The Acid Queen

“The Acid Queen” is a song written by Pete Townshend and is the ninth song on The Who’s rock opera album Tommy. Townshend also sings the lead vocals. The song tells the attempts of Tommy’s parents to try to cure him. They leave him with a gypsy, a self-proclaimed “Acid Queen”. She feeds Tommy various hallucinogenic drugs.

“The Acid Queen” is often grouped with the album’s next track, “Underture”, a lengthy instrumental which deals with Tommy’s hallucinations and his experience with acid. The one cover song on Tommy, “Eyesight to the Blind,” may have been included to introduce the character of the acid queen.[1] Tommy’s parents take Tommy to the Acid Queen to see if her “lascivious attentions” can cure Tommy of his ills.[2] However, she is unsuccessful in awakening him.[2]

Several notable singers have performed the song including Merry Clayton, Patti LaBelle, Bette Midler and Tina Turner.

Pete Townshend used Tommy’s blindness to represent our “…blindness to reality.” The Acid Queen symbolized mindless self-indulgence, and attempted to use drugs to cure Tommy’s ailments: deafness, muteness and blindness.” Townshend has also said that “The song’s not just about acid: it’s the whole drug thing, the drink thing, the sex thing wrapped into one big ball. It’s about how you get it laid on you that if you haven’t fucked forty birds, taken sixty trips, drunk fourteen pints or whatever…society – people – force it on you. She represents this force.”[3][2]

Who biographer John Atkins describes the song as “a distinctive and fully matured song in which Pete’s vocals give a fine sense of urgency, suggesting that a sexual as well as drug initiation is being offered by the character.[1] Chris Charlesworth calls it “one of the best songs on Tommy.”[3]

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