A full-length interview with Rog, on all kinds of stuff.
With his powerful and versatile voice, long golden tresses and a particular knack for microphone-twirling, Roger Daltrey, through the words and music of Pete Townshend, was one of the most prominent rock mouthpieces of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. While the immortal lyric "Hope I die before I get old" was written by Townshend, it was Roger Daltrey who delivered that line with snarling angst and compelling conviction. Later on it was Daltrey, too, who first gave voice to Tommy, Townshend’s landmark rock opera – the image of Daltrey, resplendent in miles of fringe, working the stage of Woodstock, remains one of the more indelible in rock ‘n’ roll.
Rising from the ashes of a working class background in London’s rough and tumble Shepherd’s Bush district, Daltrey was an outlaw who made good. By his own admission, rock ‘n’ roll saved his life. And what a rich and fruitful life he’s packed into the last half-century.
Daltrey, Townshend, Keith Moon and John Entwistle – the Who – revolutionized the world of rock with a supersonic juggernaut of sound and fury. When Townshend executed one of his trademark windmills, often bloodying his fingers in the process, he did it as if his life depended on it.
And it did. The Who’s visceral sound was a dizzying assault on the senses marked by Townshend’s perceptive and ground-breaking songwriting. Moon’s manic runaway-style of drumming, Entwistle’s virtuoso bass prowess, topped off by Daltrey’s ever-present swagger and defiant braggadocio.
Meanwhile, tales of the Who’s off-stage exploits are legendary; hotel owners to this day shudder at the mention of the group’s name. Massive stage destruction was a Who specialty, with smashed Rickenbacker guitars and demolished Premier drum kits commonplace. Yet despite the band’s plunge into Dionysian bouts of debauchery, the Who were the genuine article, a pure well-oiled rock ‘n’ roll machine. At the apex of their popularity, there was no match for the Who as a live entity.
Fraught with triumph and tragedy, the story of the Who is well-documented and needs no retelling. [For the complete history, Who aficionados should seek out Richard Barnes’ excellent tome, Maximum R&B (Eel Pie Publishing, 1982)].
Over the course of their wild and woolly career, the Who issued over a dozen studio albums. Their biggest hit album was 1973’s Quadrophenia, which reached #2 on the Billboard charts. Daltrey’s solo career, meanwhile, has been a mixed bag. Releasing eight solo albums, Daltrey, more often than not, mined decidedly un-Who-like terrain and was met with lukewarm commercial response in America. Daltrey’s luck as a solo act has been better in England, where he scored a Top Five hit with "Giving It All Away."
He’s also found success as a thespian with impressive roles in such films as Tommy, McVicar and The Three-Penny Opera. A versatile actor, for Daltrey it’s all been a sideline to the work that matters most to him, the Who.
The Who epitomize the term rock legend. Inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on January 17, 1990, the Who’s colorful and vital legacy lives on through such disparate bands as U2, KISS and Pearl Jam, among many others. Their place in rock history is unassailable. Along with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, their seminal body of work remains a benchmark by which all rock ‘n’ roll bands are measured.
1994 has been a busy year for Roger Daltrey. In February he staged two standing-room-only "Daltrey Sings Townshend" tribute shows at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. A star-studded bill showcasing such guests as Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and the Spin Doctors, and featuring the Juilliard Orchestra, a live album and home video culled from those performances has just been issued on Continuum Records, Daltrey’s current label affiliation.
Most recently, Daltrey embarked on an extensive U.S. tour, taking the "Daltrey Sings Townshend" show on the road with a special guest, former Who bassist John Entwistle. Unlike the celebrity-packed Carnegie Hall affairs, Daltrey will sing all of the material on this trek.
And on the Who front, due out in July is a four-CD box titled 30 Years Of Maximum R’n’B (MCA Records), which brings together a wealth of digitally remastered Who classics along with various "odds and sods."
Goldmine sat down with Roger Daltrey recently for an exclusive conversation.
Goldmine: How do you feel you’ve evolved as a vocalist over the past 30 years?
Roger Daltrey: It’s very difficult for me, being the guy who sang all those songs. First of all, you have to understand that I’m like anybody else. When I hear my voice on a record I absolutely loathe my voice. I cannot stand my voice. So listening back to songs I sang 20 years ago, it does sound like someone else and I can appreciate it for the first time. I don’t know many singers who actually do like the sound of their own voice.
Goldmine: Do you remember the first time you heard the Who on the radio in America?
Roger Daltrey: It was when we came over to do the Murray the K show and "Happy Jack" was a hit and they were playing that on the radio along with "I Can’t Explain," "My Generation" and "Substitute."
Goldmine: Was there a moment you felt the Who had broken through here?
Roger Daltrey: Listen, I never, ever thought about getting a second job. Once we came to America it always felt like we’d made it, even though we were playing piss-holes most of the time (laughs). It always felt like that was the breakthrough. It was a period where every time we came back more people came to see us and it just snowballed and snowballed.
Goldmine: It’s hard to believe now, but when the Who first started out, you were competing with groups like Herman’s Hermits.
Roger Daltrey: Yeah, it went the other way for them (laughs). Every time they came back they were less and less (popular).
Goldmine: You once said, "Rock ‘n’ roll saved my life." How did it do so?
Roger Daltrey: I think I would have been jailbait. I’ve always said that. We weren’t wealthy but we definitely weren’t poor. We were incredibly rich because there was a wonderful community in Shepherd’s Bush, where I grew up. All my friends were into villainy and crime (laughs).
But it wasn’t like it was today, with all the drug problems. It was petty thieving and just general larking about. A lot of my friends ended up robbing banks. I used to like a lot of excitement. Rock ‘n’ roll gave me all of that and I could do it legitimately. Well, kind of legitimately.
Goldmine: London’s Marquee Club was a great training ground for the Who in the early ‘60’s.
Roger Daltrey: We played there every Tuesday night. When we first did the job, Tuesday was a slow night, that’s why they let us in there. God, they didn’t know what hit them (laughs). We were just a pub band. We were big in our own little area. But the great thing about the Marquee was that the West End of London, it was like the whole of England goes out from the West End of London. So it expanded our audience potential by literally a million. And that in itself was very useful. I have to tell you, and I don’t mean this as sour grapes or anything, but it is hard to play for fans who see you all the time, makes it much harder.
Goldmine: Their expectations are higher.
Roger Daltrey: Yeah, you can never satisfy them. I call it fan fatigue. I went to see Bob Dylan last year, who I think is absolutely incredible, but he suffers from his audience. I mean that nicely. I know without our fans and the devotion of our fans we wouldn’t be here. I don’t mean to put them down, but I’m just stating a fact that it is hard to play to people that see you all the time and it takes a lot of fun out of it in some ways.
Goldmine: What do you recall about recording the group’s first album, The Who Sings My Generation?
Roger Daltrey: Well, for the My Generation album, there was nothing to be nervous about in them days. We used to take every day as it came. Every day was just a gig and I think we did the recording between gigs literally. We did the whole album in two afternoons and by the end of the week we were playing the stuff onstage. That’s how wonderful it was in those days.
Goldmine: A big change from today, where it takes two days to get a drum sound.
Roger Daltrey: Oh God, that’s what killed it for me.
Goldmine: "I Can’t Explain" was a cop of a Kinks-styled song, which Pete has since confessed. Was there a rivalry between the Who and the Kinks?
Roger Daltrey: We were London bands but there was camaraderie. There wasn’t any rivalry. If there was, it was all friendly but whatever band you were in, you were the best!
Goldmine: Why did Jimmy Page play rhythm guitar on "I Can’t Explain" and the Ivy League do background vocals?
Roger Daltrey: Well, Shel Talmy didn’t think that Pete’s lead guitar playing was up to it and he didn’t think our backing vocals were up to it. He was right about the backing vocals (laughs). And obviously in those days you weren’t in overdub facilities. You made the record and that was it. So if you wanted to put a solo on you had to do it when you were doing the record.
Goldmine: And those early days a blur for you? It’s well-known that Keith Moon didn’t even remember playing on the "Substitute" session. He didn’t think it was him.
