Tommy: a bluegrass opry

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POSTED: December 15, 2017

The last time I went to London I spent an afternoon and evening with Mark. Conversation turned to The Who and Mark pointed out gleefully that, as a teenager, I bought a copy of Tommy, an album we both agree constitutes a folly of heroic proportions and very little merit. I tried to slide out of this by pointing out that the original release had a very good cover but Mark rightly refused to allow this.

I proposed that anyone only needs a maximum of three Who albums: The Who Sell Out captures their sixties pop music period best, and the concept still works; Who’s Next, which captures their seventies rock band period perfectly; and any singles album of your choice, depending on whether you feel like having one that includes the later stuff or not.

Mark wondered whether we should add The Who Live At Leeds to the list and I agreed that it might constitute an optional extra. We then got into more detailed wrangling before switching the discussion to the altogether more complicated question of The Kinks.

Imagine my delight then when I discovered this morning that The Hillbenders have realised Tommy – a bluegrass opry: a full length realisation of “the entire album” played with an acoustic string band. Their site describes it as “the first full length acoustic/bluegrass version of this classic rock opera by The Who”, as if they had just managed to finish it in time to beat a number of other contenders for this honour. They actually released it in 2015, but news travels slow in these parts.

I felt mildly disappointed to discover that even they had felt compelled to drop the miserable (and nearly interminable) “Underture” from their rendition. Oh well.

They currently have videos of Pinball Wizard and the “climactic” finale available from their site for the album.

If I had found out about it earlier I would have bought it for Mark as a Christmas present, just to hear his response. (Spoiler: he does not like bluegrass at the best of times.)