This is the kind of interview that you don`t see too often these days. Today a band of The Who`s magnitude would be surrounded by managers, press agents or people from the record company that would control everything being said. Such honesty as revealed in this article would simply not be allowed. And probably for the better, as it would break up most bands. The Who are still an ongoing entity with Pete and Roger in the band. Quite interesting really, considering the odds after the articles published in 1975. Have a nice read!
A few weeks ago Pete Townshend, in an interview with NME, got all hot and steamy and despairing about his role with The `Oo – and about The `Oo themselves. This week Roger Daltrey, also in an exclusive NME interview, returned Pete`s fire – with interest. And after this furious exchange of invective, the question on all our lips is: can The `Oo survive…in any shape or form at all?
Tape Op: Tony Stewart Camera: Joe Stevens
Just how do you conduct yourself when interviewing a man who`s destined to become A Living Legend?
Do you ensure your shoe laces are tied, your hair`s neatly brushed and that your breath smells sweetly? And then humbly sit opposite your subject, dutifully silent as you wait to hear his proclamations?
Or perhaps you just take along a bucket and spade in case the Centaur – as his latest album sleeve depicts him – craps on the rug.
After all, this is how Polydor are promoting Roger Daltrey.
The Centaur photograph exploits all the romanticism of Greek Mythology to intimate Daltrey is A Living Legend, as well as incorporating the sexual blatancy of the classic Satyr – the lustful beast which is reputed to be part man, part goat. But moulding the hindquarters of a goat onto Daltrey`s fine torso would project a considerably less virile image than those of a stallion.
Look at the shot closely, and you`ll see my (or his) point.
“It`s nothing to do with me mate,” Daltry asserts. “I can never consider that. I wish I could become Charlie Bloggs. I`m pissed off with it, because I feel it`s not me. I`m not A Living Legend. A lot of old bollocks. It`s all half-truths and I don`t really want to be associated with that kind of thing.
“I don`t really want to be A Pop Star, believe it or not. I`d like to have successful records, but that`s it. And I`d very much like never to do any more interviews or anything.”
Gee thanks, Roger.
“Well, you know, the occasional one. I suppose it`s the price you have to pay.”
Yes. But Roger also has an ulterior motive in talking to us, and that`s to answer Pete Townshend`s attack on The Who, carried in a recent NME article.
Stick around because the dirt flies like a sand storm.
Somehow though, you just can`t come to terms with Daltrey`s new image. Here he is, in the Goldhawk Record company offices in London, sandwiched into a comfy chair between a filing cabinet and a stack of audio equipment, taking large hungry bites out of a pear, causing juice to trickle down his chin, the flow of which increases as he tries to talk with his mouth full.
His moods change faster than a streetful of Belisha beacons, going from Sullen to Friendly, and from Aggressive to Rationally Polite. And invariably he`ll laugh at his own moods, throwing his head back and roaring like a triumphant bar-room brawler.
You could describe him as an earthy streetboy.
The interview, though, comes at an appropriate juncture. Sessions for the new Who album, “The Who By Numbers”, have just finished, and after our rap Daltrey will go off to hear the final mixes.
“I`m really pleased with it,” he says, chewing on the pear. “One song particularly, called `Imaginary Man` I think is the best song Pete`s ever written. There`s a few mysteries in there, but it`ll be a good album.
“The shape and form of it is similar to `Who`s Next` with a lot of varied material unlike `Quadrophenia` which was really one vein. But I don`t know what it`s going to do, because I don`t know what people are expecting.
“I think it`s going to be surprising.
“There`s not been a lot of style change at all. How can we? Moon still plays like Moon, John still plays like John, Pete still plays like Pete, and I still sing like me.
“The only time that we really change is after extensive touring, never when we`re in the studio.”
Yet the conversation doesn`t dwell on the album for long, as it`s quite apparent Daltrey wishes to discuss another topic. Like the Townshend feature.
“I never read such a load of bullshit in all my life,” he comments, angrily. “To be perfectly honest, it really took a lot of my Who energy out reading that. Because I don`t feel that way about The Who, about our audiences or anything in that way.
“It was an unbelievably down interview. And I still haven`t come out of it properly yet.