Roger Daltrey: (laughs) I think if Keith Moon was here today and you asked him to recall most of his early life or most of his life, he wouldn’t be able to recall it. I always used to develop a cold going into the studio. We always used to record in the afternoons. We used to be playing all night. We never used to stop playing.
So it was always a nightmare for me anyway, because my voice never used to warm up until about nine o’clock at night, which is when we usually went on stage. So I used to sound like a foghorn. I used to sound like I was singing at the end of a tunnel but I guess it’s all part of growing up.
Goldmine: Was "Substitute" a quick track to cut?
Roger Daltrey: Yeah, "Substitute" was quick. All those track were quick. The first slow track we did was "I Can See For Miles." I mean, slow; it took a whole day (laughs), and most of that day was taken up on doing the harmonies. I mean, the actual track and the lead vocal was done literally in a couple of hours and then we spent eight hours overlaying harmony after harmony after harmony. It was the ace future single that didn’t do that well.
Goldmine: But in America…
Roger Daltrey: It was a big single in America but in the rest of the world they didn’t seem to take to it at all. I still think it’s probably our best single. I really love it. The energy of that record is incredible.
Goldmine: One of my favorites is "The Kids Are Alright," which balances the power of the Who with a gorgeous melody. Do you recall recording that track?
Roger Daltrey: That just is all part of my memories of the My Generation album. Like I say, it was done in two afternoons. I don’t particularly remember any songs.
Goldmine: How did the band come to cover Martha and the Vandellas’ "Heatwave" ?
Roger Daltrey: In the early days, before Pete started to write prolifically, we used to listen out for all obscure American records. Every group in England, after the emergence of the Beatles, groups like us, got into Tamla-Motown. Almost every group played "Heatwave." But we just stuck with it longer than most (laughs).
I can’t remember half the names of the people we used to copy. James Brown was one. It was the extension of the Chicago blues. When we first heard James Brown, it was the next step in the ladder and it all made sense. He was doing songs like "Please Please Please." Marvin Gaye, "Baby, Don’t You Do It." We used to do a lot of James Brown, Martha and the Vandellas stuff. Doris Troy, we used to do quite a bit of hers. Wilson Pickett. We did some Major Lance songs but I can’t remember what they were.
Goldmine: How would Pete present new songs to the Who?
Roger Daltrey: In those days I don’t’ think they were even demos. I can’t remember. "I Can’t Explain" was a demo, I think. I’m very vague on that. "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" wasn’t a demo because we wrote that on stage at the Marquee. We literally wrote it on stage. He had a thing going on guitar and we started putting lyrics to it. Pete had the basic verse structure and I think I wrote the bridge and bits of the chorus. He would do this bit and I would say, "What about that bit?" and we put this bit and that bit and the song came together like that. And we recorded it the next day; that’s why there’s no demo of it.
Goldmine: Do you wish you had written more songs with Pete?
Roger Daltrey: Of course I do. Of course I do.
Goldmine: Why didn’t it happen?
Roger Daltrey: Well, he’s an insular guy and it probably wouldn’t have been as good as it turned out if I had. I wish I could write with him now.
Goldmine: You started out on lead guitar in the Detours and Pete played rhythm. Why did it take so long for you to play guitar on stage with the Who? I think you started to play guitar live on the 1982 tour.
Roger Daltrey: It was confidence. I had to work. The Who in those days were incredibly poor. There were still at college and school. I was making guitars and I was a sheet metal worker and if you ever see sheet metal workers’ hands, you’ve never seen so many cuts in your life. You’re better off being a brick layer if you’re going to play guitar than a sheet metal worker. So it became just impossible to play in the end and my confidence totally went. I can still do it. Again, it’s confidence. Part of the early Who career was all about knocking people’s confidences out.
Goldmine: Did you have any Spinal Tap moments in the Who?
Roger Daltrey: We lived the life with Keith Moon. It was all Spinal Tap magnified a thousand times.
Goldmine: Many people have surmised that Pete became an over-achiever due to his inferiority complex about his looks and his rather large nose. That’s why he resorted to windmills and smashing guitars, to take attention away from his looks and place it more on his total physical being. Do you agree?
Roger Daltrey: Well, it seems to me that whole theory makes no sense at all. To take away from his appearance, it seems to me that he was trying to attract attention (laughs). That’s a complete paradox, isn’t it? (laughs)? I think Pete did have a hard time as a kid with his appearance. But don’t all kids have a hard time? God, I had a hard time, too. I was little with bow legs and rickets. I used to get picked on like everybody used to get picked on. That’s how I learned to look after myself.
But contrary to what some people seem to think, I was never a bully. I was just a hard man. I seem to have read somewhere recently where Pete suggested that the first time he met me I punched him in the nose at school. Well, that quite honestly is not true. I met Pete first when he came to one of our rehearsals with a guitar. I saw him at school, he was a character. You could hardly miss him. But he loves to make those kinds of stories up and we have had a lot of fights in the past and I did used to rule the band with an iron fist.
But the band needed it! The band wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. And he now readily admits that he would have laid in bed all day if I hadn’t dragged him out of bed and forced him to come to a gig. So I don’t make any apologies for that behavior. That was what was necessary at the time.
Goldmine: Pete once said that he really admired your change in the band from a somewhat hard character to "Peaceful Percy."
Roger Daltrey: "Peaceful Percy," yeah. Well, they threatened to kick me out, that what it was! I didn’t want to do anything else in my life except be in this band. Even though I used to fight with them, it was the [kind of] fights that you had with a girlfriend you loved.
Goldmine: Pete said he admired you making that change because it proved how much you loved the Who.
Roger Daltrey: My love for the band is still there. It hasn’t changed, maybe that’s why it’s so painful these days.
Goldmine: Was that a difficult thing to supersede your leadership of the band?
Roger Daltrey: It was never down to leadership. I didn’t ever want to be the leader. I wanted to be in a band that shared ideas and were in it together. More of the battles were down to the fact that Pete did actually want to be the fucking leader. That’s really what it was about. Up until then we didn’t really have a leader and it was going pretty good. I feel it went downhill during the later part of the ‘70’s when Pete actually attained that position of being the leader and being the insular writer, writing everything, producing demos. And, "This is what we play." That’s when the band started to die as far as I was concerned, that’s when we ceased to be a band.
Goldmine: Around what album would this be occurring?
Roger Daltrey: It was around The Who By Numbers.
Goldmine: The Who covered two Rolling Stones songs, "The Last Time" and "Under My Thumb." Why did you do these?
Roger Daltrey: They’d been jailed. Keith and Mick had been jailed for smoking grass, or had been caught with cannabis anyway, and we did it as a gesture. All the proceeds were gonna go to legal things to mount a campaign to get them out. We thought it was a disgraceful sentence.
Goldmine: They’re neat covers.
Roger Daltrey: Yeah, they’re almost as good as the Stones (laughs). It was fun to sing somebody else’s song. And they got jailed in the afternoon the previous day and we went in the studio eight o’clock the next morning to record that. John was on vacation so Pete played the bass.
Goldmine: One of my favorite music promos is for "Happy Jack," a precursor by many years to the MTV-styled music video. Where was this zany clip shot?
Roger Daltrey: That was filmed in Robert Stigwood’s office in London, which was completely trashed (laughs). He was not a happy man. That cake went everywhere. We didn’t eat much of it. It seemed to go everywhere but our mouths. It was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. He directed my pay-per-view this time. He did all the great Ready Steady Go stuff. He was the best rock or pop director for that time.
Goldmine: In the film for The Kids Are Alright there’s another zany clip where Keith is walking around like a mechanical robot with the music of "Cobwebs and Strange" playing. But that wasn’t the original music for it, was it?
Roger Daltrey: It was for "Call Me Lightning." We filmed that in Los Angeles in a warehouse. We were just bored one afternoon and we had to get something out because we were on tour with Herman’s Hermits. [Note: it was actually filmed just before the Who’s Spring 1968 headlining North American tour.]
Goldmine: What do you recall about playing the Monterey Pop Festival?
