Roger talks about Tommy, Quadrophenia, and his solo records.
Roger Daltrey was in a good mood, even though for any normal rock and roll star it was the middle of the night. The actual hour was 10 in the morning, and we were beginning the interview in his limousine, which was taking him from an early-morning television show back to his hotel. It was all part of a three-part promotion tour of America for Roger.
The reason he was doing interviews and appearances from morning to night was ostensibly to promote his new solo album, ‘Ride a Rock Horse,’ but of course, he was the star of ‘Tommy,’ and the movie company had a hand in the tour, too. As for Roger personally, the thing he pushes constantly, seemingly even in his sleep, is the Who. Movies and solo albums are fine, but mention the Who or its component parts – Roger, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Keith Moon – and his eyes protrude more than ever while his voice bubbles with excitement. After we shook hands and he inquired about writer Barbara Charone, a mutual friend and occasional HIT PARADER contributor, we begin by discussing the host of the television show, who had apparently done a bit of research before the interview.
HIT PARADER: That guy was much better prepared than I thought he would be.
ROGER DALTREY: When he hit me with the high Numbers (an early version of the Who), I thought, ‘Jesus!’ (He laughs heartily.) See, it’s great, innit. It’s fucking great.
HP: Do you still come up against interviewers who don’t know anything besides the movie?
RD: No, no, that’s the kind of thing I found. This is what I’m saying. It’s great that ‘Tommy’ is making people aware of the Who, because we’ve done a lot more things than ‘Tommy.’ This will turn people on to a decent class of rock and roll.
HP: So you’re finding that people do know more than just the film?
RD: Oh yeah. Most of the kids do. The little kids just buying the soundtrack are starting to find out and listening to the Who.
HP: After this promotion tour, what’s going to happen?
RD: We’ve got a month off, then we’re rehearsing, then we’re back on the road. Just as a rock and roll band. (He laughs again, even more heartily.) As a plain, simple, ordinary rock and roll band.
HP: The tour will probably be a bit different from the last one because of the success of the movie.
RD: Well, I don’t know. No, I think our audience will always be there. I think the Who’s got the best audience in rock. I’ve always said it, and I really believe it. I don’t see any problems there. I think for us it will be different because we’re doing because we really want to get on the road, whereas before I kind of felt like a salesman for ‘Quadrophenia,’ you know. (He laughs.)
HP: But you’re going to have all these new fans who’ve seen the movie, probably much younger, who may see you as some kind of prophet figure or something.
RD: I don’t think so.I mean, they won’t as soon as ‘Lisztimania’ comes out. And it will be out by then. Once they see me with an eight-foot prick, it’ll be all over. (At this point Roger goes into a laughing jag that lasts almost a minute. Finally he collects himself and tries to be serious.) No, you’ve got to remember Who fans, they get the tickets, they really do. I can’t see that problem. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think the movie fans are going to be prepared like Who fans are to queue up for tickets like they do, you know. That’s what I’m saying. That’s why I think that our fans are so good, the real Who fans. Let’s hope they get in.
HP: Was the ‘Tommy’ movie out before the Who’s last British tour?
RD: No, but we did notice we were picking up an element of younger audiences. But we still kept the old audience. In a way, it kind of made it more exciting anyway, you know. Because, I mean, a lot of the criticism that we got on our last tour is that the Who’s over the hump. Well, I think we put out as much energy as ever on our last tour – in fact more, I think. I mean, I was better as a singer than I’ve ever been. By doing things like the movies and doing solo albums it really has helped my confidence. I think I’ve become a better singer. I don’t mean to sound blase, but I think I have. I think it shows on the records. I think it showed with the Who onstage last summer. I don’t think we’re over the hump. 1 just think that the people who have known us for all these years may be just getting bored of us, you know. These people complain because we aren’t more exciting. Do they want me to act like Mick Jagger? What do they want? Obviously all I can be is me. I think there’s getting to be too much pomposity in rock as a whole, and especially attached to the Who, which is a shame.
HP: Maybe it’s because you’ve been around so long.
RD: What makes it worse is it’s hard enough to stay around that long. You don’t need any of that kind of shit.
HP: The ‘Tommy’ movie definitely shook some of that off, though.
RD: Yeah, I think so. As longas we don’t give in to it too much. I mean, we’ll be playing the same amount from ‘Tommy’ as we ever did, which is the obvious classic. ‘Pinball Wizard,’ and ‘See Me, Feel Me.’ That’ll be it. But there’s all that other good music that new people haven’t heard. I mean, you tell people about ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again,’ and they don’t know what you’re talking about. And what a number that is!
HP: Are you going to give up doing ‘Quadrophenia’ onstage?
RD: Oh yeah, sure, it became too much of a problem onstage. The numbers are too similar.
(At this point, the limousine driver informs us we’ve arrived at the hotel.
When we get settled in his suite, we take up a wholly different subject.)
HP: Last time we talked – it was at the start of your last American tour – I told you I didn’t care for your first solo album, ‘Daltrey.’ The funny thing is, now I sort of like it.
RD: I think I told you then that it’s the kind of album that creeps up on you. And it’s totally different from the Who. It’s a side of me that if you know me, it’s a good album. And I think it does stand the test of time. I think this new album is an improvement. But this is another very subtle album. The songs aren’t instant. They don’t come out and bang you between the eyes. But you listen to it 10 times and you kind of find yourself singing them. They’re all unknowns again (the songwriters and songs), I’m finding them unknowns.
