April 10, 2021

Roger Daltrey: "I've always been irritated by rock fashions" – La Provincia


God bless you, Roger Daltrey. The Who fans owe a lot to their singer and 'frontman'. It is inevitable to suspect that, in the hands of Pete Townshend (absolute composer and artistic soul), The Who would have become an indigestible art experiment. And it goes without saying that led by Keith Moon they would have killed themselves (literally) within a few months.

Daltrey was the earthly one, the organized one, the mature one, the personification of proleta ethics. Who was in charge of the show and also of finances (and the van). Who threw the other three amphetamines down the toilet and broke the nap to Townshend when it got great. Daltrey turned the band into his reason for living, thus ensuring his long career. These memoirs published by the Kultrum Books, entitled 'My story' and subtitled 'Thank you, Mr. Kibblewhite' (for the director who kicked him out of the institute) combine candor, humor and sincerity to tell in first person the story of the best rock'n'roll band of the sixties (whatever the stonianos say).

You were the official proleta of the group, so to speak.
Yes. Pete and John (Entwistle) were middle class. Keith (Moon) was a currela, like me. Pete came from the environment of art schools. If the band went to hell, they could resume their studies and continue smoking joints. I had nowhere to fall dead. Keith was like me, he didn't finish his studies. Even worse than me, in fact, because he even entered high school.

In the book you play how the social class of each one was reflected in the band.
That could be seen in the Pete (Townshend) guitar destruction ritual. For me it was a great emotional blow. I couldn't help remembering how hard I had to work to buy my first guitar. And, further back, the inventiveness that I had to develop to make one, when I had no means to acquire a real one. In the sixties, guitars were worth a small fortune. Pete was breaking a Rickenbacker at each concert. On the other hand, that ritual was providing us with unparalleled notoriety.

Your personality clashes were famous.
We were completely different people but, at the same time, our functions within the band were also. I was the oldest and the founder, and I was the first to get my driving license. It was I who took them from one concert to another, so I acquired an added responsibility. I became the father figure of the group. Or maternal (laughs). I don't think others felt that responsibility. They got drunk, took pills, smoked, but I had to drive back. My work ethic distanced us from the beginning. Not that they were lazy. It's just that his role was more relaxed. Since we talked about social class, I had to acquire responsibilities very early. At fifteen I was expelled from school. Two months later he was the tea boy in an Acton factory. Another month, and I already made the sandwiches myself to get me some bitches. I've always been a small entrepreneur (laughs).

One of the things that attracted me from the beginning of The Who was latent violence. In the book you affirm that you inherited that anger from the previous generation.
Indeed. Our parents lived through the Second World War, all their efforts were focused on overcoming the war and not falling apart. Those people lived the blitz, among other things, was on the battlefields of France. But when they returned they didn't start communicating. No one treated them for war psychosis. My generation grew up in the middle of the silence, and that made us incredibly frustrated teenagers, and then angry. We had to open a path, otherwise we would be swallowed in the mountain of mediocrity that seemed like their lives.

The band seemed to live in a state of constant tension.
That tension multiplied by a thousand when Keith Moon entered. We used to say that our music should have "momentum." We wanted our audience to kick through the ground. When we played, we destroyed (literally) our music for our audience. We imagined them as our enemy. An enemy army (of men, because there were always many more men than women) that we had to go through in order to escape. When the concert was over we had put them in our pocket.

Pete Townshend used to say that The Who made anti-adult music.
We all thought the same. It was anti-parents and anti-middle class. We were fed up with his silence. We were fed up with his world in black and white. England in the late 50s and early 60s was a world without color, very gray. People forget that we had just left the rationing. Food, clothes € We wanted to live in another world. One better.

Nik Cohn always says that the great secret of Swinging London (or London London) is that it had very little gear.
I do not care what Cohn says, I think that London was "swinging", what happens is that the thing did not start around 1964. It was when the mod movement began to gain strength in London. From that year on the atmosphere changed, everything became much cooler and new. Things began to seem possible.

You claim that Townshend became a "real mod", but he has always said he used the mods to create a voice and get a loyal audience.
If it was not mod, at least it was much more mod than I have ever been (laughs). I never did very well all that. For starters, you can't be mod with curly hair (laughs).

That said, you were very painter, you had even been a tailor. That is quite mod.
I loved good clothes, that's true. And fashion. But I didn't like that roll that the mods of losing my ass for her carried. I liked to invent my style, whether or not it was in vogue. I have always been irritated by fashion. That whole Rock'n'Roll Hall ofFame business makes me sick. In his day I hated the way rock was generating his own uniform. The other day I was watching videos of the Download Festival and all the groups dressed exactly the same. (laughs) The shirt made of dust, the mane, the leather € The guitar solos all sounded the same; The same with the cries of the singers. I thought it was a festival of seconds. And I said to myself: what the hell happened here? I have always opposed that. I see it as a kind of death. A very unimaginative death.

You compare your adoption of the mod roll with the way Dean Martin clung to his drinking image.
Yes. Dean Martin used to bring glasses full of apple juice. It was his wink, his personal touch. For us, the mod was a way of standing out from the crowd. We were lucky to connect with that source of energy that emerged from South London. We were lucky they decided to adopt us. Good luck.

