See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me: Tommy, Rock Opera and Twentieth Century Britain

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Prof Keith Gildart, University of Wolverhampton
contact email: 

Call for chapter contributions to proposed book on The Who’s Tommy:

See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me: Tommy, Rock Opera and Twentieth Century Britain

Edited by Keith Gildart and Benjamin Halligan

With “Tommy”, British rock group The Who audaciously scoped British social history across the middle decades of the twentieth century in order to engage with themes of youth culture, hedonism and alienation, family dysfunctionality, the horrors of war and its aftermath, stardom and psychic damage, sexual abuse and exclusion, and the permissive society. The rock opera concept of “Tommy” was one that resulted in multiple iterations: the original album (1969), the London symphony production (1972), Ken Russell’s glam-era film (1975), stage productions at the moment of the “Britpop” renaissance in British culture (in the 1990s, and a 2015 revival), and the music continuing to feature in the live sets of The Who. "Tommy" was a key moment in the development of the "concept album" – a trend in 1960s music that evidenced faith in the ability of rock to engage with serious themes. The film of “Tommy” was part of a cycle of 1970s British films that sought to visualise and expand upon the music: The Beatles (“Yellow Submarine”), Led Zeppelin (“The Song Remains the Same”), Pink Floyd (“The Wall”), The Sex Pistols (“The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle”), The Who (“Quadrophenia”), Slade (“Flame”), David Essex (“That’ll Be The Day”, “Stardust”), and Aswad (“Babylon”). In the light of recent releases that revisit this period, such as “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and “Rocketman”, combined with the revelations about the darker aspects of 1970s pop music culture that “Tommy” anticipated, we invite contributors working in a range of disciplines (History, Sociology, Music, Film, Literature, and Disability Studies) to propose chapters for a co-edited collection with an anticipated 2024 publication date. We invite specific chapters on Tommy and British History; Tommy and Youth Culture; Tommy and Rock Opera; Tommy and the Pop Musical; Tommy and Disability; Tommy and Sexuality; Tommy and Religion; Tommy and the Who; Tommy and Gender; Tommy and War; Tommy, Race, and National Identity; Tommy and the Rock Star Messiah; Tommy and Ken Russell; Tommy and the 1970s; Tommy the album, film and musical. 

Prof Keith Gildart is Professor of Labour and Social History at the University of Wolverhampton, UK. He has published widely in the field of working class history, popular music and youth subcultures. His books include Images of England Through Popular Music: Class, Youth and Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1955-76 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and Keeping the Faith: A History of Northern Soul (Manchester University Press, 2020). He is also an editor of the book series Palgrave Studies in the History of Subcultures and Popular Music.

Dr Benjamin Halligan is Director of the Doctoral College of the University of Wolverhampton. He has co-edited the following books: Mark E. Smith and The Fall: Art, Music and PoliticsReverberations: The Philosophy, Aesthetics and Politics of Noise; Resonances: Noise and Contemporary MusicThe Music Documentary: Acid Rock to ElectropopThe Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass EntertainmentStories We Could Tell: Putting Words to American Popular Music by David Sanjek; Politics of the Many: Contemporary Radical Thought and the Crisis of Agency and, forthcoming for 2023, Diva: Feminism and Fierceness from Pop to Hip-Hop and Adult Themes: British Cinema and the X-Rating in the Long 1960s

Please send chapter abstracts (300-500 words in a Word document, with minimal formatting), along with a biographical note, by 15 Jan 2023 to keith.gildart@wlv.ac.uk