HP: You really discovered something in Leo Sayer and David Courtney (who wrote the songs on Daltrey’).
RD: I mean, that’s what I feel about it. I can’t write songs, but I can sing. And there’s a lot of bloody good songwriters out there. I mean, Sayer could sing. But he didn’t have any success in England. He had three singles out and nobody wanted to know about him. And I’m sitting there in my studio going, ‘Urrg, uhhnn,’ fucking frustration-plus. So I did that album, and all of a sudden, everybody’s going, (in a clipped upper-class accent) ‘Who’s this Leo Sayer, then? He writes quite good tunes.’ So I mean, if you can do that, then it’s positive, innit?
HP: Yeah, I think he’s gonna be a big star.
RD: He’s great. But I tell you what, though; he’s left Courtney.
A: He has?
RD: Yeah. And I tell you what: Courtney was 55 or even 60 per cent of that team. Because he used to write all them melodies. And I mean, those melody lines, they’re the kind of things that soak into your brain.
HP: I heard Courtney was going to do an album by himself.
RD: He’s done it.
HP: Have you heard it?
RD:I’ve heard some of it, but he’s changed it all. He’s got a bit of paranoia about it because he’s not really a singer, you know. But when I get back, I’m gonna see him. Because I’d like maybe to try and write with him. Because, as I say, this whole thing has brought such a lot of confidence out in me that I feel I’m really near to writing songs now, which is good.
HP: Whom is Sayer writing with now?
RD: I don’t know. That’s what’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be very interesting. But I mean, whatever happens, he’s got a great feel for lyrics, and he really can sing. I’m glad he made it over here, I really am. It just proves that day when I heard that stuff in my studio, I was fucking right. And everybody slated his material when they first heard it over here. They slated my album, which had the originals of his material. They slated it because of the material. They didn’t slate me. I must admit, they were trying to be kind to me, but they slated the material.
HP: Just when we arrived at the hotel, I was asking about ‘Quadrophenia.’
RD: You know my opinions on that. I was always unhappy with that because I didn’t like the production on the first two sides. I would just have liked the voice to be a bit more forward and the whole sound to be just a bit cleaner. But it kind of picks up in the second half. Townshend’s lyrics aren’t the kind of lyrics you can have that low in the mix. They’re important. It’s a minor criticism really, because it’s not really a musical criticism, just a technical one. But I think the album could have done with it,just on the first side, mainly. I don’t know what you think.
H P: I’m still of the opinion that, all in all, it’s a better album than ‘Tommy.’
RD: As a concept album, yeah. But I think we handled it wrong. I think where we went wrong on it is that Pete at the time was thinking with blinkers on. That whole mods and rockers thing he should just have put it over that was our adolescence. Because American kids, not knowing anything about mods and rockers, just read what Townshend said about it, and I’m sure were not even really interested in the album. But if he’d have just said it’s about adolescence and the problems you go through, they could have got an identity with it. He didn’t put it over very well because he was thinking like that. Because if he thinks we were the only mods and rockers and our generation were the only kind of youngsters to go through that kind of problem, I think he’s a bit naive. And Townshend’s not naive you know. (At the thought of the very intellectual Mr. Townshend being naive, Roger can’t help a few chuckles.)
HP: I heard there were a lot of difficulties recording your new album, ‘Who by Numbers.’ What’s the story?
RD: We had a lot of problems. (There is a brief pause while he ponders his words.) We’ve had a management problem and we’re in litigation at the moment with our management. We’ve had a problem there for four years, really. They have been nonconstructive, and, in a way, it’s been almost worse than having no management. And l’ve been onto Townshend about it, and it finally came to a head with some things that went down between them and John during John’s tour with Ox. So I phoned up Pete and said, ‘Look, Pete, if we don’t get rid of this fucking lot, I’m not going to record another Who album, because if they’re going to get their slice of it, no fucking way.’ Because the Who don’t shit on anyone. The Who’s not the kind of band that deserves that shit. And that’s what happened. It caused a lot of problems.
I was in the middle of the fucking film. They were all doing nothing, and nobody ever got it together and went to a solicitor (lawyer). We’ve been to a solicitor now and we found out that we’ve been screwed up the fucking alley, like most groups do. It’s in litigation now. I can’t say what areas we’ve been screwed in, but it’s a nasty situation. Townshend wants out of it, but he don’t want to be the one to do it, because he feels he owes them something. And it’s a very one-sided friendship. So I said to Pete, ‘You can go and start recording the album. I’ll listen to the demos, but I ain’t going to sing on anything until we get the writs out.’ Once the writs came out, we went bang, straight into Shepperton Studios.
We had a few other problems as well, but it’s come together and it’s a fucking great album, really a good album. And I’m pleased with it, and I can see all our problems just going, but I want to get them out now before we get on the road, because that’s the kind of shit that could break up a group. And the rumor’s going around that fucking Daltrey’s on an ego trip. I ain’t on no fucking ego trip. I ain’t changed at all, but I won’t put up with the Who getting shit on, because I love them so much. I love it as a band, you know. And I’m not going to put up with that from anyone, even if it was the fucking queen.