In the book you quote the exact date you divorced the cult: December 3, 1965.
On that date we gave our last concert at the Goldhawk Road Social Club, which was a mod temple and the place where we had been a longtime resident band. We grew up there. But there came a time when we transcended all that. From the beginning, ours was something different, not only from the Motown style that the mods liked, but from the rest of the pop of the moment. What we did was more mature, less friendly. And in 1965 we were no longer teenagers. I was already twenty-one years old. We were going in another direction. When we did 'Tommy' I was already 25, and by the time 'Who's next' and 'Quadrophenia' were a thirties. By the time 'The Who by numbers' arrived we were fully in the midlife crisis, married and with children. Our desires and needs and concerns were completely different than when we started.

You claim that Townshend became a "real mod", but he has always said he used the mods to create a voice and get a loyal audience.
If it was not mod, at least it was much more mod than I have ever been (laughs). I never did very well all that. For starters, you can't be mod with curly hair (laughs).

That said, you were very painter, you had even been a tailor. That is quite mod.
I loved good clothes, that's true. And fashion. But I didn't like that roll that the mods of losing my ass for her carried. I liked to invent my style, whether or not it was in vogue. I have always been irritated by fashion. That whole Rock'n'Roll Hall ofFame business makes me sick. In his day I hated the way rock was generating his own uniform. The other day I was watching videos of the Download Festival and all the groups dressed exactly the same. (laughs) The shirt made of dust, the mane, the leather € The guitar solos all sounded the same; The same with the cries of the singers. I thought it was a festival of seconds. And I said to myself: what the hell happened here? I have always opposed that. I see it as a kind of death. A very unimaginative death.

You compare your adoption of the mod roll with the way Dean Martin clung to his drinking image.
Yes. Dean Martin used to bring glasses full of apple juice. It was his wink, his personal touch. For us, the mod was a way of standing out from the crowd. We were lucky to connect with that source of energy that emerged from South London. We were lucky they decided to adopt us. Good luck.

In the book you quote the exact date you divorced the cult: December 3, 1965.
On that date we gave our last concert at the Goldhawk Road Social Club, which was a mod temple and the place where we had been a longtime resident band. We grew up there. But there came a time when we transcended all that. From the beginning, ours was something different, not only from the Motown style that the mods liked, but from the rest of the pop of the moment. What we did was more mature, less friendly. And in 1965 we were no longer teenagers. I was already twenty-one years old. We were going in another direction. When we did 'Tommy' I was already 25, and by the time 'Who's next' and 'Quadrophenia' were a thirties. By the time 'The Who by numbers' arrived we were fully in the midlife crisis, married and with children. Our desires and needs and concerns were completely different than when we started.

Sometimes I imagine what The Who would be like if one of the two had been missing. Without you the band would have leaned towards Pete's 'arty' ravings, but without him you might not have abandoned the path of muscular R&B.
It's like the question of whether it was the egg or the chicken first (laughs). The Who would not have existed without Pete, and would not have existed without me, and in addition I do not think they would have been the same without John or Keith. The combination of the four was a magical chemistry. It worked. I was the singer of the band and almost never saw them; They were behind me. What I received from them was a sensation. The first time I heard the sound that Pete took from the Rickenbacker I knew it was special. You cannot put or remove members of The Who. It would not be the same.

Keith Moon has gone down in history for being a horny, but in the book you remind us of the shattered hotels, the firecracker that almost leaves Pete deaf, the gender violence, the sluggish curds € Sounds insufferable.
Keith Moon could be the most incredibly wonderful guy in the world, and soon he was absolutely horrible. In a span of thirty minutes (laughs). At the same time, you couldn't help loving him. He was like a damaged child. I had something. A magical quality that made you forgive all its failures.

They must be most annoying, all those betrayals.
Well, no. Quite the opposite. It was always exciting. I kept you on guard.

One of the great omissions of the book is 'Quadrophenia'. I was surprised that you didn't talk about her.
I love songs, and as a piece of music it is fantastic in many moments, but I never felt mine the way I felt 'Tommy'. 'Quadrophenia' is largely a Pete project. His vision. Pete still believes that it is his definitive work, his best work, but the truth is that I disagree. I think Tommy is more consistent. 'Quadrophenia' has many holes. For starters, the story (that weekend in the life of a mod called Jimmy) doesn't have much to do with music. It seems bombastic. The recent productions of 'Quadrophenia' only worsen that aspect, like the latest version of classical music. In my opinion, converting that album into a purely symphonic piece is a great error of judgment. You can't tear the rock out of 'Quadrophenia'. It is nonsense. You can add an orchestra to a rock'n'roll band, but you can't leave the orchestra alone. It is silly. I still find it a mystery why someone wanted to hear something like that. Pete is obsessed with turning 'Quadrophenia' into the artistic success that was 'Tommy', but they just aren't at the same height.

When talking about the end of the 70s, you don't touch a phenomenon that you had to perceive through noses: punk rock. As a representative of the previous generation, did you find it wonderful or sensational shit?
The two things (laughs). I found it crap and great at the same time. We had been giving the callus for about thirteen years, and we thought it was fantastic to see a new generation being born inventing its own roll. I loved the Sex Pistols, TheDamned and, of course, The Clash. But at the same time in that generation there were a lot of shit groups.

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