Hear the Who's 'Tommy' Track 'Christmas' With Orchestra, Chamber Choir - Rolling Stone
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Hear the Who’s ‘Tommy’ Track ‘Christmas’ With Orchestra, Chamber Choir

104-piece London Symphony Orchestra adds heft to ‘Tommy’ classic

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Hear the Who's 'Tommy' classic "Christmas" performed with the 104-piece London Symphony Orchestra and 60-piece chamber choir

Ivan Keeman/Redferns/Getty

Years before the Who’s Tommy was adapted for the big screen and Broadway stage, the landmark 1969 rock opera was staged by the London Symphony Orchestra in a massive all-star symphonic concert featuring guest spots by Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood, Ringo Starr, Richie Havens and all four members of the Who. The 1972 performance has been out of print for 30 years, but a remastered version will be available on September 11th on CD, vinyl and as a digital download.

To celebrate the release, Rolling Stone has the exclusive stream of “Christmas” as sung by Winwood and Who frontman Roger Daltrey and backed by a 104-piece orchestra and 60-voice chamber choir. 

“I always saw the Who’s version of Tommy as more of a sketch and felt there was more that could be done with it,” Pete Townshend said in a statement. “The London Symphony project, I think, paved the way for more to come.”

The concert – which was staged at London’s Rainbow Theater on December 9th, 1972 – was produced by Lou Adler. This new printing of the album will be released through his Ode Sound & Visual Records. “When [Tommy producer] Lou Reizner explained his idea and concept for the recording of Tommy and that Pete Townshend was on board, that moved me to become involved,” Adler said in a statement. “The recording sessions in England were dynamic and mind-boggling. The size and sound of the London Symphony Orchestra, the Chambre Choir voices and the addition of the amazing soloists made Reizner’s dream a reality.”

Three years after this show, director Ken Russell turned Tommy into a major motion picture. The album continued to have life when the Who played it in its entirety on their 1989 reunion tour, and four years after that it became a Tony-award winning Broadway musical. In 2012, Daltrey once again played the album on a solo tour.

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