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This poster is very rare, in particular because it was printed on very thin paper and with a poster of this size, most of them got crushed, bent, ripped or thrown out sometime in the last 53 years. This version is in excellent condition and we immediately got it backed with archival linen to protect it before we framed it. The art was done by Bill Graham’s go-to Fillmore East poster artist David Byrd, who also designed the original Woodstock poster (“An Aquarian Exposition”) and later many Broadway show posters (Godspell, Follies, Little Shop of Horrors and more).
With the exception of one 3-night run by the Jefferson Airplane, this was the first time a group had played more than 2 back-to-back shows at New York’s, “Church of Rock & Roll,” and they played 6 sold-out standing room only performances even though they were mostly on weeknights. The Who was the first band to be allowed to bring in their own sound system and they set up 45 speakers for this, their first full-scale live performance of Tommy.
Tommy, the album, had been released May 23, 1969 and eventually sold more than 20 million copies but up until these shows only parts of the opera were played during Who concerts.
“It’s my feeling,” says Fillmore Managing Director, Kip Cohen in Rolling Stone, “that they could have played for a month to sellout audiences.” Not only were they drawing the rock crowd, but a lot of other theater and entertainment people who had learned about Tommy through sources like Clive Barnes (drama critic of the New York Times) were in attendance. Opening for them (as if opening bands were needed) were AUM and King Crimson.
Even after all of the shows sold out, the lighting team led by Amalie Rothschild convinced Bill Graham to spend an extra $5,000 on production to back up the music. The program for the Fillmore East was expanded to include an insert with a band biography, band photo, individual member photos, a page explaining the concept of 'Tommy,' 4 pages of 'Tommy' lyrics, production credits, a page long Who discography with album cover photos, and an essay on Pete Townshend's Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba.
The late 1960s was a time of spiritual enlightenment and revival. In addition to the counterculture rock and hippie scene at that time — especially in New York’s Greenwich Village, San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury, and Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue — we saw the rise of the Jesus Movement with its attendant Jesus Music, as well as the secular rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Pete Townsend, the writer of Tommy claims that the rock opera came out of his exposure in 1968 to Meher Baba.
Townshend, had been seeking a way to move on from the 3-minute pop single after the group's early success with short-form radio-friendly songs such as "My Generation." Tommy builds on the symphonic structure of the band's experimental 9-minute epic "A Quick One While He's Away" - from The Quick One (1966), and the story-telling aesthetic of their concept album: The Who Sell Out (1967).