Roger Daltrey: God, that was a good day. Monterey, I remember, but I seem to remember the Fillmore West, that we played the week before Monterey. That was much more memorable for me. The first time in San Francisco. They were good gigs. Monterey was kind of a drugs blur (laughs). But my most affectionate picture of it is just before we went on stage. The dressing rooms were under the stage and there was a jam session going on with Hendrix. Brian Jones was there and Mama Cass. There was Townshend and Moon and everybody was bashing and crashing something. Janis Joplin was there. Hendrix was doing some Beatles song, "Sgt. Pepper," and this jam went on and on. It was better than any of the things on the show. It was amazing.
Goldmine: Is it true there was an argument between Pete and Jimi Hendrix about who would go on first?
Roger Daltrey: Well, that was between them. I don’t think there was an argument.
Goldmine: For the Happy Jack album everybody in the band was contracted to come up with two songs each. You only came up with one, "See My Way."
Roger Daltrey: My song is the demo. The Who never recorded my song. It’s basically the demo I did over at Pete’s, it’s Pete and me. They were war days with me and the guys. The whole album was tongue-in-cheek, that album. The only thing I remember about that album is the mini-opera.
Goldmine: "A Quick One" is amazing. Whose idea was it to do a mini-rock opera?
Roger Daltrey: Kit Lambert’s. Kit’s father was a very famous English composer and he started the Covent Garden opera house. His name is Constance Lambert, so Kit was educated in classical music. He was an incredibly intellectual man. He loved pop music! He loved pop singles, he loved rock ‘n’ roll. He always saw it could do much more than it was actually doing. It was always his dream.
He hated what classical music had become, the fact that it had become pompous for this overfed middle class with their noses in the air. Most of the composers like Mozart wrote those songs for the people and it was the pop music of its time. Kit hated what classical music had become so he always wanted to give rock a bigger foundation. Although he loved the three-minute single and I still do, I think it’s one of the things that’s sadly missing in popular music. The three-minute single is something completely magical. Kit always thought what the music was saying could actually do so much more than it was doing at the time.
Goldmine: Indicative of the perfect three-minute single is "Pictures Of Lily." It’s probably less than that.
Roger Daltrey: It probably is. "I’m a Boy," they’re all 2:30, two minutes forty-five seconds.
Goldmine: I was psyched to see the Who do "Pictures Of Lily" on the 1989 tour.
Roger Daltrey: I have problems singing now. My voice just cannot sing that song; the sound of my voice isn’t the same anymore. I think "Pictures Of Lily" is a great song. It’s another ripoff from the Kinks. I tried to get Ray Davies to sing that song at Carnegie Hall but he couldn’t do it. He was doing two shows at Wembley and he just couldn’t take the time out of his schedule. He sent me a great note.
Think about Ray Davies singing that and it would be more of a Kinks song than it ever really was a Who song.
Goldmine: One of the lost gems from Happy Jack is "So Sad About Us."
Roger Daltrey: It’s a great song. It’s very melodic but there’s an angst behind it. I can’t really remember whether Pete wrote it as a single for the Merseybeats and they did it first or whether we did it first and they covered it. I know they covered it and had a hit single from it. I think that’s one of the few hit singles Pete’s had with any other artists.
Goldmine: What do you remember about the Who’s appearance on the never-aired Rock and Roll Circus TV show?
Roger Daltrey: Not a lot. The grass was good (laughs). I felt that we did a fairly reasonable performance of the mini-opera. Brian Jones wasn’t in good shape in those days, sadly. But it was one of those memorable times. Again, the director for that was Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
Goldmine: And John Lennon was on the show as well.
Roger Daltrey: Yeah, Lennon was on that show.
Goldmine: The Who opened for the Beatles in Blackpool and also at the NME Poll Winners Concert. I missed out on all those great bills.
Roger Daltrey: You really didn’t miss much. You couldn’t hear fuck-all, anything apart from the screaming. All you could do was to see them. We were backstage when the Beatles were on and you could just about hear a noise. It was just literally screaming. I got on great with Lennon. I got on really good with him. Keith got on great with Ringo, and George is a lovely guy. I’ve known Paul for 30 years. Paul loved the Who. He did a lot for our career over here in America. Him and Paul Simon.
Goldmine: Paul Simon?
Roger Daltrey: Paul Simon was the first guy to bring us here. He made Murray the K aware of us and he [Murray] brought us over here for the Easter show.
Goldmine: When you appeared at the RKO Theatre in New York for the Murray the K shows, is it true that you used to torment him by wearing monster masks?
Roger Daltrey: We did everything to Murray the K. I broke every microphone on the show and the last one left was his own personal gold-plated microphone. We would do four or five shows a day. But they were two songs [each show]. We used to do something like "Substitute." We always used to do "Generation." We’d do one song and then smash all the gear up. And we had Bobby Pridden backstage permanently gluing guitars back together.
Goldmine: Speaking of smashing guitars, the Who’s appearance on the Smothers Brothers’ TV show is legendary. Someone had to lose their hearing with the explosion Keith caused. Did that catch you off-guard?
Roger Daltrey: Oh, yeah.
Goldmine: Did you know what Keith was up to?
Roger Daltrey: No. He just got the pyrotechnic guy drunk and paid him a few hundred dollars and the guy put four or five times the amount of charge that should have been there. It went off like a grenade. It was a huge explosion, huge! I mean, the Smothers Brothers nearly got sacked for that. They got into a lot of trouble for that. We did "I Can See For Miles" and "My Generation" and that was live vocals too. That’s a live vocal to a track on both those songs. I used to sing live quite a lot on those TV shows.
Goldmine: Tell me about the 1968 tour of Australia that you did with the Small Faces. I heard it was a totally wild tour.
Roger Daltrey: I was crazy because Australia was really a backward country then. We couldn’t afford to take our own equipment so we had to hire what was there. We used these systems from, like, World War II; it was the P.A. It was unbelievable! And the Aussies at that time had no sense of humor and they threw us out after three weeks. They didn’t like us at all. The Small Faces were fun to be with. We did that whole tour with them.
Goldmine: Did you play at all with them in London?
Roger Daltrey: No, not in London. They were looked at in those days as much more of a pop group than we were. We were too rough at the edges to be a pop group. We were too fucking ugly (laughs).
Roger Daltrey: (Laughing) This is a statement of fact!
Goldmine: How’d you wind up being the one smothered by the Heinz baked beans on the cover of the Sell Out album?
Roger Daltrey: I was the last one to be done. They all grabbed the easy ones and I was basically last and they thought, "Oh, we’ll let Daltrey get in the tub of baked beans." It was awful. I got very sick because they had just got the bloody things out of the freezer. So they were freezing cold. Then I think it was Moon who had the bright idea about putting an electric fire around the back of the tub. I was cooking, one half of me was cooking. My feet were freezing and it made me very ill (laughs).
Goldmine: Who came up with the idea for all the phony adverts on The Who Sell Out?
Roger Daltrey: Chris Stamp. It was Chris Stamp’s idea, because at that time we relied heavily on the pirate radio stations. You have to understand that at that time in England (in stuffy voice) the BBC Broadcasting Service, they played probably two rock ‘n’ roll records a day! That was it. So all these kind of renegade people set up in ships off the shore and beamed in rock ‘n’ roll. And it was incredible because for the first time ever we had DJ’s who were just so happy to be playing the music they loved.
It was so different from today, where you get DJ’s who are told what to play because of the marketing and all this shit. There’s a few left like [WNEW-FM, New York’s] Scott Muni, who play what they love. But in those days it was really special. That album was recorded when the government had brought in legislation to sink them. They said, "You can’t broadcast." They did some international thing where they had to go so far off shore that it became almost impossible for them to survive. Sell Out came out literally within the first week of them being turned off. To placate us the government gave the BBC their own pop station and it was awful.
Goldmine: The jingles on Sell Out were fave, of course, but the Who did a real Coca-Cola jingle.
Roger Daltrey: Yeah, we did a Coke jingle. Coca-Cola are crazy for not digging that one out because it’s a great jingle. "Things Go Better With Coke."
