Syllabus: Music


By Smith Galtney

The Who
Tommy (1969)
Given the multitude of over-the-top interpretations (the 1992 Broadway cast recording, the 1975 movie soundtrack, a 1972 orchestral version), it's easy to forget that rock's first opera was conceived as an invitingly lean, mostly acoustic rock LP. Who knew the legend of that deaf, dumb, and blind kid would one day qualify as 'brunch music'?

Elton John
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)
Not quite an opera, this song cycle works a story line based on Elton's early days with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. Its centerpiece, 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight''about a friend who persuaded the future Mrs. David Furnish not to marry his then-girlfriend'is a great gay moment in pop.

The Magnetic Fields
69 Love Songs (1999)
Talk about your on-the-nose titles: Listening to Sondheim tunes in a gay piano bar, Stephin Merritt vowed to write 69 original ditties about l'amour. If the resulting opus isn't the 21st-century edition of the great American songbook, it should be. Sold as three separate volumes, but come on, who buys just part of Sweeney Todd?