Roger Daltrey’s management office in London connected us in October 2007 to talk about the new Who DVD, Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who, which I learned in the first five seconds that Roger hadn’t seen. It would have been nice if his peeps had warned me in advance since most of my questions related to the DVD. I had only 20 minutes anyway, so it wasn’t hard to improvise.
WHAT WAS THE EXTENT OF YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH THE PACKAGE?
I haven’t even seen it. My extent of the involvement is really looking into what kind of documentary these people wanted to make. I’m good friends with Nigel Sinclair, who’s the chairman of Spitfire Pictures. From there on, once I knew their background and the kind of thing they wanted to make, I gave them my goodwill and my blessing, the keys to our archive. That’s the extent of my involvement, really.
I HADN’T SEEN THE RAILWAY HOTEL FOOTAGE BEFORE—SEVEN MINUTES OF THE WHO WHEN THEY WERE KNOWN AS THE HIGH NUMBERS IN 1964. THAT’S YOURS?
Yeah, that’s mine.
WHY HAD IT NOT SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY UNTIL NOW?
Well, bits of it had. Little tiny bits, not the full thing. For years we didn’t know where it was, and then it turned up. Somebody had somehow or the other got it. I think it was either found or thrown out from one of our old offices. But anyway, it was very difficult to prove ownership. So they offered to sell it to me, so I bought it back.
HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY FOR IT?
That’s my business! But whatever it was, it was worth it to me. I doubt if I’ll ever earn it back. But it’s nice the fact that we own it now.
SO YOU PERSONALLY OWN IT, OR THE WHO CORPORATION OWNS IT
I own it. I did offer Pete to be 50/50 with it, but he wasn’t interested.
LOOKING AT THAT FOOTAGE, DO YOU HAVE SPECIFIC MEMORIES OF THAT GIG?
Huge memories. When I first saw it, I thought, “My God, we were a good band!” If you saw that band in a pub today, you’d rush up to ’em with a pen and paper to sign ’em up, wouldn’t you? Even today.
YEAH. AND YOU SEEM AUTHENTIC, LIKE YOU REALLY COULD BE A 60-YEAR-OLD BLUES GUY
That’s who I wanted to be then. They were our idols. Those guys who used to hang around the clubs we used to play, they used to come up and jam sometimes. They were all huge stars in London. That’s who we used to emulate. It’s a big compliment, thank you!
GIVEN THAT THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT IS MAYBE THE GREATEST ROCK DOCUMENTARY EVER—
That’s not really a documentary. It’s a filmic fanzine. The Kids Are Alright has got nothing to do with the story of the Who. That’s what this is. It’s someone’s subjective opinion, on one section of the story of the Who. You can’t ever get 43 years into 2 hours of film. It seems by people’s reaction to what they’re looking at, it seems to be quite a favorable reaction. So they must have done a good job.
SO WHY HAVEN’T YOU SEEN IT? YOU DON’T HAVE A DVD PLAYER?
There’s no point in me seeing it, I lived it. I’ll watch me, I won’t see the film. I’ll watch me in the film, and I find that very uncomfortable. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done in my career. I’ve done my ups and downs, like everybody else. And it is what it is. I gave it my blessing, and I still give it my blessing. It’s easier for me to now go through this process. If people want me to talk about our career, I can talk about our career easier, not seeing the film.
BOTH FILMS UNDERSCORE (TO ME) THAT THE WHO WERE AN EARLY PUNK-ROCK PROTOTYPE. BUT THAT’S NEVER STATED. DO YOU FEEL LIKE A PUNK GODFATHER IN SOME WAYS?
I’m very nervous about all those boxes that people try and put you in. We were what we are. It’s never been a show. What you see is what we are, through our different stages. And obviously we change as we get older, so I’m very nervous of all those things. When punk turned up, the Sex Pistols were the same kids as us. They were just playing a slightly different kind of music. I think every generation, they express it differently.
PETE SAYS YOU’RE THE HERO OF THE MOVIE—“AT LAST, ROGER GETS HIS SAY … IT ALMOST BEGINS AND ENDS WITH ROGER AS THE FOCUS.”
Well he’s seen it. To be honest, he said that to me. But I know my wife’s seen it, and she thinks everyone comes out of it very well. I don’t know how true that is.
WELL IT’S INTERESTING BECAUSE IT WAS YOUR BAND, BUT THEN THERE WAS A MINI COUP D’ÉTAT, AND YOU WERE BRIEFLY KICKED OUT. IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE BEST OF TIMES AND THE WORST OF TIMES TO BE THE SINGER IN A BIG ROCK BAND, BUT TO BE FLAILING AS WELL?
It was incredibly isolating, yeah. It was. By the time we got to Tommy, I’d been the deaf, dumb and blind kid, so I could articulate that and interpret that in music incredibly easily for me. That’s when I came out of my shell. It brought me home.
THERE’S ALMOST A PARALLEL WITH BRIAN JONES. YOU WERE BOTH CAUGHT OUT AS THE DYNAMIC IN THE BAND SHIFTED TO OTHER PEOPLE?
I s’pose so, in some ways, yeah. Yeah, there are a lot of parallels. I knew Brian, and he was a really good guy. That was incredibly sad. He was a very gentle man, Brian. A very gentle man.
