Roger Daltrey (pictured above during a 2000 shoot in Romania for Dracula – The Dark Prince) got on the phone with me in March 2002 to discuss the Who’s upcoming U.S. tour. I had an option to interview John Entwistle as well, but never followed up. A pity, as he died three months later on the eve of the tour opener in Las Vegas. Here are some edited highlights from my chat with Roger.
ARE YOU DOING ANY SPECIAL PREPARATION FOR THIS TOUR?
I shag a lot! My wife’s worn out!! I work all the time. If I’m not working on my farm or working with the Who, I’m doing acting jobs all over the place. So I’m always traveling and working. I think age comes from the inside. It’s to do with your spirit. As far as the voice goes, I do look after it. I do warm up before shows and I warm down afterwards, which is incredibly important. Most rock singers don’t seem to give a shit, but they pay for it in the end.
THE CHEMISTRY AFTER THE LAST TOUR (2000) SEEMED MUCH BETTER
Because usually every time we do a tour — not that that was a tour really, it was only like four weeks of work — Pete says, “Oh, I never want to do it again.” But after that one, he said, “There’s never a never.” So things changed dramatically after that tour, and we’re very much a working band now. All right, we don’t work very much, but as much work as we do do for ourselves we work for benefit shows and charities, so that’s really great. I like the position we’re in now. It feels comfortable.
PETE WAS ALWAYS THE OBSTACLE TO TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
I think he’s come to the realization that I had for a long time that nothing is forever, especially for me as a singer. As I say, once this voice goes that is the end of it. We will not be the Who anymore as people know them. It’s not like a set of guitar strings. All the time we can do it well and do that music justice we shall be out there playing it.
I know some critics say, “Oh it’s all nostalgia.” But that’s bullshit. That’s absolute bullshit. It’s not nostalgia. It’s our music. If you could dig Mozart up today and make him perform a concert … would that be nostalgia? Of course it wouldn’t. It’s his music. Music transcends all that other crap. And then the only question that should be answered is whether we can still do it, and do it well. And the answer to that is yes.
I ALWAYS ADMIRED THE WHO FOR KEEPING ONSTAGE MUSICIANS TO A MINIMUM, AS OPPOSED TO THE ROLLING STONES WHERE THERE SEEM TO BE DOZENS OF PEOPLE ON STAGE
It’s a circus, innit? Right from the Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. That’s what they aspire to do and they do it very well. But we’re the opposite. We’re stripped down. We’re going to add Simon Townshend to the band this time to give us more scope for musical variance so that Pete can play some piano on some of these other more varied tracks. But he won’t be an onstage, upfront player. He’ll be in the background. But by putting that extra voice in, it gives us a lot more scope with the material that we can play. We’re missing John’s voice, which is now a big, big bass voice. He used to be an alto tenor (on “A Quick One”) … Pete does feel that to do his music justice all those ingredients are a vital part of it. I’m not so fussy about it. I think a song is a song. Whether you miss a few harmonies doesn’t really matter to me. You can do “I Can See For Miles” without all those harmonies. It’s still a great song. But Pete, being the writer of it of course, would like to hear them all.
IS TOURING MORE OF A FINANCIAL NECESSITY FOR YOU AND JOHN?
Of course it is. We haven’t any publishing. So of course it is. We have families to support, and bills to pay like everybody else. So of course it is. Everything’s three times as much when you’re supposed to be rich and famous.
DO YOU FEEL FINANCIALLY COMFORTABLE NOW?
I don’t give a shit about it. If I have to, I’ll become a painter and decorator. I’ve never felt financially insecure in my life. Things don’t make you any happier. When I think back to the ’60s we didn’t have a pot to piss in. We’d had a lot of hit records but we didn’t have anything. We were as happy then as we are now. So it hasn’t really brought us anything in that area, and that’s the important side of your life. Obviously money can make life easier, more comfortable, but it’s not happiness.
I READ A NEWS REPORT THAT PETE DOESN’T WANT TO GO INTO THE STUDIO (IN OCTOBER), BUT WAS DOING IT TO BE NICE TO YOU?
That’s great, and I did ask him about that. I said, “I don’t whether we can actually make a great album if that’s the only reason you’re doing it, Pete.”
He said, “It’s not really the only reason. Of course I want to do it.” I did say to him, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do it, Pete. But I only want to do it if we can make a great album, and you need to want to have to do it to make a great album.”
HE SOUNDED PATRONIZING, LIKE HE VIEWS YOU AS A CHARITY CASE.
Well, he can be a bit like that. We can all be prats now and again, you know.
NOTE: Unrelated to the above interview, my gossipy rock bio Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
Copyright © 2002, 2013 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING