Yet even that needed a helping hand from fate. Townsend decided to play some of the early tracks for influential rock critic Nick Cohen. Nick was decidedly underwhelmed, telling Townsend that all that spiritual stuff was dull.
Now Townsend knew Cohen was an avid pinball player. So he asked Nick, “What if Tommy was a pinball champion?” Well, that was a different story. Cohen loved the idea. So Townsend set about writing a pinball song.
We all know the rest of the story.
“Pinball Wizard” was released in March of 1968. It was an immediate hit. When the full Tommy double album hit the stores two months, copies virtually flew off the shelves.
The success of the album drove kids to see the Who in concert. Their live shows had always been their strong point. By the time the Who released Live at Leeds a year later, their position in the upper level of rock royalty had been secured.