Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 3rd 2018
At 70-plus, he's still got it
Roger Daltrey is the lead singer of The Who, the band that took the sixties by storm and then made incredible music in the seventies, and somehow, despite the deaths of two members, still perform now, more than fifty years later. When I heard he had an autobiography coming out, I put an order in for it. And then I found he had a new album as well. An album and an autobiography. Quite the year for Mr Daltrey! So, let's look at them, shall we?
Roger Daltrey in 2015 (from Wikipedia)
As Long As I Have You (the album)
The Who prided themselves on being "Maximum R&B" (the name of one of their many compilation albums), and started their life as the High Numbers, featuring mainly cover versions of blues, r&b and soul tracks. Well, for Daltrey's first studio solo album in a very long time, he's gone back to those old songs. I got it as soon as I realised he'd released it… which was when I bought a copy of his autobiography (to follow).
Disclaimer: I am an unabashed The Who fan. Who's Next is one of the seminal classic rock albums and Tommy wrote the template for rock concept albums. But, more than that, Under A Raging Moon is one of the very few albums I have bought where I consider every single song a great one. Not one track isn't awesome. Sure, for modern audiences it may be of its time, but for me – it is nothing short of superb, and the tribute to Keith Moon with all the guest drummers… the shivers last for a long, long time.
So, I came into the album with high hopes. I did not know a thing about it before I listened to it, and I wrote the first draft of this on second listening. I did discover a few things afterwards, and so I have added info as I see fit, but those first impressions… yeah, here they are.
As regular readers know, I only review and talk about stuff I like, so you already know I like this. Here is the song by song break-down.
As Long As I Have You is the opening track and set a nice sort of throw-back soul track, but amped up in Daltrey style. Straight away, the voice has not lost anything. I think I'm going to enjoy this. I typed that on first listen, by the way.
From the Graham Norton Show
How Far keeps the tempo up, but is not a carbon copy of the first track. It is, in fact, an old Stephen Stills folk song beefed up satisfyingly.
Where Is A Man To Go? is the old Dusty Springfield song, here given a masculine make-over. The choir is a very nice touch.
Get On Out Of The Rain follows and this album is sounding like a masterclass in soulful singing that many modern-day singers should take note of. This updated version of the old Parliament song is one of the strongest on the album.
I've Got Your Love slows things down nicely without being mawkish.
Into My Arms stays slow as he covers the old Nick Cave song with near Johnny Cash emotion, making it his own. Wow. I didn't think anyone could do that. Another of the highlights on the album.
You Haven't Done Nothing starts to up the tempo again, with a nice guitar turn, but it was just there. Not bad, but not great. However, I have to say, the placement of songs shows that the art of making an actual album has not died yet. This is not just a collection of songs, but the tracks have been placed in order well. (Reading the book, I discovered he feels the same way about a live set. Nice.)
Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind didn't really resonate with me.
Certified Rose, one of 2 original tracks, was okay. It's about his daughter, and the emotion is evident, but it lacks a certain 'oomph'. The first half of the album is stronger than the second half.
The Love You Save is an old Joe Tex song, and Daltrey's cover is pretty straightforward, which is not a bad thing. I liked this song.
Always Heading Home closes out the album, the second of the original songs. It is an awesome way to close out the album. It is from the heart, all strings and piano, standing out against the soul of the rest of the album. This is so clearly autobiographical it is almost painful. I think this is my favourite track on the album.
Okay, this is a very good album. There is talk this was mooted as a potential Who album at one point, but I don't think it would have worked the same. This was Daltrey's baby, and I'm glad it remained so. The backing band is as tight as anything (and Pete Townshend appears on 7 of the 12 songs anyway!) and they sound great. But the main thing is that Daltrey has not lost his voice. He still has that intangible "it". And on this album, it does powerful to sublime. How many other 70-plus year old men could do this? And do it so damn well?
We start with trying to work out when a back was broken, and straight away you get the idea that Daltrey's life has not been exactly a bed of roses. I like that opening, by the way. The tone is set in the first chapter, as well. It sounds like an old guy chatting at the pub. Little asides about kids today, talking about his generation in glowing terms, bringing up family highlights – I can imagine having Daltrey saying all of this over a few pints at the local.
