Pinball - in Popular Culture

In Popular Culture

Pinball games have frequently been featured in popular culture, often as a symbol of rebellion or toughness. Perhaps the most famous instance is the rock opera album Tommy (1969) by The Who, which centers on the title character, a "deaf, dumb, and blind kid", who nevertheless becomes a "Pinball Wizard" and who later uses pinball as a symbol and tool for his messianic mission. (The album was subsequently made into a movie and stage musical.) Wizard has since moved into popular usage as a term for an expert pinball player. Things came full circle when Data East created the Tommy Pinball Wizard pinball game featuring Ann-Margret and The Who's Roger Daltrey on the backglass. In the movie version, Tommy plays a Gottlieb Kings and Queens machine, while The Champ plays a Gottlieb Buckaroo machine. In 1976, Bally released "Capt.Fantastic", which had an image of Elton John on the backglass, playing pinball in a similar costume as used in the movie Tommy.

A more famous reference to pinball is several animated clips from Sesame Street that are pinball themed, called the "Pinball Number Count", which started airing in 1976. Each segment was different, and involved the ball rolling in different themed areas. The animations were directed by Jeff Hale and featured music by Walt Kraemer and vocal work by the Pointer Sisters.

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