Fifty years ago today (4/22/69), The Who did the first complete live performance of Tommy, a month before the album's release.
The performance at the Bolton Institute of Technology in England came nine days before the "official" live premiere at a press event at Ronnie Scott's Club in London.
Townshend later told Who biographer Dave Marsh, that playing the album in concert "from start to finish...was when we first realized we had something cohesive."
Roger Daltrey discussed how his opinion of Tommy has changed over the years: "When we were doing Tommy, it was just music, but Tommy kind of made us realize that we'd touched a nerve. It was inspiring people in a very different way than just standing up and going 'yeah, a rock and roll show.' It was doing something to people on a different level."
Tommy was released as a double album on May 23rd, 1969. When they began playing Tommy in concert, Townshend -- sensing the narrative was vague -- explained the songs to audiences.