Goldmine: Didn’t Pete also do an Air Force commercial?
Roger Daltrey: Yeah, he did that. (In loud voice) Yeah, get killed in Vietnam, join the Air Force! (laughs) It’s easy to put it down in retrospect but we weren’t aware of all the politics. We were English and that’s no excuse but we were.
Goldmine: How do you access the Sell Out album?
Roger Daltrey: I love Sell Out, I think it’s great. I love the jingles. The whole thing as an album is a wonderful piece of work. The cover. Everything about it. It’s got humor, great songs, irony.
Goldmine: Around this time the Who were viewed as raking in the dough but in reality you were in great debt. It seemed the more popular the band became the poorer you were. Was it because of destroying all the equipment and the hotel rooms?
Roger Daltrey: Yeah, you have to remember that Keith was inventing the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle at that time, which was a very expensive occupation.
Goldmine: Were there any hotels that welcomed the band?
Roger Daltrey: Oh, in the end they did. When we used to pay the bills in cash they used to welcome us back. There were some hotels where I think Keith paid to have the whole hotel decorated. They put him in the worst room in the hotel knowing full well that he would smash the hell out of it and we’d pay in cash and they’d redecorate the room. And the next time we came back they’d put him in the next really bad room (laughs).
Goldmine: Did you ever participate in any of the craziness?
Roger Daltrey: No, I was two years older than the other guys. I was a war baby. My family were a lot poorer than they were. I’d had to fight too hard for anything I had in my life and to smash things up for me…I had to work too fucking hard to get ‘em. I just couldn’t do that. It was something in me. I didn’t want to be that destructive.
Goldmine: The mini-pop opera "A Quick One" wasn’t new to the band but Tommy as a full statement was revolutionary. When Pete first played you the songs…
Roger Daltrey: He didn’t play us the songs. He had one song called "Amazing Journey." It was Kit Lambert’s idea to do the full rock opera and basically the story line of "Tommy;" the holiday camp was Keith’s idea. The actual story line is more Kit Lambert than Pete Townshend. You don’t very often hear Kit Lambert’s name mentioned when it comes to Tommy these days but I haven’t forgotten.
Goldmine: In that time period there were a few concept albums, things like the Small Faces’ Ogden Nut Gone Flake, the Kinks’ The Village Green Preservation Society and, of course, Sgt. Pepper. Do you think that also had an effect in opening up the waters for an album like Tommy?
Roger Daltrey: Sgt. Pepper is a collection of songs, top-and-tailed by a great song. But there isn’t really an overall concept to Sgt. Pepper, it’s just a series of great songs. When you really think about what it’s saying, there’s a great song saying, "This is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" and it starts and it ends with the same song.
Goldmine: Well, maybe Ogden’s and Village Green Preservation Society are more along those lines.
Roger Daltrey: Well, they are but they came out after Tommy [Ed. Note: Actually, they both came out several months before Tommy.] I mean, Tommy was the first one to come out with an actual story line where the narrative was followable or almost followable, where one part of the narrative in one song would be picked up again in the next song. Tommy was the first album to do that.
Goldmine: What did you think of the new song "I Believe My Own Eyes" that Pete wrote for the Broadway play of Tommy? Was it a song the Who could have done?
Roger Daltrey: Of course it was a song the Who could have done. Whether we would have done it I don’t know. I have to be very careful what I say about Tommy on Broadway because I hate hurting people’s feelings in the press, because I know what it’s like to read things about yourself in the press that hurt. It’s not nice. I don’t like Tommy on Broadway at all. I like the music, I’m pleased with Pete’s success but I don’t like what they’ve done to it. Why they couldn’t have adapted more of Broadway for Tommy than Tommy for Broadway. But who am I to knock it? It’s a huge success.
Goldmine: Did you like Pete’s new song?
Roger Daltrey: I don’t think I should comment.
Goldmine: I saw the Disney Channel’s Tommy special and to be totally honest I felt there were too many interviews with the Broadway cast and crew and not enough of the Who.
Roger Daltrey: They know fuck-all about Tommy.
Goldmine: It was interesting in the special how you said Tommy wasn’t based on you at all and then Pete said it was based on you and him, and John thought Tommy was you as well. Is this how things always operated in the Who, with everyone having different perceptions?
Roger Daltrey: You have to understand that Pete writes his best material when he’s writing through a third person, and that person was always me. And let’s be honest, what would Tommy have been if it wasn’t recorded by a bunch of lunatics like the Who? Here was a band that, at the time they recorded Tommy, was probably two million dollars in debt. No other band would take those kind of chances. When you think back to what could have happened if Tommy had been recorded by another band that wasn’t prepared to take those chances, it might have been nothing at all, that record.
Goldmine: If Tommy had been a failure, would the Who have broken up?
Roger Daltrey: No. I don’t think there’s any way it could have failed. We don’t know failure in this band. We didn’t know failure. We got to know it a little after awhile but at that time there was no such word.
But Pete used to literally write his best stuff when he was writing about a character that he could see very, very clearly from outside himself. When he gets introspective it turns into melodramatic dross. And some of it’s really good and I admire his courage for doing that. So, I’m not putting him down for that but he writes his best stuff when he’s writing for a figure beyond himself. And I was that figure. And of course I personified Tommy. I was the guy who used to play the part. I played the damn part for five years. I slogged my balls off around the world sweating it out. People though I was Tommy. I used to get called Tommy in the street.
Goldmine: What do you recall about performing Tommy at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House?
Roger Daltrey: Well, I mean it was just another gig to me. That was how I used to feel about everything. I never used to be impressed with any of that shit. It’s a hole with a stage! So it had chandeliers, so what!
Goldmine: Did the band have anything to do with the Tommy album cover?
Roger Daltrey: No, it was Mike McInnerney who did that and I think it’s an incredibly good cover. He mostly worked with Pete and Chris.
Goldmine: Was playing at Woodstock as miserable as it had been reported for the Who? The best part about it had to be when the sun came up while you were playing.
Roger Daltrey: The only reason it was a miserable experience as far as I was concerned was, to be honest, being an artist you always want to give your best. By the time we got on the stage we were in no condition whatsoever to play a show.
Goldmine: Because you were spiked?
Roger Daltrey: Well, nobody spiked us, everybody was spiked (laughs) and we were there for like 10 hours before we went onstage and you had to drink something in 10 hours. So that’s the only area where you can say it was a miserable experience because I couldn’t perform my best.
But let be honest. Woodstock did our career an immense amount of good. And the fact, like you said, the sun came up on the "See Me, Feel Me" bit was extraordinary. It really was like a gift from God.
Goldmine: Live at Leeds is viewed as the definitive live album by the Who but there were a lot of songs from the show left off the album.
Roger Daltrey: I’ve always wondered why and I must dig out the rest of that show. I mean, Live at Leeds is the end of a two-and-three quarter-hour show. It’s just the jamming bit at the end (laughs). The whole rest of the show is hardly there.
Goldmine: Like the opener, "Heaven and Hell"?
Roger Daltrey: That’s right. I must dig them out one day. I think some of that stuff is going to be on the boxed set.
Goldmine: The Who live at the Fillmore East is one of the best live Who gigs. It’s circulating among collectors.
Roger Daltrey: Well, some of our bootlegs are better than our records (laughs).
Goldmine: Did you ever perform "The Seeker" live?
Roger Daltrey: Yeah, we used to play it live. I’ve always found it a bit ploddy. It’s a real late 60’s rhythm. I don’t like it that much.
Goldmine: Tell me about Pete’s unfinished Lifehouse project. Some of the Who’s best songs, like "Pure and Easy," were earmarked for that record.
Roger Daltrey: The whole problem with Lifehouse was that the concept was too ethereal. Music-wise it was some of the best songs Pete’s ever written. But the narrative, again, wasn’t very strong. We would have needed another three years working on it before recording it to make it complete.
Goldmine: Would you have liked some more of the tracks destined for Lifehouse to have been included on Who’s Next?