“I`ve talked to fans,” he continues, “and I think Townshend lost a lot of respect from that article. He`s talked himself up his own ass. And there are quite a lot of disillusioned and disenchanted kids about now.”
(In fact the tone of Townshend`s rap was itself disillusioned. He was highly critical of the band as a working unit, their audience and even of their future. In his introduction to the piece Roy Carr admirably precised the prevalent attitude the Axe man expressed.
“Pete Townshend didn`t die before he got old. Yet death isn`t his problem, it`s the passing of the years and his current position in what he feels is a younger man`s occupation”.
But that`s not 32-year-old Daltrey`s chief beef about the article. “My main criticism,” he elaborates, “was the generalisation of saying the Who were bad. The Who weren`t bad. I think we`ve had a few gigs where Townshend was bad… and I`ll go on record as saying that.
“I think we had a few gigs where under normal circumstances we could have waltzed it. We could have done Madison Square Gardens with our eyes closed, only the group was running on three cylinders. Especially the last night.
“You don`t generalise and say the Who was bad,” he stresses, his rage stronger now. “Because The Who wasn`t bad. Wasn`t quite as good as we could have been, but it was because Townshend was in a bad frame of mind about what he wanted to do. And he didn`t play well.
“Sure, we all have our off nights. But don`t go round saying the Who was bad.”
Did Pete sound like a Rock And Roll Martyr to you?
“Yes. Very much.
“You`re putting words in me mouth, ain`t ya?” He laughs.
Well sure. But only if there`s room with the pear.
“Right. That`s the impression I got. And it riles me when he generalises it to say the Who weren`t playing well. The Who can play as well as they ever did, if we can get down to it and take it for what it is. He`s just trying to make the Who something it isn`t.
“I can understand his musical frustration,” he continues. “He must be so far ahead now with just writing songs for The Who. But surely if The Who isn`t a vehicle to get those frustrations out he should find another vehicle.
“But use the Who for what it is. A good rock `n` roll band, that`s all. And one that was progressing.”
“I say was because we haven`t done anything for such a long time. Hopefully when we get back on the road we`ll still progress. But if we have any more statements like that I don`t see how we can. Cos I know it`s taken a lot of steam out of me and I`m sure it did with the others.”
But Roger you said, was progressing, which strikes me as a rather strange comment to make just as you complete a new album.
“I`m just talking about the road side of it,” he clarifies.
“I mean, we are still progressing. We`re never really The Who in the studio. That`s one of the difficulties getting records made with the band. There was a lot wrong, but we rectified it on this album. We all got stuck in and made a record.
“But there`s not a lot of room for a group because it`s becoming more and more dominated by Pete. It`s very hard to make a group contribution outside of what you actually do in the band. Outside of me just singing, for instance.
“John seems to do alright at it – but every suggestion I make I just get laughed at.
“But I can live with that. I don`t care if I`m just the singer anyway.”
On this point, though, it was Townshend who complained he had to bear too much responsibility for The Who. There was, he bemoaned, too much pressure on him.
“There`s all sorts of problems going down at the moment that have got bugger all to do with the music side of it,” counters Daltrey, “which is usually lumped on my bloody shoulders. But I don`t ever complain about it.
“I agree that because he`s been the mainstay songwriter of the band he`s obviously going to be under that pressure. But I think he enjoys that. As far as going on the road goes I don`t think he`s under any more pressure than any of us, really.”
Townshend`s argument – just to refresh your memories – was also that because the other three guys heavied him into the studio any songs he`d written for a solo album would be snapped up by them. And inadvertently he seemed to be moaning about the fact that Daltrey, Entwistle and Moon could work solo – but that he never saw his own efforts come to fruition – because of The Who.
Daltrey does feel it would be a good thing for Townshend if he did record a solo album, but denies it was impossible because of The Who situation. “You see, I think if he made a solo album he would get some of the musical frustrations out which he can`t accomplish with The Who. Because he can do fucking incredible stuff that The Who`ll never do. They just haven`t got that sort of scope.
“That`s why solo LPs are nice to do. They let your head run riot for a while.
“And I don`t see why he couldn`t have done his own album before this Who set, because I can`t see this one getting released for ages because we`ve got so many problems, outside of just the music. Then The Who would have had second choice.
