The Who: Tommy Sidebar: Production Notes

Sidebar: Production Notes

Sessions for Tommy began at IBC Studios, London in Sept 1968 and continued until March. It was initially without a title and with a changing plotline that was gradually pieced together as songs were re-recorded, and new ones added. IBC didn't have an isolation booth so recording acoustic guitar with the group was problematic at first. As a result, some of those parts were recorded with a thin electric guitar sound.


The whole process crystallised around the song 'Pinball Wizard'. Townshend knew Guardian writer Nik Cohn: they'd played pinball together in Soho with a teenage girl who beat them every time, so Townshend suggested that Tommy would be a pinball champion. He made a demo of the song that night – incorporating Cohn's own phrases, 'pinball wizard' and 'mean pinball' – with acoustic and electric guitar, and vocals. Townshend's original was vocally light and wistful, but Daltrey was keen to give it 'more meat and potatoes' in his own performance.

Tommy was produced by Kit Lambert, who worked in conjunction with engineers Damon Lyon-Shaw and Bob Pridden. Lambert was basically an ideas man rather than being technically hands-on. The group enjoyed working with him even though some of his ideas were very eccentric, like getting the band to march up and down playing trombones and for Pridden to dance around the studio holding a mic to get a sound effect. He double-tracked all of Roger Daltrey's vocals.

Lambert also repeatedly pushed for an orchestra to be included on the album, but Townshend stood firm and insisted that he had creative control. He insisted that the album had to be recorded in a form that could be reproduced live.