That, by the way, is a good thing. It makes this such an easy read.
Of course, some of his little asides I agree with. "It's one of the sadnesses of modern life that no one sings like that any more." Here he bemoans the way people don't sing on the job any longer but rely on recorded music exclusively. There's something about singing together as a group that brings people together. I found that out in a few odd places, that singing together is a great equaliser and brings people together who otherwise might not have done so, but that is by the by – I agree with him, that's all.
Sorry, back to the book. Within 50 pages, we've got through all the preliminaries of growing up, being kicked out of school and working and suddenly we're with the Detours, featuring three-quarters of what would become The Who. I have to say, I like that. Yes, books like Clapton's autobiography, focus a lot on the troubled childhood, but I'm glad Daltrey isn't doing the "woe is me, my life was crap" thing. Already I like this.
100 pages in and he's been kicked out of The Who. There is no let up in the narrative. Bang, bang, bang – this is it what happened. Now, normally, I find books like this a little superficial and off-putting (I could name 3 rock autobiographies that do this) but the way he is so honest and self-deprecating without glossing over anything makes it so readable. And this is clearly a warts and all story of The Who. No sugar-coating here.
We go through meeting the woman who was to become his second wife – a woman he was still married to at time of writing (and so, as of my writing, is still married to!) – the first proper tour of the USA, the first hints of financial and management issues, and we first see Keith Moon be the loon. This section felt way too rushed. I discovered why they felt the need to avoid Australia for so long but the genesis of what became Tommy also felt too rushed. Maybe I want more of the musician minutiae.
He certainly paints Woodstock in a different light to many, and now we see the drugs in management and Keith being a lunatic. And then he marries Heather and buys the house he still lives in today. In 1971! And he even told her he might well be occasionally unfaithful… and she still married him. He clearly found an awesome woman there.
Then we go through Who's Next, stemming from Lifehouse (which, when it did see the light of day many years later, I spent a huge amount of money buying a copy – 6 CDs… maybe 8 – from the UK and importing it to Australia; and despite what my then-wife thought, it was worth it; it is superb and brilliant and I'm glad it didn't work in 1971 because then we would never have had Who's Next… and I'm waffling). And then comes Daltrey, the solo album, and new managers. He paints Lambert and Stamp as very unpleasant, incompetent managers. Daltrey says they weren't bad managers, but, well… that's not how it reads.
Then we hit Quadrophenia and the filming of Tommy, then Lisztomania, and a quote I love: "Life isn't a play, it's an opera." The amount of music references in my works and especially my poetry shows where I sit on that scale… And, anyway, what Daltrey did with the Styrofoam penis is hilarious.
And then Keith Moon died. And so did The Who. At least, it went into a coma. It reads rather sad but strangely muted. We then skip through the 80s, which means skipping any mention of my favourite Daltrey solo album (Under A Raging Moon). I understand there was no The Who and that things were dull for him, but – dammit! – I feel cheated.
And then we jump through getting the band back together (TM The Blues Brothers) and then John Entwhistle died and Pete Townshend was arrested and exonerated. And in these cases, I'm glad it wasn't harped on. It didn't feel mawkish, but you can tell in this passage the affection Daltrey has for Townshend. We finally wrap it up with some nice mentions of the under-rated Endless Wire album (I like it, at least), a bout of viral meningitis and then a reflective look back. The End.
I think one of the main things about the book is that the writing style is something I like. Much of my own (fiction) work is written in a similar, laid-back style to this, so I guess it also validates me mentally. But that is a little personal peccadillo. And while we're talking personal, I'd like to point out that The Who were the reason I never took music as seriously in the playing as I might have. I could never be that good, and I was disheartened by them. But I love the music anyway.
Anyway, Clapton's is still the best music autobiography I've ever read. However, this has a different tone. This is a celebration of a life, good and bad, and that is very rare in any autobiography. This is a man at peace with himself and his past and what he has done. This is a man who is – dare I say it – happy. And, really, what a life!
So, there you have it – Roger Daltrey in 2018. I would recommend both of these without hesitation. And The Who is still one of my favourite bands of all time.