The Who's singer graces us happy jacks with a few quick ones.
Thu Nov 1 2007
ILLUSTRATION, ROB KELLY
Make all the "hope I die before I get old" jokes you want: Roger Daltrey can still mop the stage with singers one third his age. The icon and his longtime cohort, guitarist-songwriter Pete Townshend, finished a massive world tour last July, and Daltrey, 63, claims that he'll keep hitting the road as long as fans will have him.
Make all the "hope I die before I get old" jokes you want: Roger Daltrey can still mop the stage with singers one third his age. The icon and his longtime cohort, guitarist-songwriter Pete Townshend, finished a massive world tour last July, and Daltrey, 63, claims that he'll keep hitting the road as long as fans will have him. For those who need to bone up on the classic rockers' legacy, VH1 is presenting Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who, a comprehensive look at the British band's history, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. (A DVD of the doc hits stores on Tuesday 6.) We chatted with Daltrey over the phone from his house outside of London.
You and Pete have a long, storied history. How are you two getting along these days?
Really, really well. I could never imagine, given all the rows and the strife that Pete and I have gone through over the last 40 years, that we'd be as close as we are today. But after this last tour, which got really tough at times, we were thick as thieves. Just playing our songs again night after night...it was incredibly special. He helped me through a lot, especially when my voice gave out in front of 70,000 people.
That's a pretty common tour injury for singers, isn't it?
Yeah, we're usually the first to catch a bug whenever it goes around and that's what always gets affected.
I once lost my voice for two days after doing a rousing karaoke rendition of "Behind Blue Eyes," so I can imagine what performing it every night would do to your throat.
[Laughs] Make sure you warm up the pipes next time, mate!
Duly noted. While we're on the subject of singers...in your opinion, what makes a great rock frontman?
Ask Robert Plant! It's something besides just singing, isn't it? They have a certain presence onstage...this x-factor. [Pause] Every time I say "x-factor" now, I think of that horrible TV show here in England.
It's sort of like American Idol, right?
Right. And most of the contestants wouldn't know what a real "x-factor" was unless it was stuck up their arse!
They might not even know then.
You mention in the documentary that you never really felt comfortable as a singer for the Who until you started touring for Tommy. What was it about those songs that made the difference?
Before that album, Pete would write songs that I just couldn't inhabit. They didn't speak to me; they made me feel numb. Then, when Pete gave me the songs for Tommy, I thought, This guy is me. I was a very overtestosteroned young man who came from a tough area, so using my fists came second nature to me. When I was angry and fighting, I felt deaf, dumb and blind. I knew who he was, and those songs finally allowed me to express myself. It was a major turning point for my singing.
Did discovering that microphones with cords could double as lassos help that inarticulate feeling as well?
Oh, that just helped me bruise up my legs a lot. [Laughs] When we played, Pete was incredibly mobile and John [Entwistle] used to stand perfectly static. So I had to do something on stage that still brought the audience in without bounding about. Then I just whipped the mike around one night, and bam! It became my own symbol of joyous aggression.
What was the nuttiest thing you ever saw Keith Moon do?
Once, he got into a vicious fight with his wife and was so filled with remorse that he throws himself down this huge flight of stairs...breaking his collarbone the day before we were supposed to play on Top of the Pops. These performances are mimed to a playback, so Keith—who has on a plaster cast up to his shoulder—gets this jacket and puts a false arm in it. Then he gets "Legs" Larry Smith, who was the drummer in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, to attach fishing wire to the arm and throw the other end over the lighting rig. So there we are, playing on national television, and Keith has someone pulling this fake hand with a drumstick in it up and down from offstage. And no one noticed a thing.
Both the Who and the Rolling Stones are still out there touring. Who do you think is going to permanently retire first?
There is no reason for either of us to stop. We still love what we do, and the Stones' shows are absolutely fucking heroic. It'll come down to whoever lives the longest.
Amazing Journey premieres on VH1 Sat 3.