Roger Daltrey: You know, what would it have changed? Who’s Next is a great album in itself. What would it have changed to have a song like "Pure and Easy" on it? Not a lot. It would have just made it a longer great album. So what? It didn’t matter.
Goldmine: Were you intrigued by the new sounds Pete was getting for Who’s Next with his ARP 2600 synthesizer?
Roger Daltrey: I used to hate that fucking thing. Oh God, it used to drive us nuts! All it could do is go "weeeeing…" (imitates high-pitched sound). I mean, I could do the same thing with a paper and comb (laughs).
Goldmine: Did you enjoy the loops on "Baba O’Riley"?
Roger Daltrey: The loops were great. "Won’t Get Fooled Again" has an organ, it’s not a synthesizer at all. The fucking synthesizer used to drive me fucking nuts! I used to love "Bargain" but I hate the solo (imitates the solo with goofy voice). It’s like someone with a belly ache! Can you imagine what that would be like with a great guitar solo? That’s what I hated, any excuse except to play a great guitar solo! I mean, let’s be honest, what would you have preferred to hear? (laughs)
Goldmine: A wailing lead?
Roger Daltrey: Can we have these answers in the interview? (laughs) So, I really did loathe this machine.
Goldmine: Didn’t you record some tracks at Mick Jagger’s house?
Roger Daltrey: We did it at Stargroves. Jagger had this big old house out in the country and they used to have a mobile studio. We recorded "Won’t Get Fooled Again" there and quite a lot of other stuff too. It was good because we were kind of hanging out. What’s great about Who’s Next is that it was the only album where we played all those songs over and over again. They were our songs. They weren’t just Pete’s songs. That’s the difference with Who’s Next. We had that freedom to do that. We were never allowed that freedom after that.
Goldmine: Where was the front cover shot?
Roger Daltrey: The front cover is a composite with the background put on. The big concrete block photo was taken just outside of Sheffield. I don’t think it’s there anymore. They used to pick these big blocks to hold slag heaps from mine shafts. They used to put these big concrete blocks in there to stop them from slipping. It was just there on this big black mountain of slag. There was this big white concrete block sticking out.
Goldmine: And you all had bladder problems that day.
Roger Daltrey: That’s right! It looked like a great place to piss!
Goldmine: I know you’re unhappy with the Quadrophenia album, due to the mix.
Roger Daltrey: I love the album but I still think Quadrophenia should be remixed. I’ve never heard a good mix of it. It’s incredibly weak, it’s thin. I’ve heard what’s on the tapes. It lacks the real power that I know is there from hearing it in the studio. I always remember when I first heard the record I though, "Oh, dear, maybe I should have another listen to it." I think a lot of the vocals are very low.
Goldmine: Did you like John Entwistle’s remix for the Quadrophenia soundtrack album?
Roger Daltrey: No, not at all. I hated it. Everything was totally out of balance. I think that’s even worse. I mean, it’s all just bass. It doesn’t work having a lead bass guitar. You just lose a lot of the guitar power. I think it needs a great mixer, someone like Matt Lange, to do it. I think you would be surprised if you knew what was on there.
How come "Love, Reign O’er Me" onstage is 25,000 times more powerful that "Love, Reign O’er Me" on the record? We’re playing exactly the same stuff and singing it the same way, it’s just not coming across on the record with that power. The whole Quadrophenia thing was great in one way because I had my own studio at the time and I was running the songs down in the studio at home before I got to the studio with the Who. That helped a lot on the record. I think vocally on that album I do some vocal acrobatics.
Goldmine: Didn’t you have a lot of technical problems on the 1974 Quadrophenia tour?
Roger Daltrey: Yeah. That was before samplers and all these things. We had to put all those sounds on tapes and again I used to hate it. Once you were playing with a tape that’s when it started to die for me. You were no longer free to do what you felt like doing. You’d be stuck into this thing. It worked for the sound. It made the sound bigger and we were still a four-piece but it didn’t work creatively for me at all.
Goldmine: Wasn’t that the tour where Lynyrd Skynyrd was the opening act?
Roger Daltrey: Yeah. They were good guys. We used to find bands on the road and if we liked them we’d take them. All of them made it. They all became huge bands. James Gang from Cleveland. Lynyrd Skynyrd. They were no one when we first saw them. They were great guys, lovely guys. And they were a good band, too. I’m glad they’re still playing.
Goldmine: You had a major fight with Pete while recording "5:15." Did the band ever get along?
Roger Daltrey: We got along very well. Everybody talks about this big fight. It wasn’t a big fight. We were rehearsing Quadrophenia and we had a film crew to film the rehearsal. We’d played almost the whole of Quadrophenia and this film crew were all sitting on their trunks watching the show without a camera turning! So I just said, "For fuck’s sake, when are you lot gonna start filming? You’re waiting for me to wear my voice out so you can film me when I’m flogged out! Quadrophenia is a hard piece of work to sing, I don’t want to sing it twice!"
And Pete came over to me and started poking me: "You do as you’re fucking told." He was on his brandy and he started poking me in the chest. And the roadies, ‘cause they know what I’m like – if I ever get rolling I’m a little tiger – they all jumped on me! They’re holding me down (laughs). Pete hits me with his Gibson across the shoulder while I’m being held and then he starts spitting at me, calling me "a little cunt." And then he says, "Let the little cunt go, I’ll fucking kill him."
So they let me go and he threw two punches. One went one side of my head and he throws the other one and it goes on the other side and he was throwing a right at me and he was totally off balance and I hit him with an upper cut and he went six inches off the ground and passed out. And I had to escort him to the hospital because I thought I had killed him! No one was sorrier than I was. But it wasn’t a big fight. He was pissed and he thought he could fight me and he can’t fight me (laughs). I mean, you have to know how to fight.
Goldmine: Did the press make out the Townshend vs. Daltrey feud to be more that what really existed?
Roger Daltrey: Of course they did. We used it too. We were guilty of it. But it’s not important. It wasn’t a big fight. It was like the wife hitting you with a frying pan. The next minute you’re in bed fucking each other to death (laughs).
Goldmine: Tell me about the time when Keith Moon passed out at a gig in San Francisco and a 19-year old drummer from the audience named Scott Halpin played with the Who.
Roger Daltrey: We’ve got a video of that on the new video that’s coming out.
Goldmine: It’s been my dream to play guitar with the Who in a situation like that. Maybe somehow Pete would trip over his shoelaces and they needed me to take over.
Roger Daltrey: Put the doll away! Get the needles out!
Goldmine: Tell me about that show in San Francisco.
Roger Daltrey: What do you do when your drummer is passed out on literally the third song in the show? You’re just about to premiere your new work, Quadrophenia, which is a difficult piece anyway. There you are and you have 14,000 raving fans. We weren’t quitters. So I stood at the front and said, "Is there a drummer in the audience?" Simple as that. And they all lined up and we picked one out and we basically had a jam session. The audience was happy. Keith was happy, he was out of his brain (laughs). John was unhappy because Keith smashed his French horn (laughs).
Goldmine: What’s in the plans for the live video?
Roger Daltrey: Well, there’s a box set coming out with some different tracks that have never been out there before and some tracks that have been remastered so they do sound better. There’s a video going with it of all unreleased Who live stuff. There’s the Who at the Isle of Wight, there’s the Who in Chicago in ’75 and the thing at the Cow Palace where Keith passed out. There’s stuff back in ’66 in Finland. All live.
Goldmine: Any out-of-the-ordinary song selections?
Roger Daltrey: The trouble is our catalog is known to death. There’s not really any out-of-the-ordinary stuff.
Roger Daltrey: Well, that’s all on there, yeah. The video is three hours. It’s done. I was gonna get involved with it but I decided that the Who today are too painful. I really did.
Goldmine: In what sense?
Roger Daltrey: It’s incredibly sad. It should never have been a sad ending but for John and I it is. It just is.
Goldmine: On a happier topic, what did you think of Keith’s lone solo LP Two Sides Of The Moon?
