It’s now my crystal anniversary with Tommy, my first Who album. Between the time I first got interested in The Who at thirteen and the moment I finally listened to one of their albums at age twenty, it was a true amazing journey.
1993 was the year I got into Sixties music. Over 20 years later, I still love the music of that decade, and all the bands and groups I fell in love with at age thirteen. However, oldies radio being what it was at that time, in my neck of the woods, I didn’t have much of a chance to get to know The Who. So they were just a band I was interested in, not a band I could honestly say I liked from personal experience.
At fourteen, the then-other oldies station began playing some of their music, in addition to the handful of songs I’d heard on Dick Bartley’s weekend radio programs on the first oldies station. (This was before Mr. Bartley sold out big-time and moved away from the classic Top 40 era in favor of 1975 onwards.) I also read some of Dave Marsh’s Before I Get Old around the time I suffered with chickenpox, one year before the vaccine finally became available. (Yes, chiekenpox can be a very serious, deadly disease! It enrages me when woonatics giggle it off as no big deal and deliberately infect their kids through pox parties and tainted candy sent through the mail.)
Up till 2000, I only knew about 10 Who songs, mostly the usual suspects like “Magic Bus” and “Behind Blue Eyes.” I’m really proud to claim “I Can See for Miles” as my first Who song. Given that I was born in 1979, and the band didn’t break up till 1983, I’m pretty sure I might’ve heard one of their then-new songs on the radio when I was too young to remember. However, “ICSFM” is the one that counts, since I have no memory or conscious awareness of having heard a song like “Athena,” “Eminence Front,” “You Better You Bet,” or “Another Tricky Day.”
In early 2000, I started getting interested in the band on a deeper level. I began educating myself, and also got my interest piqued by a great line Pete said in some old interview, “The hypocrisy of accusing hypocrites of being hypocritical is highly hypocritical.” Pete had been my favorite member of the band since age 14, based solely on his personality and not knowing what he looked like. I just felt a soul connection from reading about his vulnerabilities and sensitivities beneath the hard rocker image.
I actually almost bought The BBC Sessions when it came out in early 2000, but I was held back because I didn’t know enough of the songs, and it was such a leap of faith, buying a two-disc release from a band I wasn’t familiar enough with. I’m super-cautious and conservative when it comes to getting into a band or group, and like to move slowly. Only when I feel very secure in my love and fandom do I gain the confidence to buy an album full of unfamiliar or mostly-unfamiliar songs.
I also looked at some Who albums at some music stores in Northampton in the first half of 2000, but again was held back for the same reasons. It just made me so nervous, going so blind. What if I only liked the songs I knew from the radio, and didn’t like them enough to listen to an entire album? What if I didn’t like that particular album?
At this time, thewho.net still had album reviews, and I got a lot of information from them. I later wrote my own reviews, to repay the favor and help new fans. If you view that part of the site through archive.org, you’ll see I’m in a tiny, tiny, tiny minority of women writing reviews. It’s no secret the majority of Who fans have always been men. Pete even coined the term “Who Rottweiler” to describe their female fans, since one has to act like the stereotype of a Rottie to survive and be noticed in a sea of so much testosterone.
On 7 September 2000, I walked into town with my new roommate, and we stopped at the awesome Mystery Train Records, which was a basement store at the time. In addition to a framed poster of The Beatles’ albums covers with all the songs in order, I also got a used CD of Tommy. I figured it were now or never. At the time, I didn’t even know it was Moonie’s Jahrzeit (death anniversary). It’s like I knew, even before I knew. I believe very strongly in hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence), and all events being linked together in this best of all possible worlds. I can’t understand how some folks feel everything is just random, chaotic chance, without any belief in a Divine Being or even the concepts of Fate and Destiny.
I went home for the weekend on 8 September, but only had time to listen to the first three songs. Only on the 9th did I have the time to listen to the whole album. It was like nothing I’d heard before, so unlike a Beatles’ album or the Classic Top 40 songs I was familiar with. I didn’t know what to do with it at first, and even briefly considered returning it. This really represented a strange new musical world for someone so completely unversed in album rock.
I didn’t even know who was whom at first. I obviously knew Roger’s voice and face, since he was the lead singer and only blonde, but I had to guess with the other three. I correctly guessed Pete must be the one with the higher-pitched voice and that John must be the other one, the one with a deeper voice. Before long, I could easily identify them in pictures.
Tommy isn’t what I’d recommend as an ideal first Who album, but Fate made it my first, and so it’s really special. Once I’d gotten over my initial bafflement, I began acquiring all their other albums, and the rest is history.