feel Me" and "Sensation".
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • For some reason, a good percentage of the Tommy Fandom seems to treat the Local Lad (especially the Elton John version) like he's a Sissy Villain simply for being Tommy's rival when it came to being a champion at Pinball. As an unfortunate result, he occasionally ends up being treated like either The Scrappy or an Asshole Victim. To be fair, some versions of the musical do feature the Local Lad as something of an antagonist, but they're still pretty harmless in comparison to the other villains (calling Tommy a freak in the film version likely didn't do much to endear him to anyone).
    • Advertisement:
    • Did Tommy's followers want a quick fix from Tommy, which he refused to give them, or did they reject him because he tried to impose his way of thinking and lifestyle on them? The movie seems to lean more towards this interpretation. Though it could be a case of Be Careful What You Wish For, since his followers did tell Tommy that they wanted "to be like him."
  • Awesome Music: "I'm Free" for one, which feels a lot harder than it sounds.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The washing machine scene in the movie, although the spectacle of Ann-Margret covering herself in foam, baked beans and chocolate is pure Fanservice for those who like that kind of thing (presumably including Ken Russell.)
  • Covered Up: "Eyesight to the Blind" was originally by Sonny Boy Williamson II. The Who had also intended to use Mose Allison's "Young Man Blues" on the album, but couldn't find room for it, and so it had to wait until Live At Leeds to be covered. On top of that, when the Who performed Tommy on tour in 1989, they used Eric Clapton's arrangement of "Eyesight", from The Movie, rather than their own arrangement from the album.
  • Advertisement:
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Uncle Ernie molesting Tommy is often played for laughs, particularly in the movie where it is paired with Keith Moon's performance and aided by cartoon sound effects.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Uncle Ernie has a following, despite being a drunken child molester.
    • Cousin Kevin occasionally gets this treatment as well, despite being abusive to Tommy.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Uncle Ernie, if you can believe it, has a whole host of fans.
      • If you go see the stage production, you can count on Uncle Ernie getting the most laughs, despite being the Creepy Uncle.
    • Same with Cousin Kevin, though not as much as Ernie.
    • Both the Acid Queen and the Local Lad have plenty of fans, too, despite the latter's hatedom calling him The Scrappy.
  • Faux Symbolism: In the film, it's quite apparent that Ken Russell has never met a piece of symbolism he couldn't beat his viewers over the head with.
  • Advertisement:
  • Growing the Beard: Before this album, The Who were considered a flash-in-the-pan British Invasion act known mostly for joke songs and destroying perfectly good musical instruments. Then along comes this record, really the first of its kind, featuring rock n roll songs with tight composition and performance and a sophisticated overarching story, sending the band's popularity skyrocketing to the rock legends they are today.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • "Sally Simpson," where a girl is injured during a riot at a speech by Tommy. A real 1979 Who concert had several people killed outside the venue when people rushed to get in.
    • After Pete Townshend revealed that he had been sexually abused by a relative as a child, which inadvertently led him to a child pornography site while researching the subject, "Fiddle About" is much scarier.
  • Heartwarming Moments: Is there anyone who doesn't get choked up listening to "Listening To You"?
    • In the film adaptation, given the circumstances Frank really did love Tommy and was a father to him.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In "Go To The Mirror!" the doctor thinks about the isolation shock caused when/if Tommy's senses return. When he does get them back, he mobilizes his cult of personality. Subverted later when his followers leave him thanks to the unorthodox views he got from his experiences.
    • In the movie, the Doctor was played by Jack Nicholson, who went on to play such shining examples of mental health as Randle McMurphy, Jack Torrance, and the Joker.
    • Another movie example: When Rod Stewart asked Elton John if he should take the part of the Local Lad, Elton told him "don't touch it with a barge pole."
    • Also, Tommy's actual father in the film is played by Robert Powell, who played the title character in Ken Russell's previous film Mahler — one of the director's outrageous interpretations of the lives of classical composers. His next film Lisztomania is which Roger Daltrey plays Franz Liszt. It's especially noticeable as the three movies were shot one after the other and released over twelve-and-a-half months (less than that in the United States).
    • In "Pinball Wizard", the question is posed if Tommy sees by sense of smell.
  • I Am Not Shazam:
    • A common mistake even among the fans is to call the character who sings "Pinball Wizard", well, the Pinball Wizard (or, in the movie's case, Elton John). He's actually called the Local Lad according to the scripts for the movie and the lyric sheet for the original album.
    • The lyric sheet of the original album also shows that the name of the character singing "The Acid Queen" is actually called The Gypsy.
  • Moment of Awesome: During the band's performance at Woodstock, the climactic moment of "See Me, Feel Me" happened to coincide precisely with the morning sun breaching the horizon. The group had a lighting rig (then a rarity) constructed to replicate this effect for later performances, and it is nodded to at the end of the film adaptation.
  • Narm: In the movie, the child's voice singing, "See me...feel me..." during "Christmas".
  • Nightmare Fuel: The original album is mostly ambiguous, which might create a creepier atmosphere to some.
    • "Dream One" from the original Pete Townshend demos.
    • The movie version of "Acid Queen" has Tommy being stuffed into a spinning, needle-studded sarcophagus and pumped full of bright red liquid. The vivid hallucinations, in which Tommy imagines himself variously as his dead father, a Jesus-like figure, and a skeleton, are horrifying enough, but the skeleton implies that Tommy actually suffers an overdose and only Frank's intervention saves him. And then there's the last part of the song, where Frank comes upon Tommy writhing on the floor while the Acid Queen stands over him, with an appalling rictus grin on her face...
      • The movie version of "Cousin Kevin" is pretty intense, too. Amidst dizzying camera angles and bizarre music, Kevin puts Tommy through a number of torments, including drying his clothes by ironing them while he's still wearing them.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Elton John's appearance as the Champion/Local Lad in The Movie is one of the most talked-about parts of the film (he even got third billing after Daltrey and Ann-Margret), and he barely even gets five minutes of screen-time. It probably didn't help that it was released in the UK the day after his twenty-ninth birthday.
    • Cousin Kevin, the Acid Queen, the doctor.
  • Squick:
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: The ending to the Broadway version.
  • Tear Jerker:
    See me
    Feel me
    Touch me
    • Tommy's parents being killed by the angry mob at the end of The Movie.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Could very well be part of why a lot of people in The Who fandom loathe the Elton John version of "Pinball Wizard" with an immense passion. (That, and/or perhaps because at one point his version got almost as popular as the original.) Even though it was Pete Townshend who made most of the real changes.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: For The Movie, you have Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, John Entwistle, Pete Townshend, and Jack Nicholson. Jack does a pretty good job, for not being a singer.