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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK


Townshend unveils Tommy sequel

Pete Townsend wrote his Tommy sequel in 1971

The Who guitarist Pete Townshend's sequel to his hit 1969 musical, Tommy, is to be premiered on BBC Radio 3 in December - 28 years after he started work on it.

Townshend first wrote Lifehouse in 1971, but abandoned it after he felt it demanded too much "creative feedback".

The production is about a vast global network called a "grid", not unlike the Internet.

Now the show, which features Trainspotting actress Kelly Macdonald, Patriot Games star David Trelfall and Geraldine James from ITV drama Band of Gold, is in rehearsal.

Kate Rowland, head of BBC radio drama, said: "I feel sure that Lifehouse will be greeted as a contemporary classic.

"It's extraordinary when you think about what Townshend was writing in 1971. It was like he was projecting ahead.

"He didn't use the words 'net' or 'web'. He called it 'grid'. But he was hitting the nail almost right on the head."

Apocalyptic journey

Tommy told the story of "that deaf, dumb and blind kid who sure plays a mean pinball" and fans may, over three decades, have given up hope of a follow-up.

It was previously thought the 1973 musical Quadrophenia was Townshend's sequel to Tommy.

[ image: The Who's Roger Daltrey played Tommy in the 1975 film version of the musical]
The Who's Roger Daltrey played Tommy in the 1975 film version of the musical
Lifehouse's story addresses the spiritual consequences of a move away from a physical human contact towards digital networking and the power of music.

It describes the apocalyptic journey of the central character Ray - played by Threlfall - across the industrial wastes of Britain on the last day of the millennium as he searches for his missing daughter.

Eventually he heads back to the city where he was born, magnetised by the voice of a pirate DJ calling the like-minded and lost to the Lifehouse - a subversive music event.

Townshend said he had been inspired to write Lifehouse in the late 1960s when he became wary of a growing tension between entertainment and commerce.

Who tracks in production

"In the midst of this uneasy anticipation, I wrote a play. If, in the future, life itself ever had to be experienced through art - let's say because of a necessary curfew to avoid the effects of radiation or pollution - a vast global network would be required," he explained.

He said he had gone on to ask himself: "Would rock have a place or not? Was rock's particular brand of spiritual uplift - its main claim to be regarded as art - confined to live events before masses of people?"

Lifehouse is described as more like a play with music than a rock opera.

It includes several Who songs such as Won't Get Fooled Again, Baba O'Riley and Behind Blue Eyes, which were originally intended for Lifehouse.

There will also be previously unheard songs written and performed by Townshend.

Tommy was originally conceived and written in 1969 by Townshend.

After an award-winning Broadway run, it was turned into a film by director Ken Russell in 1975, starring Roger Daltrey and Elton John.

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