You Am I Discuss Their Love For The Who’s ‘Tommy’

11 July 2023 | 9:25 pm | Ellie Robinson

“The idea and execution had swathes of power and beauty that swept the pap away,” says frontman Tim Rogers.

You Am I

You Am I (Source: Supplied)

Later this month, Aussie rock legends You Am I will hit the road for a sprawling national theatre tour – however they won’t be playing songs from their own acclaimed catalogue of 11 albums. Instead, they’ll paying tribute to one of the greatest rock albums of yesteryear, The Who’s 1969 epic Tommy.

The 12-date run was announced back in April. At the time, frontman Tim Rogers – who will be joined by special guest vocalists Hayley Mary (of The Jezabels fame) and Sarah McLeod (of The Superjesus) – said in a statement: “A preposterous proposition of pomp power n pithiness to be performed by our pop group with pals. We promise to plunder deep and perform in full plumage with no panache, just passions. Prost!”

Mary added to the sentiment, “I’m so excited to perform one of rock’s most influential albums, by one of the world’s most revered bands, with some of Australia’s finest musicians! Tommy is like A Clockwork Orange meets Almost Famous in album form; a dark, eccentric and cutting critique of fatherlessness and fame, and that rings truer now than ever. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the disturbing themes and help bring some of these colourful characters to life across the country.”

And for good measure, McLeod also vouched her excitement for the trek, saying: “I have always loved You Am I; they are a killer band with such swagger, I’ve always wanted to play with them. We’ve talked about all sorts of collaborations for years, but playing Tommy in its entirety takes the cake; this is going to be so epic!”

The star-studded Tommy tour will start in Caloundra on Wednesday July 26, with dates in Tweed Heads and Brisbane rounding out the month. You Am I (and co) will then kick August off in Newcastle, then head to Thirroul, Sydney, Frankston, Albury, Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide and Perth. Tickets for all of the shows are on sale now – find them here.

Before the tour begins, TheMusic caught up directly with Rogers – as well as lead guitarist Davey Lane and bassist Andy Kent – to find out more about just why it is that Tommy means so much to You Am I. Hit play on the record below, then read on for their explanations.

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Tim Rogers

I owned only two Who (twowho?) cassettes until I could get more when I was perhaps 23 – a Greatest Hits and a copy of Tommy bought at a Queensland flea market that was warped significantly. The warping eased most tellingly during the Overture at a point of chilling portent – the “listening to you” instrumental where the chords move as if your blood has thickened tenfold and your heart could burst from emotion. Well, this pimply daydreamer anyways.

Though I thought there was some less than inspiring songs on the LPs, the idea and execution had swathes of power and beauty that swept the pap away. Years later at my first Red Kross gig, they played the whole overture to a mostly oblivious audience and was similarly, cardiacally engorged. The idea had not been even discussed at 3am over a hotel carpet until I was asked by the Sydney Theatre Company to take a meeting about a musical theatre piece 13 years ago.

The directors at the time were Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett. I liked them, and was very flattered, so hastily got my notes for a proposed musical based on Jean Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles novella. At the meeting, I sweatily delivered my treatise on Les Enfants and the vision for the musical. 32 minutes of bluster later they paused, said their thanks and proposed: “Great. But what about Tommy? Delivered with power and panache and no ‘Broadway’ tropes?”.

I was a little crestfallen, but the seed was planted. True story. Go To The Mirror is my favourite tune from the LPs. Riffs as big as me and Pete’s nostrils and twists and turns as lustrous as Roger’s curls. Long Live the ‘Orrible ‘Oo.

Davey Lane

Tommy always scared the bejesus out of me – I was already a Who fan, and already being aware of Pinball Wizard and that this was a rock opera – an album with a narrative thread of sorts – I was thought I knew what I was getting myself in for. Nuh uh. Whilst it contains many of the hallmarks that make the Who one of my top four bands of all time, its spooky interludes and dark themes still beguile me as much as they did 30 years ago.

My favourite song is Sensation. This song is one of Tommy's brief moments of joy and optimism, the closest this record gets to the "flower power" fare that ran concurrent to its release. A gorgeous melody, and especially poignant one for us to play on the upcoming tour as Pete Townshend wrote it whilst on tour in Australia in 1968.

Andy Kent

There was an older dude across the road from me growing up who would blast all the “good stuff” over the suburban cul-de-sac where I lived. Loud and proud. This enticing, meandering yet concise “story” that spilled out over the backyards and pavements over four sides drew me in like a cockroach. He played Tommy on a loop when I was small and every time Pinball Wizard came on, I involuntarily starting scuttling in its direction.

At eight years old I had no idea what it was, but I knew I had to find out how, why and what it was. About as concise and “stand up” as any rock song ever made, Pinball Wizard sounds better to me know because I know the how, why and what... And now I get play it with my brothers and sisters! Great scuttling music.


Wednesday July 26 – Caloundra, The Events Centre
Friday July 28 – Tweed Heads, Twin Towns
Saturday July 29 – Brisbane, Fortitude Music Hall
Wednesday August 2 – Newcastle, Civic Theatre
Friday August 4 – Thirroul, Anita’s Theatre
Saturday August 5 – Sydney, Enmore Theatre
Wednesday August 8 – Frankston, Arts Centre
Thursday August 10 – Albury, Entertainment Centre
Saturday August 12 – Melbourne, Palais Theatre
Sunday August 13 – Geelong, Costa Hall
Wednesday August 16 – Adelaide, Hindley Street Music Hall
Friday August 18 – Perth, Astor Theatre