Data East The Who's Tommy

The Whos Tommy
The Whos Tommy


Tommy is a good game. I've had other Data East games, Hook and Phantom of the Opera were nice machines, fun to play, and in their time good games.
But Tommy just blows them away !
The playfield is well designed, has a lot of shots, and this game has a lot of modes ! It competes easily with Williams / Bally machines of its time and is the best Data East game I've played (haven't played them all though..).

The playfield layout isn't very original: it's similar to The Addams Family but reversed. Prototypes even had 2 sets of 3 bumpers, something typically found on Pat Lawlor games.

I guess to really appreciate this game, you should first see Tommy the movie/broadway show.
Only then you'll be impressed with all music and sounds used in the game and understand what the different modes are about. If you are unfamiliar with the story, game modes and playfield parts may seem strange and inconsistent (the bomber plane, breaking mirrors, ..).

The possibility to play 'blind' is a nice feature: a blinder extracts itself over the lower part of the playfield so you don't see the flippers.

My game

I was still busy shopping Junk Yard, parting Getaway, and already bought another pin.. will it ever stop ??? ;-)

Guess that's what you get if you tell people 'I'll buy the machine when you sell it, just give me a call'.. and when they give you a call, you just have to buy it.
My Junk Yard was like this, and now this Tommy.

This machine belonged to friends of my wife. They own a pub where this machine was operated.
I played it there, so I had an idea about what worked (at least it started and launched balls) and what was wrong with it (very dirty and burnt connectors).
They said they planned to close the pub, I was interested if they sold the machine.
New Year came, the date they said they would stop with the pub.. asked about the pinball machine, someone else was interested too and offered a very good price for it (basically what this machine is worth when it's shopped and in good working condition). So I said go ahead, you won't get an offer like this from someone else, sell it asap.
Four months later, I didn't think I'd hear anymore about this Tommy, he calls us again to say the guy who wanted it still hasn't showed up with money although he promises to do so every week.. and I can buy the machine if I want to. A short negotiation of the price (he still wants much more than it is worth), and in the evening I was there to pick up this machine.

Things to look for when buying

  • Blinders. There's a black plastic which comes from underneath the apron and covers the flippers so you play 'blind'. Press the extra ball button when you start a game and they come out. If they don't work the problem usually is on the driver pcb (something is broken or it needs to be carefully adjusted), or with the servo/gears.
  • Topper. There's a silver ball on top of the game so you can see your own reflection and text written on top of the backbox. Usually this is missing but can be replaced with a large plastic christmas decoration ball.
  • The mirror. The mirror assembly uses a motor and its switch doesn't always register hits.

That's about it I think. Other parts on the game are not very specific (bumpers, spinners, ..).


There's one small (1") round promo plastic for Tommy.

Prototypes had 2 sets of bumpers and plastic ramps. It also has a different translight (which can sometimes be bought on ebay). These prototypes were built to accompany the broadway show on tour in the USA. One of these prototypes was destroyed when it fell off a truck.

On this site you can buy a DVD on which the prototype Tommy game is shown. A small clip of the gameplay is also available for download.

Click here to see the IPDB entry of this game.