“And I don`t see it would have hurt The Who.”
“I think we needed this year break. We need to sort certain things out. Like, two months ago it looked as though we weren`t ever going to record again – and now at least we`ve made another record. And I really want to get back on the road.
“I just don`t feel I`m in a group unless we`re playing on the road. It feels like you`re just another session man.”
He pauses, having said his piece.
“Want a cup of tea?” he inquires politely.
Snippets of Daltrey`s rap keep flashing up on the brain`s screen like trailers at the cinema. And it could just be possible that`s yet to come.
At intervals he`s made oblique, but apparent, references to some kind of internal problems other than musical that are having a detrimental effect on The Who`s well-being.
Something seems greatly amiss.
But as the mugs of tea are handed round – and you`ll be glad to know Centaurs do have sweet teeth, because Daltrey started to crunch sugar cubes. Roger seems reticent to divulge the relevant information.
“There`s just certain things going down at the moment,” he does proffer, not particularly helpfully. “You`ll probably hear the whole story in about two month`s time.”
Can`t we hear it now?
“I can`t. There`s a lot of litigation going on between our record company and our management and everything else.”
A clue. But not exactly a scoop.
With a little gently prodding he does, however, begin to open up, revealing in unguarded terms there is, er, disagreement between the Who and their management.
“If we were free now to do what we wanted to do we`d have our record out in the first week of October and we would be touring England in the third week of October and the first week of November. And we`d be off to the States in the second week of November, then back here for some Christmas shows.” He comes out with a series of anecdotes which, due to the laws of libel, I can`t repeat. Worse luck.
“If the record doesn`t come out I don`t know what`s going to happen.
“We could still tour – but we wouldn`t tour with a new act because it`s hopeless trying to play people unfamiliar material. It`s like, the worst thing any band can do. Even if it`s vaguely familiar. Like Elton John at Wembley playing `Captain Fantastic`.
“It didn`t work.
“I wouldn`t mind touring with the old stuff. But that`s what it`ll have to be.”
Any dates pencilled in?
“There are, but I can`t even talk about them because it`s so vague at the moment.
“Maybe it will sort itself out and it`ll go ahead, but I can`t really see it somehow. It`s probably gonna be December before we actually get on the road. The way things are going, and the lack of decisions and various things.”
Christ. Some Main Feature, huh?
Going back to That Townshend Feature – and considering all Daltrey has just said – it does seem somewhat unfair Peter Meter should blame Daltrey`s involvement in “Lisztomania” for holding up the recording of the new album. Which he did.
“Obviously he doesn`t want to talk about these other problems in the Press,” suggested Roger quite rationally. “I do it reluctantly, but I suppose it`s got to come out at one time.
“I can see if it does happen then I`m gonna come out as The McCartney Of The Piece. But there again, what do you do? You can`t live on lies forever. But the last thing in the world I want to do is break The Who up. Anything I can do to stop that happening…I`ll do.
“Now The Who have acted.” (Daltrey`s referring to the legals). “But I don`t know how long I could have gone on without them acting. I really don`t.
“If the legal hassles hadn`t been going on, yeah, then Liszt would have held up The Who recording for three months. Which isn`t a long time.
“I know it was a drag for The Who, and I don`t ever really want it to happen again. But there was nothing I could have done about it.
“As it`s worked out, it didn`t really matter anyway.”
Perhaps at this stage it`d be useful to clarify one or two other matters with so many insinuations whizzing around. Roger, how important is The Who to you then?
“Obviously very important,” he responds immediately. “I mean it`s part of me life, and it`s the last ten years of me life.
“I can accept the fact now it`s not going to go on forever. That`s for sure. You do start to see the boundaries. But I just don`t ever want to give up.
“The Who comes before anything really. It didn`t come before Liszt but it was a group thing. I said, `What do I do?`
“I think Liszt will do The Who good as well. That`s one of the main things in my mind about it, because people – especially in the States – are gonna start thinking I`m Tommy. And I`m not Tommy. I don`t think `Tommy` is – The Who`s best piece of work.
“Liszt is a quick way of showing people that I ain`t Tommy. Which is, at least, a start in destroying that whole `Tommy` stigma.”
