In celebration of the fact that The Who will perform a special acoustic presentation of their ace rock opera album ‘Tommy’ for Teenage Cancer Trust at London’s Royal Albert Hall on March 30, 2017 and April 1, 2017 (get your tickets here now), we’ve decided to take a look at the greatest rock operas of all time. So grab your opera glasses – things are about to get epic.
The Who were one of the most imaginative bands of the 1960s and 1970s. They didn’t just release albums, they released entire concepts. Alongside ‘Quadrophenia’, 1969 album ‘Tommy’ was turned into a film. It featured an all star cast – Tina Turner, Elton John and Eric Clapton included – telling the story of the troubled Tommy, who “sure plays a mean pinball”.
Lucifer Rising (1972):
At only 29 minutes long, the spectacularly bonkers Lucifer Rising is pretty short for a rock opera, but the fantastical film is one of the finest of the genre, concerning Egyptian gods summoning Lucifer – and starring Mick Jagger’s bro Chris and Marianne Faithfull. Director Kenneth Anger originally commissioned Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page to create the soundtrack, but the final film’s music was composed by Bobby Beausoleil – a Manson Family associate currently serving life in jail.
Sex, drugs and rock and roll all played a major part in Hair, which scandalised Broadway with lots of nudity and an anti-Vietnam War message. The show finished ever night by inviting audience members up on stage to chill the hell out with the cast. Vibey, man.
American Idiot (2009):
Green Day’s punk rock opera was released in 2004 and became a proper stage musical five years later. Helmed by Billie Joe Armstrong, the production looked at the stories of three lost youths, whose lives are rocked by war, love, pregnancy, drugs and suburban malaise.
The Wiz (1978):
A Motown-produced adaptation of The Wizard of Oz starring an African-American cast, The Wiz was dazzling and politically charged. Diana Ross and Michael Jackson both starred in the film, which saw Dorothy transported from Harlem, NYC to Oz via some huge Quincy Jones and Luther Vandross tunes.
The Wall (1979):
No-one quite did concept albums like Pink Floyd. Yet their epic 1979 record about Pink – an isolated rock star who had suffered a traumatic childhood - truly came into its own when it began touring in 1980. A 12 metre high wall was built onstage every night and giant inflatables were released into the crowd.