This is in my mind a very early article with the Who, but at this point in their career they had already released five studio albums. There would be five more before they officially disbanded at the end of 1983. Later on they reformed several times, and even released a new studio album in 2006, and have been touring the world ever since.
I don`t know if we will ever see a new studio album from them, but with two original members left of their original line-up, they are still a band worth seeing. Go catch them if you can!
Daltrey`s Utopia in the wilds of Sussex
Penny Valentine talks to the world`s greatest mike thrower, Roger Daltrey
The world`s greatest mike thrower is feeding his horses – jeans tucked into boots, polo neck sweater, his hair blown in the cold autumn wind, a bucket in either hand. Looking as though he never does anything else.
To the cynical eye the scene wouldn`t look out of place in a smooth cigarette commercial, but in truth this is the easy relaxed life of Roger Daltrey for about five months of the hectic year.
Three or four years back Roger Daltrey wasn`t the sort of man you spent a cosy weekend with in the country. A city boy with an uneven temperament, he was known to be moody, explosive, subject to fits of depression. It made you feel ill at ease to be too long in the same room with him, and he had a way of fixing you with a baleful stare that would ice up the courage of the bravest man. Hence journalists, never known for their courage in the face of adversity, would steer away from him and it was rare that interviews with Daltrey would ever see the light of day.
There was even something of a driving ambition in him then that was a lingering throwback from the very early Who days. In fact his personality appeared to be an embodiment of the Who that the public viewed on stage. Moon was always the nutty one. Townshend looked fiercer than he ever was, but it was Daltrey who wrapped up all the aggression and spit within his own character – a phenomena that caught fire directly the band set foot on stage in those days when the Marquee was specifically their breeding ground and home.
Today the problems that he fought so hard against then no longer exist – eradicated not only by his own hand and through a sense of financial security, but one feels more because at last he feels he belongs. He belongs in fact to the Who and that the set-up is not only incredibly successful but so stalwart a unit has given him a sense of personal security.
So that talking to him in front of a blazing log fire in his Sussex house, drinking tea before we go off to feed the animals, you realise he finds it almost impossible to talk in specific terms about himself. Everything he mentions is in general or part and parcel of the group. He says it`s because he doesn`t really think he`s of particular interest, and certainly the early ambition and the need to desperately rate attention and be up front has gone forever.
Now his striving is only to be a better singer, not for himself, but the constant advancement of the band he loves:
“I don`t think I`ve ever been a really ambitious person in the sense of the word. Of course I`m always striving to be a better singer – I mean in the Marquee days I was bloody awful. Dreadful. I don`t know whether people noticed, I don`t know whether they notice now, but I know that really that`s what`s important to me.
“I think the Who as a group are important. I mean everyone is a good musician but I don`t think individually we`re that brilliant. If Pete or Keith left they`d only be half as good as they are with the Who.”
We talk about his new found peace and security, how at one time he might have headed a band of his own (“Oh, only in the early days when I was really out front with the Who certainly not any more. If anything happened to the band I`d get out for good.”) Earlier he`d proudly shown me round his beautiful Elizabethan house he bought six months ago just because he couldn`t resist it with its acres of gardens and lakes, its rose gardens and outhouses. Now he says that sometimes a sense of guilt creeps into him to have so much – in many ways an obvious reaction from a man who once only saw his own corner of life and never really viewed the world at large:
“I`m very very happy now but sometimes I wish I wasn`t quite so materialistic. I mean I have got that way and it worries me. I look round here and think what I`ve got and how little other people have.”
I point out that it`s the society we live in and that most of the people who accuse people of being materialistic are the ones who haven`t got anything to lose. “I suppose so,” he says thoughtfully. “Maybe it`s easier to give the world away when you`ve nothing to give.” But he falls quiet for a while and we have tea in near silence.
In fact Daltrey has tried harder than most musicians to actually do something concrete to help others less fortunate than himself. There have been artists he`s taken in and tried to help and invariably become disillusioned with.
But it doesn`t stop him trying. He has an overwhelming concern for the under-dog, for the ill treated which manifests itself most in his attitude to animals. His horses were all rescued from the meat axe, and amongst the seven dogs that run rampant throughout the house one was left uncaringly by the previous owners. Crippled by rheumatism, Daltrey spent unsparingly on it to bring it back to health.
“People can be rotten miserable sods can`t they? Fancy just abandoning an animal like that. I often wish I could do more but I`ve really been kicked in the teeth lately and – well it puts you off for a while.
“There`s some very talented people around and I`ve thought that if I took their material worries away from them they might get on and do something about their work. So I`ve given them a roof and money and some good grub in their stomachs and you know what – they`ve just sat on their backsides for six months and done nothing. I can`t understand that, it beats me to be honest. I mean where do you go from there?”