But again, when discussing his career in the movies, Daltrey is prone to relate it to his musical pursuits and his role with The Who. For instance, working with Russell, he says, has given him a better understanding of PT`s song writing. “Ken is very similar to Pete,” he explains. “He`s very visual and thinks all the time. But unlike Pete I can talk to Ken. And he`ll explain how he sees a situation to me, and I`ve got a terrific rapport with him.
“Unfortunately me and Pete have never actually got on, on that level. But I find now it`s not so important, because just working with Ken so much has taught me a lot about getting into things in the way I think you should.
“It`s given me a lot more confidence.
“If you can`t communicate on a talking level with someone, and you just go on feelings, and he`s given you a sheet of lyrics and you`ve got a demo to work with, then you need quite a lot of confidence.”
At this point, however, Daltrey is understating his turbulent relationship with Townshend because, as our conversation unfolds – covering The Who`s music and the sheer aggression and frustration it incorporates – it`s necessary for Roger to explain why this should be such an overt facet. And in doing so he reveals considerably more about the personality structure of the band.
“It`s probably because we`re so different,” he says, “and don`t particularly get on that well outside the band. I don`t want to be in a group with anybody else, although if I could choose three friends to go about with it wouldn`t be those three.
“It`s a very weird situation, but it does lead to frustration. But it`s always worked because it`s led to creating something.”
And also led, it should be noted, to fights. On occasion.
“Yes. On occasion.” Agrees Daltrey.
Well, your knuckles aren`t bruised so the recording sessions must have gone well.
“Look!” He cries, laughing, and holding up his right fist. “Look at that!”
He displays one severely swollen and purple set of knuckles.
“No, no, no. We didn`t have any fights at all,” he points out. “That`s a mosquito bite. Believe it or not.”
A likely story.
“No. We didn`t have any fights this time. We had fights in `Quadrophenia`.”
Tell us more.
“I`ve only ever had one fight with Pete and that was during `Quadrophenia`. It was a bit of a shame because it was a non-argument, and the last thing I wanted to do in the world was to have a fist fight with Pete Townshend.
“Unfortunately”, he adds petulantly, “he hit me first with a guitar. I really felt terrible about it afterwards. What can you say? Pete should never try and be a fighter.
“But when he was being held back by two roadies and he`s spitting at me, calling me a dirty little cunt and hitting me with his guitar I become quite angry. And I was forced to lay one on him. But it was only one.”
That was sufficient?
“Well,” he roars with laughter, “when he came out of hospital…”
But according to Daltrey there has always been a clash between him and Townshend – with Entwistle and Moon as mediators. And perhaps for this reason Daltrey is able to contend with being laughed at in the studio when he makes suggestions.
“Like I say,” he explains, “I can put up with being just the singer. It doesn`t really bother me that much. It`s just one of those things that make you feel – what`s the word? – makes you feel a bit of a misfit.
“But I`ve always felt a bit of a misfit in the Who. That`s another reason why solo things are good for me.”
Cue. Change of reel, and subject.
Everything seemed to be going well for Roger Daltrey, the solo artiste.
He`s now grabbed himself a prestigious slice of the Movie Biz by doing the films “Tommy” and “Lisztomania” – with another, of which he`ll reveal nothing except he has to have his hair cropped, on the starting blocks.
Even his solo-singing career had an auspicious debut, with the excellent “Daltrey” album, “Ride A Rock Horse”, however, isn`t too good.
The vocal performance is good, the musicianship is good, OK, but the material just doesn`t have that stamp of quality.
And to date, business has not been brisk with the set, which is certainly not the kind of sequel one would expect (either artistically or sales-wise) following his first album.
“I`m pleased with it,” comments Roger. “I like it. But then I`m bound to, ain`t I?
“It`s a very American kind of album and it`s not particularly the English people`s taste. But that was intentional. I aimed it at America.
“Maybe I aimed it too much at America.”
Perhaps, though, Daltrey, who as a prominent British vocalist would have the world`s established writers scrambling over each others` backs to get him to use their songs, has taken even more of a chance with the material than he did with the first set. Once again, he`s used unestablished writers (like Leo Sayer was).
“I know it`s a gamble and maybe this time it hasn`t paid off, but I`m gonna carry on doing it.