Roger Daltrey: Well, only Moon would have the balls as a drummer to make an album where he sings! And I love it for that. And I love "Don’t Worry Baby." He loved the Beach Boys. I’m producing a film about Keith at the moment and I was thinking about calling it The Last Beach Boy. That’s all he ever wanted to do was be in the Beach Boys. He never wanted to be in the fucking Who, we played rubbish! (laughs) So we used to do "Barbara Ann" to keep him happy. "Moon’s in a mood, quick, play "Barbara Ann." (laughs)? And "Bucket T," that was another one that would keep him happy for six months.
Goldmine: Do you like the Odds and Sods album?
Roger Daltrey: I like Odds and Sods. I love "Relay" [Editor’s note: "The Relay" was not included on Odds and Sods but was rather a single.] I loved "Put the Money Down." I think they’re really great tracks. I think "Relay" is a fabulous track. I’m gonna do "Relay" onstage on my tour. I might do it acoustically.
Goldmine: You spoke of Who By Numbers as the record where Pete took over the leadership role and that’s when the rot set in but it’s a brilliant album.
Roger Daltrey: I like it.
Goldmine: Do you like the cover?
Roger Daltrey: No. It was a good idea but I think John can do better than that. I think there’s some really great tracks on that album. "Dreaming From The Waist" is a great track. "How Many Friends." I love "Blue, Red And Grey," that’s one of my favorite tracks.
Goldmine: "Success Story" is another gem.
Roger Daltrey: We really used to let John choose the songs he wanted to do. The trouble is, when John wanted to do his songs and John had to sing them and unfortunately John has this habit of singing incredibly out of tune (laughs).
Goldmine: Is that true?
Roger Daltrey: It is true? Are you fucking deaf? (laughs) Sometimes he sings all right but if you notice I’m singing behind him shadowing him every way. He’s just gone deaf. He’s a good singer, John, I love his voice. I love his voice. I love all his songs. I think one of the sad things about John’s writing is his best work was done on an album called Smash Your Head Against The Wall, which I think he should re-record. And if he does I’d like to sing some of it.
I think me and him as a collaboration could do something really good. I’m working with him at the moment. He’s gonna guest with me on some shows on my tour. Not all of them, some of them. And I’m gonna talk to him about it because I really do feel for John, because when the Who ended that was the end of John’s life. He’s very much a muso, unlike myself, where I have an acting career and there are other things I do. He’s a fabulous bass player. He’s got such a unique sense of humor, incredibly dark. I mean, Siouxsie and the Banshees made a whole career out of Smash Your Head Against The Wall. Listen to the melodic form of that music. Exactly the same as Siouxsie and the Banshees 10 years later.
Goldmine: For the Who Are You album, I know you had some problems with producer Glyn Johns.
Roger Daltrey: I had a punch-up with Glyn Johns, mainly because he put strings on John’s track "Had Enough." I went into the studio in the afternoon the day before they put on the strings. I though, "Fucking hell, strings on a Who track?" When I heard it, it was just slushy strings and I don’t like slushy strings.
I don’t mind orchestras. I like them triumphant. There’s things you can do with strings that can be really good and exciting but what he’d done on this I didn’t like. He said, "What do you think?" And I said, "Don’t like it much." And he went up the fucking wall. So I think he smacked me and I smacked him and that’s how we were in those days. No big deal. I’ve read his recollections of those events about him always trying to get me to sing different. That’s bollocks! There’s not one rock ‘n’ roll singer who’s ever sung in more different styles than I have. Don’t give me that bullshit! From "Tattoo" to "Behind Blue Eyes," with that softness and vulnerability, to "Who Are You." Don’t give me that shit that he was trying to do that, he wasn’t.
It’s just that I disagreed with him about the direction of the album. I still don’t think Glyn was the right producer for that album. He was the right one for Who’s Next, because we had already done all that kind of pre-production work and all he had to do was mike it up and get it down on record and mix it. I do like the record but basically the mixes are down to Jon Ashley, they weren’t down to Glyn Johns at all. I love "Music Must Change" and I love "Who Are You."
Goldmine: Why didn’t Keith play drums on "Music Must Change?"
Roger Daltrey: He just couldn’t get it together. That was just when he was really bad on the alcohol. He’d just started to go for a cure.
Goldmine: Around this time, Keith was given a promo job with Shepperton Studios. Was he being phased out of the group?
Roger Daltrey: We wanted to get him back to England because he was killing himself back in Los Angeles, and we brought him back there and let him deal with that job. He loved to be in the press and the press loved Keith. He was a journalist’s dream. There was always something to write about and if it ever got dull he’d invent something to write about.
So it was done for that reason. I’ve read in Dave Marsh’s book where it talks about John and I wanting to get Keith out of the band. It’s really not true. You have to remember that most of that book is really an interview with Pete, when Pete was very bad on drugs. By Pete’s own admission he’s a compulsive liar.
The truth of what was happening there is we had to make a record and we had to get it finished. John and I were quite prepared to get in another drummer to finish the record, which is not the same as getting Keith out of the band. It was a totally different thing. It was totally, totally untrue.
This had been going on for a long time where we had to deal with these problems when Keith took the overdose of the monkey tranquilizer in San Francisco and we seriously had to consider what we could do. We had this whole tour booked, can we do it? Keith couldn’t even walk for three days then. We did seriously consider getting another drummer in to get us through. You do those things to keep together as a band but you never, ever talk about getting rid of the bloke. I mean, the Who without Keith Moon? Who do they think we are, fucking mad? There’s no truth in that at all. But I will admit to saying that we might have to get another drummer in to finish this record.
Goldmine: Moonie’s playing on Who Are You is great.
Roger Daltrey: Oh, yeah, but it was hell to get it. He could be good for an hour.
Goldmine: Did he know his playing had deteriorated?
Roger Daltrey: Oh, yeah, and he was so sad about it. He was so upset. He used to cry. Nobody knew more than Keith. It used to break his heart.
Goldmine: When Keith died, was that a phone call you knew was going to come one day?
Roger Daltrey: Well, the truth is, with Keith it was a phone call that we knew was going to happen one day. He lived nine lives and I’d seen him nearly die several times. When people talk about living on the edge, they don’t know what living on the edge is like until they had seen how Keith Moon used to live. I’ve never met anyone who lived like Keith Moon. He really lived on the fucking edge, oh, yeah.
Goldmine: If you could see him today what would you say to him?
Roger Daltrey: That I love him and I miss him, God I miss him. The world misses him. He was a wonderful human being. Although he had this narcissistic streak in him, his main aim was to entertain people. Mostly at his own expense and in the end at the expense of his own life.
Goldmine: Do you regret going with Kenney Jones as a drummer for the Who?
Roger Daltrey: Oh, I do, he said, thinking very hard. (laughs) He had to ponder this question. (laughs) I just felt that Keith was such an extraordinary drummer, to try and replace him was just ridiculous. We had the chance then to be completely free to do literally anything. We could have done so many experiments. We could have added a string fucking quartet if we wanted to.
People were expecting nothing because the Who that people had known at that point had stopped. We just filled the gap and pushed it back into the same slot with a drummer who was quite obviously the completely wrong drummer. No one supported me at the time, including most of the fans. I used to get real vehement letters from fans saying how could I be so nasty to Kenney. I was never nasty to him. I was just stating my feelings about this because I don’t feel he’s the right drummer.
I’m not saying he’s a bad drummer. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy. I didn’t dislike the guy, but I just felt he wasn’t the right drummer for the Who. It’s like having a wheel off a Cadillac stuck onto a Rolls Royce. It’s a great wheel but it’s the wrong one. I took a lot of shit over that from fans and from everyone.
Goldmine: What would you have done for a drummer?
Roger Daltrey: We could have just hired and fired. For fuck’s sake, the world is full of drummers! I think my argument was justified when finally in ’89 you heard us playing with a drummer, Simon Phillips, that had the fluidity and technical ability of Moonie. He could throw it all over the place and keep it together. Then you realized what had gone wrong back in ’82. The role that Keith used to play on the drums wasn’t just to keep a rhythm, it was to link what Pete and John used to play.
We not only had an extraordinary drummer who played all the things you would expect in all the wrong places, we also had this bass player playing lead bass all of the time. And we had a guitarist who sometimes played lead and sometimes played incredible rhythm.