Daltrey`s admiration for extremely talented people has always existed. He may have no aspirations of his own but his enthusiasm for others is boundless. It`s always been noticeable that he`s never written any Who tracks and the reason is basically that he feels Townshend is so brilliant an artist that it`s just not worth bothering about, anyway – he grins – he couldn`t write a song to save his life.
When I last saw him a year ago he said that he thought the Who were finally established but that they still had a lot to do and a long way to go – does he feel they`ve achieved more in the past year?
“Well we`re still here and that in itself is something these days. We must be one of the few bands around that`s working all the time. I think we`ve progressed and I think that the last album helped a lot, it made a breakthrough for us if you like. I think the one sad thing about the last 12 months is that the Who film – yeah the ruddy Who film that everyone did so much talking about – never got off the ground. But we learnt from that.
“I mean basically it just wasn`t right that Pete should have had all that responsibility, it should have been put into the hands of someone who knew about the process of film making. Pete would be the first to agree with that. As it was he was left to do it practically alone. I mean, okay we all had our heads with him and the script was very good, but I think it was pretty obvious it wasn`t going to work.
“We are going to do a film though – a new one Pete`s got called `Guitar Farm` which Nick Cohn is going to write for us. He`s coming with us to the States and live with the Who first hand and then come back and lock himself up in a thought machine and get it going.”
The American tour kicks off in just over a week`s time and Daltrey grimaces at the thought:
“Not because of the gigs – for the two hours the Who are on stage it`s marvellous. It`s the other 22 hours in the States that are so bloody awful. I`m hoping this time over, which is the last time for a while because really we need a rest to get other things off the ground, `Won`t Get Fooled Again` will have broken new ground for us in America. You know last time we finally managed to drop `Summertime Blues` out of the act at long last. But we had to bring it back in because American audiences wouldn`t let us off stage until we`d played it.”
His constant references to “Won`t Get Fooled Again” pin-point how important he feels that album has been to the Who. As a band who have clung on in the meanest time and surfaced through musical trends galore to re-emerge bright and beautiful he thinks, he says, that album has been a landmark in their career:
“It was certainly the best produced album we`ve ever done and you see it was good for us to work with other musicians for once. People like Nicky Hopkins, Dave Arbus and Leslie West are so good and it sparked something off within the band. Because Leslie played lead guitar it meant Pete could give himself more room and really come up with some incredible things. It lifted a lot of weight from his shoulders and gave him more freedom which he`s never had before.
“To be honest I think it was the first album we really enjoyed working on too – all the others turned out to be such a huge drag. We only just managed to get through `Tommy` without leaping out of the window. Yes, I agree, maybe the album did lack something that`s always been connected with the Who maybe on reflection it lacked pure ballads. But it`s given us the chance to get back to that or move on or incorporate the two, it`s given us the chance of progression which is the main thing.”
When the US tour and all the hassles it entails is over Daltrey will be back to Sussex and all the things he loves – his American wife Ev and the chance to see his seven-year-old son by his former marriage, Simon, who is here this weekend. It`s a schizophrenic kind of life prevalent amongst most top musicians these days who, once they can afford to seem to scurry off to the wilds. Daltrey says he thinks that really it gives you a much better balance in life to split your existence in this way:
“I live here because I love it and because it`s the balance to the life I lead the rest of the time. I love touring and I love gigs with the Who, but I love being quiet and away from everything here too. I think, yes, it could be dangerous to just have this – I think you could get very stale. You`d stagnate after a while and feel you`d lost touch with reality. But in the same way it would be dangerous to live in the atmosphere I work in all the time and never have a sense of release.
“You see this way you get the best of both worlds and the addition of a good outlook. I can sit here and see what life was like two hundred years ago or more and I can go back into the city and see what`s happening and what`s going to happen in the future. It`s an opportunity for serious reflection.”
It`s dark by the time we get back from the horses. Too dark for Simon to sail the boat he`s just made, but Daltrey promises him a game.
Roger Daltrey – the world`s greatest mike thrower – leading a life that is really a personal Utopia. His own man down in Sussex more perhaps than he ever is on stage however much he loves it, maybe just because up there with his fringes swinging and his body bathed in sweat and the spotlight picking out the effort in his face he is for a while frozen within an image. A human being with something to live up to and all those yards of mike cable to do it with.
“I suppose, yes, to a certain extent we`re all trapped by our images. I mean there are some nights when I just don`t feel like throwing a mike in the air, just as there are nights when Mooney doesn`t feel like throwing his sticks at someone – so we don`t. But then you`ve got to remember that audiences expect that, that`s really what they`ve come to see. And we`re not always the same – the only reason people think we are is that for some weird reason we get reviewed about every week we`re on tour. You see really we`re just a rock and roll band. That`s all.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ray Charles, Marc Bolan, Bell & Arc, Ornette Coleman, Rory Gallagher, Paul McCartney, Felix Pappalardi, Van Morrison, Mr. Fox.
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