“It`s just that I get so many kids coming to with songs – and they`re not all good – but occasionally you get the good ones, and I think it`s worth taking a gamble. Maybe I`ve picked the wrong numbers this time… I don`t know. Obviously I haven`t in America. It`s in at 60 this week.
“With a bullet.
“So my judgement`s right somewhere.
“I just remember the days when I would have done anything for a helping hand. If I can help somebody who can`t get a look in elsewhere… then it`s a valid thing to do.”
Not, I wouldn`t have thought, if the album bombed, along with Daltrey`s sole reputation.
Polydor (who can improve your image as Charles Atlas helped build your body) do seem to be putting the big promo wheels in motion. This when discussed, moves onto Roger`s own reluctance to be drawn into the area which he describes as “poshlust”.
“But that`s the business, I suppose,” he remarks mildly. “I don`t suppose kids want to buy records wrapped up in paper bags. They want a bit of glamour.
“You do need your Jaggers and Rod Stewarts, but they`re trying to make me into one, and I`m not. And I never will be.”
Just why is he in the business in the first place then?
You guessed it. “Cos I sings in a band called the `Oo and I likes it. And That Is It.”
But according to Townshend (in That Feature) Daltrey would like to believe rock and roll was “making records, pullin` birds, getting pissed and having a good time.”
“That” retorts Daltrey disgustedly, “just shows he doesn`t understand me at all. Because that proportion of my life which is devoted to that kind of living is such a minimal proportion. If he thinks that`s what rock and roll is to me he must be kidding.
“Just coz I don`t live in a studio like he does doesn`t mean to say I don`t like rock and roll much.”
“There`s a terrible battle going on between me and him, ain`t there?”
In fact you could say this last quote of Townshend`s proves to weigh heavily on Daltrey`s mind. It isn`t until near the end of the interview when he decides to elaborate on the point.
“I`m just thinking about what he said,” he said. “That I`d like to believe that rock and roll was birds, booze and fun. The naivete of that is that the last few bad gigs the Who did were, in my opinion – apart from his head trip – bad because they were physically out boozing and balling all night. And by the time it got to the show at night they were physically incapable of doing a good show.
“So… put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Was that all of you?
“No. That was Townshend. Moon does it, but he can control it. On a few of the last gigs Townshend was pissed and incapable.”
Now Daltrey`s anger is rising.
“So don`t talk to me about booze, because I`ve never been onstage drunk in the last seven years, Mr. Townshend! I don`t know if you`ve ever noticed, maybe he hasn`t but I have. I remember every show we`ve ever done!
“I`m just getting a bit fed up with these left-handed attacks.”
And now he`s retaliating.
“One of the sad things is that Pete and I are probably never gonna be able to communicate,” he explains coolly. “I think I`ll have to sit down and write a letter to the band, because there`s no way of ever speaking to them about it.”
Jesus. What`s the future going to bring then?
Maybe Daltrey is outspoken, vitriolic and often enraged by the circumstances surrounding The Who, and yet underneath it all runs a deep devotion for the band. He may criticise Townshend for what he describes as “pathetic” guitar playing on one gig, and yet he`ll get back up on stage and work with him again.
“The only other way is to give up, init?
“From my point of view… I think I`ve got better on stage in the last six years… and it really frustrates me that the people who were heads, hands and feet above me before are starting to fall by the wayside. I think it`s unnecessary.
“That`s why i want to get back on the road and do it. Because I know they can do it.
“And if they don`t, then the Who breaks up. We`re not a government. It`s only a rock and roll band, after all.
“It`ll be a terrible shame and a lot of people will be disgusted with us for letting it break up. But what can you do?
“In a way,” he continues, “I don`t mind if the Who do finish, because I think we`ve done a helluva lot and I`d hate to see it fizzle. I`d hate to see anything mediocre come out by The Who.”
And in a more dis-spirited moment he comments: “If I feel I`ve come to the stage where I can`t give anymore into rock, and I can`t do the things I like, then I might as well take up acting.
“I might as well.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Gary Holton, Rod Stewart, Colosseum, Aston Barrett, Isaac Hayes, Mike Gibbs, Tim Hinckley.
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