Rock journalist Pam Brown catches up with the band during their 1976 tour; shudder as Roger Daltrey threatens the life of Lester Bangs!
Grab the nearest respirator; it’s gonna be a long time
In contrast to the belief shared by many rock journalists that The Who have seen their day, I can tell you that they have not. I just saw them live for the first time at the August 9th  Miami Baseball Stadium concert and without question they are the finest live band in the world. That’s a fresh opinion. I was not bored because I’d seen them umpteen million times; I had never seen them back in the old days when they were younger so I expected nothing of them and had nothing to compare the show with. I just thought they were amazing. When I become so jaded as to think a band as great as The Who (or The Rolling Stones for that matter) has "had it" just because they’ve been around for over ten years, I will stop writing.
They played twenty songs over a period of two hours, spanning their history from "Summertime Blues" and "Can’t Explain" through Tommy and their current hits from The Who By Numbers. Everything was superb; Pete Townshend is still the greatest guitar showman of all time — age has not lowered his jumps, weakened his splits, or altered the quality of his unique playing style. Roger Daltrey sings more beautifully than ever; years of practice and solo endeavors have increased his range and melodic abilities to the hilt. It’s thrilling to watch him circle the stage like a caged animal. Keith Moon is still the wonderfully mad drummer — so what if he drinks too much and has fun at parties; he’s still great. And John Entwistle goes on writing, playing, singing just being his steadfast sturdy self. The Who are an establishment; they will last as long as they keep touring and recording.
Their music on record needs no defense at all; The Who can still put out good rock ‘n’ roll. It has changed yet remained consistently strong and pleasing over the years. Their songs are never dated; the fifteen and sixteen-year-olds watching them perform "My Generation" in the muddy stadium went just as nuts as all the young mods must have back in England in 1965. These are the same kids who love "Squeeze Box" and made it a hit today. they ought to know. And The Who are still a major inspiration for many of the younger musicians I’ve talked to. The Who are not dead!!
I talked with Roger Daltrey poolside the afternoon before the show and he looked marvelously tan and healthy. He laughed when I told him about the punk rock scene, C.B.G.B.’s and New York, saying: "I don’t see too many new bands but I know all about punks." And he was one himself; I later found out that the scars on his stomach I was wondering about were from knife wounds inflicted during his rowdy youth.
The Who is all Roger is concerned with at the moment, and he’s loved touring and performing again more than anything in the world. "It’s just The Who right now," he said, "I’m so glad we’re all together. I think The Who will play forever till I’m 50 anyway."
"I’ve had offers for other movies but turned them down because I only like to do movies when there’s nothing else to do. I love being in front of a film camera. I love film. Ken Russell is great and when he dies, everyone’ll realize how brilliant he was. Right now he’s working on a film with Nureyev on the life of Valentino. Russell really brings out the ignorance in journalists." I asked Roger if he ever made any films himself. "Just video porno’s at home. I play ’em back in slow motion."
Speaking of slow, Miami wasn’t exactly Roger’s speed. "Yeah, we’re playing the places we missed on the last tour and findin’ out why we missed ’em. I love the sea but it’s so bloody hot here. I came down to see the wheelchair races," he smirked. "Everyone is so old, it’s disgusting. We should all commit suicide at 45. Nobody can die till The Who finishes playing, though."
The Who are due back this fall to play Canada and San Francisco, then record a new album in November or December — they’re working on new material for it now. They don’t perform any new songs "Because the kids don’t wanna hear ’em if they’re not already recorded."
I asked Roger about "Slip Kid" and he didn’t even know it had been released as a single. "Albums should be albums and singles should be singles. They’re completely different things; that’s all ridiculous."
"I don’t want to play in the U.S. for a while because we’re finally doin’ so well here that we really don’t need to. We’ll probably play around over in Europe when we get back there. I’m so happy when The Who is performing. It’s a shame Madison Square Garden is such a pisshole."
Roger asked about Elton John and said that he’d always liked Iggy’s stuff a lot. Apart from not liking Lester Bangs, he has pretty good taste.
"Those interviews in CREEM last year were all twisted around. They had nothing to do with keeping The Who together. When I see Lester Bangs I’m gonna set him on fire and piss on him. He called me a schmuck. [For the record, Lester called Roger a schmuck in his review of The Who By Numbers, December ’75 CREEM. He had nothing to do with The Who interviews – Ed.] Spit on ‘im and smash his head in. I’ll find ‘im I’ll find ‘im " he kept repeating, and I could see his temperature rising. Bangs beware!!!
A man approached us wanting to take a picture of the star for his shy little daughter who was hiding behind a chaise longue at the other side of the pool. "Which one of you is The Who?" he asked, and we laughed and pointed at Roger. Roger got up and started walking away saying "No nooo" but his lovely wife Heather, yelled "Oh Rogah! A little girl!" and he stopped dead in his tracks, grudgingly turning around to oblige Daddy. Tough on the outside, but a softie at heart. Maybe he didn’t mean it after all, Lester.
Keith Moon had checked into another hotel, but backstage before the show he kissed my hand and bowed majestically when I greeted him. He looked funny in a white ruffled Edwardian shirt and white suit, in all his eccentrically jeweled splendor. A huge lion medallion hung ostentatiously from his neck (perfect for Miami Beach) and I asked him if it was brass. "Brass!!" he exploded with his madman eyes gleaming. "This is 24-karat gold! It’s about as brass as this is glass!!" He flashed a multi-diamond pinky ring in my face. Keith enjoyed the East Coast and said he planned to stay on to fish and ski for a while before going back to California, which he loves. At the moment, he’s waiting for his new house to be finished on the beach at Malibu (I wonder what happened to the old one .?). He’s sold the pub that he had in England and is going to be doing another solo album soon.
Later at the party I found bassist John Entwistle (with wife Alison) choking on a large chunk of Brie cheese. He was also bejeweled, with a large handmade silver spider, inlaid with stones, on a choker around his neck. "I also have a stuffed spider," he said, and I wondered if that was Boris. John still lives in England, too. Talking about the influx of British rock stars to America, he said, "I think everybody just panicked. Here I’d only make six or seven percent more than I do over there; plus my family’s all in England."
He was genuinely shocked that this had been my first Who concert. This wind-up tour was not the greatest for him because "There was too much time in between gigs." Entwistle no longer has his own group, Ox. "I broke it up after the last tour because I couldn’t get on with the lead guitarist." All of his concentration goes into The Who now.
So that leaves only Mr. Townshend, the brilliant, difficult musical storyteller and undisputed genius of The Who. He remained secluded all the time I was in Miami, refusing to speak to writers and watching TV in his room, then retiring after the show. In a way, his silence said more than anything the other fellows said, for that matter. The Who need make no statements because they are a statement. Buy their records! See them live at all costs! Don’t listen to jaded journalists! And like Jonathan Richman didn’t exactly say: "I love the new groups, but I still love the old ones " (He sang about the modern world and the old world same thing )
LONG LIVE THE WHO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!