Moon’s function wasn’t to go "boom-chick, boom-chick, boom-chick." He used to play that way because it used to tie the whole thing up. As soon as you put Kenney Jones…all he used to do was (imitates drum fill) and boom-chick, boom-chick, boom-chick, it was fucking horrible! It used to drive me crazy! I used to want to die on the stage. I was gonna buy him a pair of brushes. (laughs)
Goldmine: Fifteen years ago the film The Kids Are Alright was released. How do you view the film today?
Roger Daltrey: I can’t be objective about it. To me it was wonderful to see. It was Moon’s film. I love it for that. I don’t think it was well-directed or even well-put together as a piece of footage on Keith Moon and the band. It’s all right. What I like about it is it’s completely unpretentious. I don’t think any one can deny that.
Goldmine: Any thought on releasing the Who’s full show at the Isle Of Wight festival?
Roger Daltrey: Who would buy it? When people say to me, "Why don’t you do more obscure stuff?" you have to realize that the people who would like the obscure stuff are not everybody. You can’t please everyone all the time so you try to please yourself and do a cross-section of stuff. Do a bit for you, a bit for you and a bit for you.
Goldmine: Back in 1979, Pete had said that the Cincinnati tragedy [when 11 Who fans were trampled to death in the rush to get into the arena] was a somewhat positive event because it made the band reassess its view toward its audience. It was a very controversial statement at the time.
Roger Daltrey: I should think it fucking was. He didn’t lose his family, did he? I think it might have made him reassess because he was quite heavily into drugs at the time. We didn’t find out until after the show [about the tragedy].
Goldmine: Was there any thought to canceling the tour?
Roger Daltrey: What would have been the point in stopping? It’s like somebody getting killed in a car crash on the way to a Frank Sinatra concert. I mean, what can you do? In the end we’re all responsible for somebody farting in Tokyo, if you believe the theory of chaos. What would have been the point? If it happened when we were in the hall and we could have controlled a situation then I would have felt totally different. Totally different and totally responsible and held my head and said, "This is the end."
But the fact is, it happened before, I wasn’t even at the hall. You have to remember it would have been an even worse catastrophe if we hadn’t played that night. That’s why they didn’t tell us. There would have been a total riot. There had already been those people killed on the way in. There could have been more people killed on the way out.
I think that there were some people who should answer to it. I don’t know whether they did. It’s all in the past now. I can live with my conscience on it. But as far as it being a good thing, what a load of bollocks! That’s a really bad choice of words.
Goldmine: Face Dances was a more polished Who album. Do you like the album?
Roger Daltrey: I love Face Dances. I love all the songs on Face Dances. Imagine if they had been played with a great drummer, as they are when we play live now with a drummer like Simon Phillips or whoever I take on the road with me on my tour, you can hear what the potential of that album could have been. Listen to the drums on that album and you tell me if they’re any fucking good. As a fan yourself and someone who is writing this article, do you think they’re any fucking good?
Goldmine: It’s not Keith Moon.
Roger Daltrey: But are they anything? (laughs) It’s music, for God’s sake. Is it good drumming or bad drumming? It’s fucking awful drumming. Because you love the group so much it still doesn’t excuse it. The fact that I liked the guy didn’t excuse me from having to say, I’m sorry, but his fucking drumming stinks!
Goldmine: Do you think that with Face Dances and It’s Hard…
Roger Daltrey: It’s Hard should never have been released. I had huge rows with Pete. Pete had just come off detox and he was really looking for help. We did It’s Hard in the studio and the band was rehearsing before Pete got out of the clinic just to try and keep a vibe up, to try and support Pete. But when the album was finished and I heard it I said, "Pete, this is just a complete piece of shit and it should never come out!"
Goldmine: Why did it come out?
Roger Daltrey: It came out because as usual we were being manipulated at that time be other things. The record company wanted a record out and they wanted us to do a tour. What I said to Pete was, "Pete, if we’d tried to get any of these songs onto Face Dances, or any of the albums that we’ve done since our first fucking album, we would not allow these songs to be on an album! Why are we releasing them? Why? Let’s just say that was an experience to pull the band back together, now let’s go and make an album."
Goldmine: What did he say?
Roger Daltrey: "Too late. It’s good enough, that’s how we are now." I hated it. I still hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it!
Goldmine: Didn’t Pete have a lot of problems writing songs for the album?
Roger Daltrey: He had a lot of problems writing for a long time for the Who.
Goldmine: Creative friction has always led the Who to do their best work.
Roger Daltrey: Well, obviously, the best work comes out of friction. Creative friction is the most stimulating environment for artists to work [in]. It’s when you get a morass of mediocrity it becomes like a soft sponge and sucks all the energy out of anything. That’s one thing the Who, fortunately, never had to deal with. It was always creative friction and that’s had a lot to do with the success of the band. If we hadn’t had the creative friction we would have been Herman’s Hermits. (laughs)
Goldmine: It seemed, though, that the band was getting along well during the Face Dances/It’s Hard period. Do you think this lack of friction affected the quality of those albums?
Roger Daltrey: We were getting along well. We were trying to support a man we thought we were going to lose. He was very badly into drugs. This wasn’t just an alcoholic binge. This was someone who was kind of nodding out on the big one. [Note: Daltrey is referring to Townshend’s admitted heroin use.] You try and pull together. You avoid all of those situations which can make people go back on that. So maybe we were too soft. Maybe the lack of the in-fighting did help destroy the band. I don’t think it did. I think Pete had already made up his mind.
Goldmine: There was supposed to be a follow-up studio album to It’s Hard.
Roger Daltrey: That’s right. We finished the farewell tour. And we had one more album to deliver and Pete went away and said he was going to start writing it. If you’ve ever tried to come in and co-write with Pete and inquire how things are going you’d have the door slammed in your face. He worked himself into an insular situation, as far as we were concerned.
It used to be incredibly difficult to sit down feeling useless because you can’t do anything until Pete’s done it. That is not easy work, believe me. It’s much harder to do nothing than it is to be in there beavering and trying to do something. That’s the kind of position he put us in. Then halfway through ’83 he came to us and said, "No one’s phoned me up and asked me how it’s going." And that came out of the blue because up until then if we would have phoned him up, he would have told us to piss off! (laughs) He said, "I’m going to finish the band." And that was the end of it.
So I said to him, "If you can’t write, let’s all sit in a room. If we look at four walls, let’s give it two or three weeks and take out instruments. I’m sure we’ll come up with something good, Pete."
But it didn’t work. He was not prepared to share, which is very sad. That’s why I feel for me the end of the Who was very sad, because it ended up in almost a very selfish exercise. But I suppose we were all being selfish. I’m being selfish for wanting to keep it going. As much as I think that Pete has written some incredible songs, some incredible songs, the magic that the band gave those songs far outweighs the importance of those songs.
That chemistry was a gift from the heavens. It really was. For us four people to meet up and be able to create that, something that came from Pete on one level and take it to the next level, I’ve always seen that as the important thing.
Goldmine: Is there one Pete Townshend song that he did on his solo album that you wished you sang in the Who?
Roger Daltrey: Psychoderelict would have been a great Who album. Psychoderelict for me was fatally flawed because it was obviously auto-biographical, even down to the woman, for fuck’s sake, which is what’s been going on. It’s all out in the open now. It’s been in the papers in England. It’s fatally flawed because he didn’t have the balls to act the character on the record, so then it becomes just pretentious.
If the Who had gotten hold of that it would have cut that pretense out and he would have written for me in the third person. It would have given it a different strength. It would have been a great Who album.
Goldmine: How about something like "Rough Boys"?
Roger Daltrey: Well, "Rough Boys" is a gay song. When he initially wrote that he sent that to me for my next solo album and said, "I’ve written this song for you." I’ve still got the note and the demo. I can’t kind of get to grips with The Iron Man album. I think "The Sea Refuses No River," the Who would have really ripped that one up. A lot of Empty Glass would have been a great Who album. It could have been a great, great album. It was a great album by Pete but if you add the magic of the Who it would have been better.