ON THE OTHER HAND, PETE SAYS YOU WERE A “THUG” AND A “YOB.” WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO REAWAKEN THOSE TENDENCIES?
Yeah, I was! … Now, I’m too old, far too old, and too long in the tooth. I was just young, headstrong. I came from a tough neighborhood, and that’s how we solved problems. I was inarticulate, and over-testosteroned. But then when it came to an ultimatum, lose the one thing that was more important to me than anything in my life, which was the band. I had to find a new me, and a new way to deal with things. And that was the four years of isolation (before Tommy).
PETE SAYS THAT THE ONLY THING THAT DOES FRUSTRATE YOU THESE DAYS IS YOUR “AGEING PHYSICALITY,” THAT YOU’RE “A SOLDIER ON THE STAGE” AND YOU HATE NOT TO GIVE WHAT YOU KNOW IS YOUR BEST.
Yeah. I think that’s what drive me on. I never get it right. And maybe that’s a lot to do with those days as well, a lot of subconscious stuff going back to that. He’s probably right there.
IT SEEMS YOU AND PETE HAVE FINALLY BECOME GOOD FRIENDS—
I think we always were good friends. I think we always were, and I think we were always like brothers. That’s a very deep, deep friendship. Obviously events can sometimes get in the way of friendships, but it’s only real friends that can ever get through those events, and we’ve certainly come through some. We were always good friends. The more I think back about people saying that we’re NOW good friends, I think we always were. I think we had times when we didn’t know how to talk to each other, and that was me talking to Pete, and indeed I think that Pete didn’t know how to talk to me. But that happens in life. Friends have that between them all the time. Pete has been in my band now for 46 years! His band, my band, doesn’t matter. We’ve been together in our band 46 years. It’s a long time. You get those times where you don’t need to communicate in other ways. You feel each other. You sense people’s needs, more than need to talk about them. But I must say I am enjoying where we are now, where we actually do talk. And I love our conversations. And we do understand each other. It’s a nice place to be at this time in my life.
BUT IT’S NOT LIKE YOU’D GO TO EACH OTHER’S PLACES FOR DINNER, AND HANG OUT AT A BARBECUE ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON?
We never ever did that. It is very much a working relationship. But we do meet regularly now. We do talk about the future, and what we might be doing, is there a future in any of this? Which we didn’t used to do. There never used to be any future. Now it seems as we get older, funnily enough, there does seem to be one.
WHAT IS IN THE FUTURE?
Pete’s writing again. He’s got a writing spurt on, which is fantastic. He came up with some great songs on Endless Wire, which I’m really proud of as an album. And he’s writing new stuff again, and I’m sure, knowing Pete, it will always have that little twist in it that makes it different from anybody else’s songs. We’re going to be doing more shows. That’s what we do. We’re troubadours, we’re musicians. That’s what we do: We play and we entertain people. We hopefully send people home happier than they arrived, with our music.
WHEN WILL THE WHO RETURN TO THE ROAD?
I think we’ll do some shows next year. We just finished 13 months of touring all over the States and Europe, and are probably due to go back to Japan and Australia next year. So we’ll see what happens there. We don’t want to stop now. We don’t want those long hiatuses that we used to have. We feel at this time of our lives it’s too precious a thing to take liberties with time. When you’re young, you’ve got that time. When you’re old, you haven’t. You should at least keep the ball rolling. Once it’s got momentum it’s easier to keep that going. Maybe if you let it stop, you won’t ever get it going again. That’s how I feel about it now. I think that’s how Pete feels about it. I’ve always felt—right the way from Tommy, after Pete had written Tommy—I always had a little thing inside me saying. “He’ll write his best work when he’s an older man.” Pete has that kind of intellect.
HOW ABOUT YOU? YOU WERE WRITING WITH GERARD MCMAHON
I haven’t done any for ages. But I do want to get back together with Gerard and do some stuff. He’s one of the few people that actually can drag words out of me. I’ve written some good songs with Gerard. I’m proud of them. They’re not Who songs … I did some songs for a solo album, which was very unsuccessful (1992’s Rocks in the Head), but there’s a couple of songs on there that I really love. They were some of the first lyrics I’d written for 30 years.
I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT YOU’VE HAD ENOUGH LIFE EXPERIENCES BY NOW TO DISTILL THEM INTO A FEW VERSES?
It’s not a gift for me. It’s not a gift like Peter. I can write a song, but I’m not unique in songwriting talent. Pete is unique. One of the problems with rock is there’s too much volume and not enough uniqueness.
ANYTHING IN THE ACTING SIDE?
I’ve had a lot of offers to do anything. I haven’t found anything that really, really grabs me yet. And of course I do have to balance it with the Who. I’d like to do Broadway one day. I’d like to find something that takes me there. My life is through the letterbox. It’s what comes through next. If it’s interesting and it challenges me, I’ll have a go at it.
YOU DON’T GET SONGWRITING ROYALTY INCOME SO I GUESS IT’S INCUMBENT ON YOU TO EARN A LIVING?
No, I have to keep working.
DOES PETE NOT SHARE A PUBLISHING CHECK WITH YOU EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE?
No. He did the work. The publishing’s his.
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 © 2007, 2014 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING