A very good insight into what was happening around the band before the release of “Quadrophenia”. Deserves to be read.
Ok, I will be off to Copenhagen this weekend, so I will see you around again on Monday with a very good article on a band who, among other things, drew attention to a machine for driving piles into the ground.
The Thinking Man`s Who
Roger Daltrey talks to Rob Mackie about the new Who album, `Tommy` on film and much more
Behind the penetratingly blue eyes of Roger Daltrey is no kind of sad man. Roger has every reason to feel sour. In the first place, it`s criminal to have to leave a beautiful country home for the sweat of central London on the sort of day when the London papers are fond of exclaiming `Phew, what a scorcher!`
It`s one of those days that turns the other cheek around lunchtime, and slyly changes from being hot and sunny to being sweaty and brooding. On top of that, Roger has no sooner got to Track`s Windmill Street offices and parked than some dolt backs into his car leaving a few scratch marks on the shiny blue chrome.
However, a couple of cups of tea, and Roger`s soon revived and happy enough, turning a creaky wooden chair into a rocking chair somewhat perilously, in Track`s little downstairs studio, he chats about this and that in the multifarious activities of the Who, and sounds always like someone who knows what he wants, makes up his mind about it and sticks with it, making the best of the situation.
It`s true of the interview itself, and it`s true of the way Roger comes over physically and in what he says. He`s not one, for instance, to have a big pop star wardrobe full of flashy clothes. He seems to choose what suits him and leave the rest in the shops. Here he is in his `Best` T-shirt, which I seem to remember him wearing when he played “Tommy” at the Rainbow.
Since then, Roger`s become a star in his own right as well, and it`s typical that he did it with a good, clean straightforward set of… well, pop songs I suppose. Songs, anyway that everyone could understand, identify with and enjoy, not the `pandering to the masses` approach that pop has come to mean. Roger describes them as “Just good songs to hum in the loo.”
In “Quadrophenia”, Roger`s saddled again with his old `bad` role in the group, but I reckon an important part of his role in the group has been as a sort of anchor to keep the ship tied to a firm base through some of the more outrageous and at times unworkable schemes to have emanated from various and fertile Who brains.
Roger has enough common sense and confidence to know when to dig his heels in. I must be about the 101st person to tell him that surely “One Man Band” would be the best follow-up single to “Giving It All Away”, but Roger knows better, and I expect he`ll be proved right.
“Everybody`s said that,” said Roger, with a slight hint of exasperation, tipping his chair back a little more precariously than usual, but of course, maintaining his balance. “I`ve never thought that though. It`s just too obvious. The only reason I`m putting a single out now is because the record company wants one out. I`m not prepared to go on and record something just for a single, so they said they were taking one off “Daltrey”, and at least they`ve given me the opportunity to decide which one we`re going to use.
“I don`t think `One Man Band` will stand up to a lot of play, it`s so instant. You shouldn`t necessarily like a single first time. `Giving It All Away` took such a long time to grow on some people, that once it did, it was a good sign because a single has to stand up to so much airplay. That`s always assuming that `Thinking` is going to get a lot of airplay,” he adds with a laugh.
In case you don`t remember the title from the album, it`s the one which begins “I was just thinking about a girl,” and one of the songs that best shows how well Roger can build a song`s drama with his vocals, and without the aid of three madmen pounding away behind him as usual.
The difference meant being forced into a healthy change of outlook and attitude. “That whole album was feeling a way through and searching for something outside of the Who. I`m a rock and roll singer with what I think is the best rock and roll band in the world, and if I sing rock`n`roll, it belongs to that. With the band, I was getting into the state of thinking I knew exactly what to do with each song, when I did this, I put the Who out of my mind, and thought about different ways and techniques of singing, and after doing the Who`s album, which we`ve just finished, I know that it definitely has helped.
“The album that we`ve just done, the guy is a very mixed up, screwed-up kid, and I think I`ve managed to get that effect, just little differences, but I think it`s worked.”
So from one new solo role, playing himself, Roger`s been thrown straight into another alter ego, which will perhaps escalate and mushroom as much as “Tommy” has. Already, what was originally planned as half a double album has become an entire project with enough available Townshend songs to fill at least two double albums.
Roger`s role? “I`m the aggressive, nasty, mean, drink all the booze sort of job, John`s sensitive, Keith is the absolute madman, and Pete is the religious type – God if you like. My role? Yes I think it`s about right!” he chortles. “No it`s more as I was really, the album`s about the past – he`s on a boat and looking back at all the things he`s been through. Which is more or less what we`re doing now, trying to find a new direction.”
But Roger remains steadfastly behind the idea of quality rather than quantity. “We`re not the sort of band that can say `We`ve got to make an album, lads. Let`s go in the studio next week and bash out a couple of tunes.
“It`s not worth recording like that for a band like the Who. It would kill us. With us, it`s not just an album, but a whole thing to follow. It`s problems for us, but we thrive on them.”
Will the quadrophenic Jimmy mushroom in the same way as “Tommy” has through the various media? Roger thinks that musically it`s better, but he`s a little worried, from the point of view that the subject matter may be a bit less universal.
“The Americans` idea of a mod is somebody wearing a bull`s eye T-shirt, which is not really what it`s all about, you know. It`s hard to think how other people are going to react to it, all it is at the moment is a lot of songs and some ideas. I haven`t even heard it as a total thing myself.
“Besides which, once we get it on the road, it develops. The kids made “Tommy” what it was, we didn`t. We made the record, and helped it on its way.”
Which brought us on to the “Tommy” film, about which Roger is thoroughly enthusiastic, even though it`s going to mean going over some old ground again. “I think it`s perfect for a film, and Ken Russell`s the perfect director. I promise you that will be the last thing we do to do with “Tommy”, though.
“I think `Tommy` can say a hell of a lot more than `Jesus Christ Superstar` has ever said, and Russell`s got a lot of good ideas.
The roles? “I`d like someone like Mick Jagger to play the pinball wizard. The mother`s really difficult… they`re all going to have to be really good professional people. I`d think of someone like Bette Midler. Moon`s playing Uncle Ernie of course, or if you like Moon`s playing Moon.
“It`s gonna be acting and singing, I think there`s about one spoken word, and all the instrumentals will just be visuals, which is all you need, and that`s why Russell will be so bloody perfect for it. His visuals will be some of the best I`ve ever seen.”
Needless to say, Roger will be Tommy, although there will also be a second Tommy for the childhood parts. The score is set to be started on January 1, and before then the Famous Who Tour, the first here for two years, may actually have taken place. The plans, which are still not finalised, are for the band to play about seven Northern gigs, hopefully including two each in Manchester and Newcastle, and then go to the States for 10 days, and come back and play four or five days in London.
After two years of busy seclusion, the Who are girding their loins to hit us on all fronts again. In what spare time he has had, Roger`s been slaving over his extensive home and garden, and is now in a condition of near athlete fitness that he feels is necessary for the sort of extended controlled energies that go into a series of Who concerts.
The thought of actually being on the road again brings out a mixture of strong emotions. “We`re frightened to death, but we know we`ll take it in our stride.
Roger doesn`t expect they`ll make much money from the English tour, but does expect a lot of fun.
We went upstairs for a quick preview of Quadrophenia`s own Pinball Wizard, a number called “5.15”, which will be backed with the stage number “Water”, for a pre-album taster.
I`m not really supposed to review it, but suffice it to say that when the Who said they were getting a little too ordered and smooth on “Who`s Next”, I didn`t really believe it until you compare this one, which builds from a subtle start to all the dirt and grit of yer archetypal `oo. It had Roger and I helplessly bopping in the offices, and should be coming your way in little more than a month.
We pored over some possible album sleeves as well, and it seems as sure as makes no difference that the front will be a stark, striking photo of a back-view mod on a flash mid-sixties scooter with fur on the back and all mod cons. A lot of its atmosphere comes from the ethereal misty smoke behind him, putting the whole thing somewhere between dreams and reality.
It sets the tone brilliantly – a look back at the frustrated angry pill-popper of “My Generation” with hindsight but without condescension. That`s the Who `73 really. Still fighting not to be establishment, still as different as air, earth, fire and water, still as similar as the four liths of an orange. And still the best living definition of that time-honoured term “rock`n`roll.”
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: Dale Griffin, Roxy Music, Jess Roden, Billy Preston, Nick Mason, Home, Hemlock, Lou Reizner, Commander Cody, Elton John, Rolling Stones, Tony McPhee, America, Martin Carthy.
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