Nevertheless, I remember looking around the estate, the land, the lakes, the outhouses and, of course, the Manor House itself. Above the fireplace in the spacious living room was a huge oil painting of Roger’s head and shoulders, the Roger of the Tommy years, all golden curls, bare chest and suede coat with long tassels. Unlike the other three members of The Who he was a picture of health, tough-looking, without an ounce of fat, his skin healthily aglow, clearly a man who preferred the outdoors to the smoky clubs favoured by his bandmates. In this regard I remember thinking that Roger was the odd man out in The Who, slightly apart from the other three, but it was his drive and ambition that kept the wheels turning, a bit like McCartney in The Beatles and Jagger in the Stones. If Pete was the brains in The Who, John its musical muscle and Keith the engine room, Roger was its pilot. Someone had to keep a clear head up there on the bridge to steer the ship.
This is what subsequently appeared in Melody Maker, dated April 7, 1973 under the headline: GIVING IT ALL AWAY.
Next week Roger Daltrey follows in the footsteps of his Who colleagues Pete Townshend and John Entwistle by releasing his first solo album.
Most of the material on the set is written by David Courtney and Leo Sayer, and there’s little resemblance to The Who in any of the songs. It’s a quieter, relaxed Roger singing over strings and acoustic guitar. The album is called Daltrey, and there’s also a single, ‘Giving It All Away’.
“It was the Tommy opera we did with Lou Reisner that made me think seriously about a solo album,” said Roger. “It was just nice to get out of the group environment for a change and learn more about singing. I wanted to sing other people’s songs and this gave me, as a singer, a lot more scope and when I get back to signing with The Who it can only help the group.
“I definitely wanted it to be different from The Who, and I don’t think The Who would touch anything that’s on the record so therefore it doesn’t take away from The Who. I couldn’t touch any rock and roll on the record because I can’t do that any better than I can do it with The Who, or if I could then it should be done with The Who.”
Adam Faith has produced the album – a partnership that stemmed from Faith visiting the Daltrey homestead to take advantage of the studio Roger has built in his barn. “He comes from the same area of London that I came from and you could say we’re old mates. We really got on well.
“I haven’t written any material for the album myself because I wanted to see what it was like singing other people’s stuff. Hopefully I might write some for my next album, but I will really have to force myself because it doesn’t come naturally to me. Through learning things from this album, I hope it will come a lot easier. I’ve tried writing and come up with some ideas, but usually with me they never get any further.”
It’s doubtful whether the songs will ever get a live airing unless The Who try them out. Roger doubt that they will. “I feel if I did a live show with them I would be betraying The Who. The stage part of me belongs to The Who and I feel strongly about that because the main thing I care about is The Who. The songs don’t really suit chucking the mike around my head, do they?”
Roger is confident the album will sell, even though John Entwistle’s albums haven’t broken any records in this country. “I think it will do the Who some good if it’s a hit, and I think there’s a market for my album. There’s a very narrow market for John’s kind if stuff, but if mine gets airplay then I think it will do well.”
Conversation turned to The Who’s current activities – or inactivity – and Roger explained the silence we’ve experienced from this one mighty power of rock. “We’re waiting to finish the studio we’re building and then we’ll do our new album. Then we’ll be back on the road but not until we finish the new material.
“We’ve really got to change because the last few gigs we’ve done have felt meaningless to us. We’ve enjoyed them but we’ve milked all the material so much now there’s nothing more to come out of it. We’ve been criticised for playing the same stuff over and over again, but I know that whenever we do play it we do it bloody well. The other week in the Hague when we played with various other top bands I know that we showed them we were the governors.
“And you’ve got to remember that journalists who criticise see us, maybe, three times a year. The kids see us probably once in two years and that’s hard for us to understand as well.
“We needed a year off to follow our noses and we took it to do things we wanted to do on our own. We’ve been on the road for seven years now and because you are so tightly knit within the group, you lose track of things happening outside of it. It’s probably going to be difficult to get back together but I’m sure the break will have done us good.
“Whatever people say, there’s no possibility of The Who ever breaking up. We’re probably tighter now than we have ever been and more determined to do things as a band. I don’t think the kids will forget about us because we haven’t worked because we’re not that type of band.
“Even if they have forgotten I think we’ll grab them back gain. It hasn’t been that long really. Zeppelin didn’t work for 18 months once upon a time, and there’s a few others who haven’t worked for a while.
“We’ve done a bit of recording in the past year but we weren’t getting the sort of thing we were after. That’s why we built our own studio. We weren’t really happy in most of the studios we’ve worked in in London. Hopefully our own will work… we’ll have to make it work because it’s our last chance.
“I think maybe we’re a bit choosy but that’s Pete for you. I don’t give a toss where we work but I’m sure we’d be happier in our own place. We were getting an ‘Olympic’ sound with using their studio before, and I think for The Who to have an ‘Olympic’ sound is a bad thing to happen. Most bands aren’t as fussy as The Who when it comes to making records.”
The Who’s actual output over the years has been pretty small compared with some bands, but Roger maintains that everything they have recorded has been worthwhile. “That’s more than you could say for a lot of bands. We don’t believe in churning them out as quick as we can.”
Of all the artists who took part in [Lou Reisner orchestral version of] the [Tommy] opera, Roger seems to have come out the best, probably because it presented more of a challenge to him than any of the others and because he played the title role. He still talks about it with genuine enthusiasm.
“I really loved doing the opera and had a good time making it and singing it live. It was great to work with that many people. The only bad thing about it was having to do it in the Rainbow.
“I’ve always liked orchestras and this was the first time I’ve worked with one. I’ve got an offer to go to do Tommy in Australia but I don’t want to go there because I don’t like Australia. There’s a charity performance of it in New York at the end of April and I’ll do that one. The whole cast is going, I think, even Pete. I think the whole affair did an awful lot for people’s careers.
“I suppose Tommy is dragging on a bit at the moment, even though I still like it. I’d still be happy to play it on stage with The Who because for a singer it’s the most perfect piece of music to sing, but I can understand why the group got bored with it.
“It’s been dragged out by our management which isn’t our fault, but it’s supposedly for our own good, our own financial good, but is that everything?”
Lastly, I asked Roger whether he had any views on the current teenybop revolution – and whether it would overthrow groups like his own.
“Good luck to them. It’s very healthy for the business. A kid has to start somewhere and this guarantees that rock and roll is going on for another ten years. Even if they’re not singing rock and roll, it will go to rock and roll.
“Slade are rock and roll, and I think kids will move along to a gradual process, along with people like [David] Cassidy, moving to Slade and ending up at groups like the Floyd and The Who. Slade are a good band.”