Goldmine: Was it fun to reunite for Live Aid?
Roger Daltrey: No, it was not fun at all. I didn’t want to do it with Kenney Jones. We got on there and all the power went off and it was a nightmare. A good cause but…
Goldmine: The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990. What does that mean to you?
Roger Daltrey: What the fuck is it? I mean, Pete was once quoted as saying, "It’s a Hard Rock without the hamburgers." It ain’t even the Hard Rock at the moment. (laughs) [Note: Daltrey is referring to the fact that the Hall of Fame building did not then exist]. I was honored to be with those artists, yeah, but I’m not so sure about some of the other names that were mentioned when we were there. (laughs)
Every artist, I’m honored to be on the same planet with them, but some of the industry people that get mentioned at those functions…I find it very difficult when I hear people talking about their good old mates from the old days and mentioning names and I know these people have ripped off artists that I’ve known very well, and unfortunately some aren’t with us now. And you think, do I really want to be in the room with some of these fucking people?
Goldmine: The 1989 tour must have been a happy time for you.
Roger Daltrey: Fabulous. I loved every minute of it. Physically, I was in bad shape for that tour. Very bad shape. I had something wrong with me from birth on the inside that all of a sudden had come to life. It was called a mermangioma, which is a bunch of varicose veins in my guts. I’m okay now, I had it all cut out.
On that tour when I started singing and all the blood would go down because you start pumping your diaphragm, the thing would blow up like a balloon. It stopped me eating. I lost so much weight. God, I was ill on that tour. But the singing was wonderful. And the crowds got me through it. Again, I loved doing Tommy when we did it. I didn’t like all the guest stars. I’m not that kind of singer. I need to warm up and stay there. Oh, man, is it hard work!
Goldmine: The Who reunited for Pete’s Iron Man album and performed "Dig" and the old Arthur Brown hit "Fire."
Roger Daltrey: I liked the tracks. I was a little bit concerned with the motivation behind doing them. All of a sudden we’re not good enough to be around for fucking 12 years and then we’re good enough to be on a record. I kind of felt a bit used. Pete tends to do that.
Goldmine: Well, the record didn’t sell that well.
Roger Daltrey: The record didn’t sell that well but isn’t it a lesson in humanity? I do feel with interviews with Pete in the last 10 years he’s been almost trying to deny the Who, anything that the Who had to do with his career, and I find that very sad.
Goldmine: I was taken aback by reading the recent Rolling Stone article on the upcoming Who box, with Pete saying he didn’t think the Who were very good.
Roger Daltrey: I think what he’s trying to say is he was wonderful and the Who were a piece of shit. Don’t you get that feeling?
Goldmine: I got the feeling now with his major success on Broadway that he’s trying to distance himself from the Who. Anyhow, what went through your mind on opening night of the "Daltrey Sings Townshend" show?
Roger Daltrey: Well, sheer terror the first night, mainly because we didn’t have time to get a run-through of it. It was the first time we had put the whole show together. And believe me, it’s a lot different playing with 70 musicians [that] it is with seven.
Goldmine: What acts were you trying to get for the show that didn’t work out?
Roger Daltrey: Ray Davies tried to do it and couldn’t. I tried for Bruce Springsteen. His wife just had a baby and that put him out. Bonnie Raitt I would have liked. I did try for Garth Brooks. I wanted him to do "Generation" since he fucking nicked all our guitar smashing. (laughs) He’s made a good living out of it.
Goldmine: You were happier with the second night?
Roger Daltrey: Oh, yeah, I’ve never known any new venture show that we’ve set out on where the first night has been any good. Imagine seeing that show five nights in, woo, would it be good. It was a really difficult one to get together. It’s hard.
Goldmine: Why wasn’t Eddie Vedder in the pay-per-view?
Roger Daltrey: He’s a star.
Goldmine: Now you’re going out on a "Daltrey Sings Townshend" tour.
Roger Daltrey: After doing the Carnegie shows, and like I said the first night we had to wing it because mainly we didn’t get a run-through. But the second night really did kick in. A lot of people said to me, "You’ve got to do this again. You’ve got to let other people here this." Who music isn’t like any other music. I can’t sing those songs the same because I don’t feel the same, but it doesn’t make the way I sing them any less valid. When you’re middle-aged you’re no longer angry. It doesn’t mean you’re less passionate. It’s just the anger becomes something else.
I think if you’re still angry at 50 it’s very unbecoming. (laughs) Something’s really fucking wrong. So John will be a special guest on the tour and maybe I’ll pick up a few people on the way. I’d like to try and work in conjunction with local radio stations and pick up some new talent in the areas to play some of the early songs. There’ll definitely be an orchestra. I will be singing all the songs. It’ll be easier that me walking on and off. (laughs) We’ve got some other songs to do. The Eddie Vedder spot I’ll do on my own. So that’s a nice little section. It’ll be very interesting. I’ll probably do 40 shows. The tour starts in May. We’ll be playing sheds and theaters. It’ll be really good.
Goldmine: It’s good you’re bringing John along.
Roger Daltrey: He needs to play and I need to sing. Listen, this is the last chance in my life that I’m gonna get to do it so I’m just gonna go for it.
Goldmine: When’s the album from the Carnegie Hall show coming out?
Roger Daltrey: It’ll be out in May. [Ed note: It’s been pushed back to July.] Although I miss Pete physically not being there, within the sound you don’t miss him. I mean, on the last tour he played acoustic guitar. You could hardly hear him most of the time. This won’t sound like the Who. It can’t be the Who. The Who’s dead. But if you wanna hear those songs sung and done well but differently and dramatically…It’s wonderful, wonderful music. It’s going to be a fucking good night out.
Goldmine: Any chance for a Who reunion show this year? Pete talked about the possibility of it in Rolling Stone.
Roger Daltrey: Oh, yeah, he just wants to use us. I don’t want to be in a band like that; he uses us like that. I want to be in a band that’s a band. I wasn’t to be in a band that gives me something in my life, not that he can use as a toy on a piece of string like a fucking yo-yo. I want to be in a band that exists. Not that existed then and he can pick up and use it like a piece of toilet paper.
Goldmine: If Pete asked you to do some shows for a Who reunion, would you do it?
Roger Daltrey: No. No, I wouldn’t do it. I would not do it. It’s got no meaning doing it as the Who. Me doing this has got more meaning because it’s different. You’ve never heard those songs done that way. They’re all very, very different and the sound is different. The orchestration is very different. But for the Who to do that again…I mean, what for?
Goldmine: What did Pete say to you after the Carnegie Hall show?
Roger Daltrey: He didn’t say anything.
Goldmine: Who’s in the band for your U.S. tour?
Roger Daltrey: We’ve got five musicians this time out. Ringo’s son, Zac Starkey, is on drums. Guy Fletcher from Dire Straits is on synthesizer, Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother) on guitar and backing vocals. Geoff Whitehorn’s on lead guitar and we haven’t selected a bass player yet. Of course, Jody Linscott will play percussion. John "Rabbit" Bundrick will play keyboards and Billy Nichols will be on backing vocals.
Goldmine: Quite a large band.
Roger Daltrey: You should see the orchestra!
Goldmine: Who’s producing the live album?
Roger Daltrey: Bob Ezrin, great guy. He just finished Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell.
Goldmine: If you had to excise a few Who songs from the band’s catalog that you think are real stinkers, what would you select?
Roger Daltrey: I wouldn’t say anything. I haven’t recorded anything that I’m ashamed of. I mean, It’s Hard, I’m not ashamed of that for any reason than it’s a sub-standard record and it shouldn’t have come out.
Goldmine: Lastly, what Who songs do you wish you’d written?
Roger Daltrey: Maybe "Behind Blue Eyes" or "Won’t Get Fooled Again" because they mean so much to me. They mean a real lot to me. I would have like to have written those two.
The author wishes to thank Roger Daltrey, Richard Flanzer, InVision Entertainment, Risa Hertz, Denny Somach, Jim Rinaldi and Louis Hirshorn.
Copyright 1994 Denny Somach Productions.