031104 Tommy, Ottawa, ON

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On March 11th, 2004 I ended my long and flirtatious relationship with Sock ’n’ Buskin, Carleton University’s theatre troupe both as performer and patron.  For once I was attending not out of obligation (ie: I wasn’t playing in the pit band) nor out of compassion (ie: my friend/roommate Eric wasn’t performing in it), but rather out of genuine interest (not that I wasn’t interested in gigging and/or supporting one of my best buddies), for the show being performed was a musical of much legend: The Who’s Tommy.

Okay, I wasn’t that interested in it.  My appreciation for The Who has always been marginal at best (except for Keith Moon – I could listen to that guy play a hi-hat all day long).  Any esteem I have for the band is more out of respect for their unquestionable place in the annals of rock than out of, you know, actually liking their music.  Again, Keith Moon was amaze-balls to the nth degree and was one of the most musical non-reading percussionists of the era, but it’s still not enough to get their records onto my turntable (in a manner of speaking.  And literally).

Come to think of it I’m not sure how this performance even happened, for I have recently learned that my neighbour’s late husband had been in possession of the only copy in existence of the full orchestral score to Tommy, having staged a student production of the musical in England back in the 1970’s.  Long (and fascinating) story short: Pete Townshend’s staff managed to track George down at his home up the road from me here in Harbour Grace and they asked him to please send a copy of the Tommy score to them in England.  Townshend was so happy to get his hands on the 300-page orchestral manuscript that he sent George tickets and backstage passes for a Who concert in Toronto so he could thank him in person.  Pretty cool story, especially for a guy in a small town in Newfoundland.  It even made the pages of Rolling Stone magazine, if you can believe that.  I can.  My neighbour showed me the article.  And the score.  It’s cool as hell.

Unfortunately George Robinson passed away shortly after I moved here.  I only met him once.  I think we would have been pretty good friends.  

Getting back to the Sock ’n’ Buskin production, I suppose the reason it went off is because they weren’t using a full orchestra so they wouldn’t have needed the full orchestral score, which as mentioned was secretly tucked away in a closet in rural Newfoundland at the time.  Nope, Sock ’n’ Buskin would have secured just your standard rock band to provide the sonic element for this show, and surely the musicians would have merely lifted their parts from the album by ear; no scores required.  It’s not like I really remember but I’m sure they would have used a live band for this production.  Frankly, if they didn’t use a real band I would probably remember.  Anyway, I wasn’t in the band and neither was Steve (who had played keyboards in Little Shop of Horrors with me) or Doug (who would have been a very likely candidate to play guitar in this show), because I was sitting next to both of them in the audience.  

Anyways, let me tell you something you might find strange: to this very day this performance is the only time I saw Tommy.  I’ve never seen the movie and there’s a fair-to-middlin’ chance that I haven’t even listened to the album all the way through either, though I do pwn a copy on vinyl (for some reason).  No surprise then that I thought the show was pretty meh.  

However I do love pinball, and I remember a significant pinball element to the show.  That part was cool.  And that See Me, Feel Me song, which came around a lot.  That one is pretty good too.  

Oh, and Keith Moon is awesome, did I mention that?  Not that he was part of this production in any way; he wasn’t.  But I did want to be quite clear on the fact that I really like Keith Moon.  So we’re straight on that?  I don’t like The Who but I do like Keith Moon.  As a result I don’t listen to Keith Moon hardly at all.  Which makes me like him that much more when I do.  Except for the whole The Who part that I have to endure when I’m listening to him, ‘cuz that’s who he was always playing with.

Oh, and I really, really like the song Who Are You, though it’s mostly because of the drums.  But that song isn’t even part of the Tommy musical, so never mind.

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