Pinball machines have been around for quite some time, and have evolved from a simple tabletop game, into highly impressive and challenging games. Many modern pinball machines include a story line where the player must complete certain objectives in a certain fashion to complete the story, usually earning high scores for different methods of completing the game. Every kid who has ever visited a game room has either played the game, or have watched others play the game as they compete for the highest score.
The popularity of the game has also been used as the theme of books, and expressed through music and video productions. In fact, Peter Townshend, best known as the lead guitarist and songwriter for the English rock band The Who, wrote a song called “Pinball Wizard.” The lyrics of the song are written from the perspective of a pinball champion, called “Local Lad” in the Tommy libretto book, astounded by the skills of the opera’s main character, Tommy Walker. The song was featured on the band’s 1969 rock opera album, Tommy. The original recording was released as a single in 1969 and reached No. 4 in the UK charts and No. 19 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Albeit, most people are perhaps more familiar with the version of the song that Elton John performed in Ken Russell’s 1975 film adaptation of Tommy. That version was released in 1975 as a promotional single only in the United States, and in 1976 in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 7. Elton John’s version uses a piano as the song’s centerpiece in place of the acoustic guitar in the original (in the film, his character is shown playing his pinball machine via a small piano keyboard), and features additional lyrics specially written by Townshend for the movie version.
This week’s “Video Find of the Week” features Grammy nominated American violinist, Jenny Oaks Baker, and her rendition of the popular song. About the song she notes, “Usually Pinball Wizard is about a “deaf, dumb, blind kid” who “sure can play pinball”, but in this version it’s about a couple of boys without any of these problems, and a powerful violinist who controls the machine and the fate of the game…in fun retro style.” The video was arranged by the Utah based composer and performer, Kurt Bestor, and the pinball wizards were played by Matthew Baker, Jenny’s son, and Alastair Finn Drysdale, the son of Jenny’s director/producer, Danny Drysdale. Jenny, of course, does an exquisite job playing the violin as only she can.
Jenny Oaks Baker is one of America’s most accomplished and beloved violinists. She received her Master of Music degree from the renowned Juilliard School in New York City, and her Bachelor degree in Violin Performance from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Anyone who has ever played pinball or have watched in awe as others rack up high scores playing the game will find Jenny’s fun rendition of Pinball Wizard exciting as well as impressive.