Who Are Who or What Was That You Hoped?
Who Are You or What Was That You Hoped?
By Mike Tomano
March 1, 2022
© 2022 Fossil Entertainment Group
On March 1st, 2022, Roger Daltrey, the iconic singer for The Mighty ‘Oo , responsible for some of Rocks’ most enduring moments with his partner, and sometime nemesis, rock mastermind Pete Townshend, turned 78.
Somethin’ ‘bout those English rock giants. Most of my favorite bands are British, from The Who to Led Zeppelin to The Damned to Roxy Music to David Bowie. The limeys just do it right, man.
My initiation to The Who was in Second Grade at St. Jane de Chantal school on Chicago’s south side. While we learned what second-graders learn, our teacher, Sister Joanne, played the soundtrack to Tommy, as well as Elton John’s Greatest Hits, pretty much every day. I knew every song from both albums by heart. On the days she was hung over or just pissed off, she would deny us Elton or Tommy¸ and instead spank the whole class or scream and cry for the duration of the school day.
The Tommy motion picture soundtrack made its way under my Christmas tree that year. Eventually I got Elton John’s Greatest Hits, as well. Ol’ Sis Jo had quite the impact on me, both musically and physically. Even at that young age (what age are we in second grade? Five or six?) I could sense our nun had issues deeper than tots talking or laughing too much in class. I mean, this was the early 70s, not like today when kids that age are bringing guns and heroin to class. I didn’t like her much, because of the frequent screaming and yelling, which has always been a turn-off for me, but I loved listening to those albums, the same two, every day. Still, I felt pity for her miserableness. How devastating a melancholia that can’t be cured by Tina Turner belting out “The Acid Queen” or Not-Yet-But-Relatively-Soon-To-Be-Sir Elton leading us in sing-a-long to “B-B-B-Bennie and The Jets,” (which I was sure included the lyrics “she’s got electric boobs.”)
My love for The Who never waned. I still revisit their albums on a regular basis. There was a time when I couldn’t listen to Who’s Next due to “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Baba O’Riley,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” getting nauseatingly overplayed on Chicago classic rock radio stations in the 70s and 80s; however, now I revisit the masterpiece in its entirety a few times a year. Sublime.
Ladies & Gentlemen, The Fucking Who. Punk before Punk. Pure energy. They put the excess in Rock and Roll success. Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Keith Moon, and Roger Daltrey. High Priests in the Church of High-Decibel Mayhem. The Four Musketeers of Shitty Attitudes. Rock and Roll, Baby.
Pete Townshend, the visionary behind Tommy and Quadrophenia, and composer of some of the most intelligent songs in the Rock pantheon. From the amphetamine-crazed mod to elder statesman of a generation, Pete continues to love music and art, committing his life, and at times sanity, to a never-ending quest for total expression through power-chords and poetry. The man who told Abbie Hoffman to get the fuck off his fucking stage at Woodstock. The windmilling guitar wizard. Smashing ‘em up and driving their jagged necks through his amps. Young misanthrope to observant sage. We still have Pete and, though he has stated his reluctance to record a new album, he still has lots to say.
John Alec Entwistle. “The Ox”. “Thunderfingers.” A master musician who I had the pleasure of interviewing back in 1996 when he played a show at Chicago’s Park West. Cited as an influence by almost every major bass player, John’s work on four-strings defied the limitations of the instrument. He was the only member of The Who with a musical education, taking piano lessons at a young age and going on to play French horn in his school’s orchestra. On bass, he was peerless. He was also a terrific songwriter, penning Who classics such as “My Wife” and “Boris the Spider.” When I talked to Entwistle, he pointed out that he solely provided a rhythm section for The Who, as Keith’s playing was far from “in-the-pocket,” his timing erratic and his approach unpredictable. John died on June 27th, 2002, on the eve of the band’s United States Tour. In sad, albeit Rock and Roll, terms, he honored tradition with a hookers-n-blow send-off.
Keith Moon was an early drum hero of mine. Unlike other skin-bashers, Moon’s playing was impossible for me to figure out. I might not have been able to replicate all the Ginger Baker and John Bonham licks on my kit, but I could understand what they were doing by the time I had a few lessons under my belt. When I eventually saw Keith play (in the 1979 documentary The Kids Are Alright), I could tell he was an unschooled musician, his fury behind the kit a naturally wild reaction to his bandmates’ din. I realized that my difficulty in figuring out what he played might have stemmed from the very likely probability that he couldn’t figure out what he played. Drum snobs often dump on Moonie. They just don’t get it. Keith played the drums like a beast, in a pure, primitive fashion, which is as valid, if not quite as honorable, as years of honing technique.
Roger Daltrey. Golden-locked Rock God. The voice to Pete Townshend’s genius lyrics and front-man to one of the greatest bands in history. What’s not to love? With his boyish smile and angular handsomeness, Roger was the heartthrob of The Who. Hardly the stellar achievement, considering the brooding, borderline sinister, mugs of his cohorts, and by the time Tommy was a film and his tresses touched his shoulders, photos of Daltrey were the ones plastered on the bedroom walls of teenage girls. By the mid-70s, Daltrey was a Rock Star and a Movie Star, having played the title role in Ken Russell’s bizarro film adaptation of the rock opera. (I wonder what Sister Joanne thought of the film, and did she rock her habit at the screening? Alas, these questions will remain unanswered.)
The film is a guilty-pleasure timepiece, for sure. The decadent indulgence of it all, including Ann-Margret’s ecstatic writhing in an eruption of baked beans and Oliver Reed’s gloriously horrific singing make it worthwhile.
As a vocalist, Daltrey added a street-fighting sneer to early tunes and an authoritative power to latter anthems. Put to the task of boiling the essence of Rock and Roll down to a singular moment, one would be hard-pressed to top Roger’s “Yeeeeaaaaaah!” crescendo in “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Has the disillusionment of youth ever been more accurately portrayed than Roger’s stuttering delivery of “My Generation”?
The Who, Baby. Not many can touch ‘em. Pete and Roger are still with us. So are Paul and Ringo, for that matter. The Who are missing a bassist and a drummer. The Beatles, a guitarist and vocalist. The chance for that supergroup, The Whotles, is improbable, but as we age and watch the artists that shaped our lives join the ether, it’s nice to know we still have some elder club-members hangin’ on.
Hell, Keith Richards may outlast us all, ridin’ off into a post-nuclear sunset astride a glowing mutant cockroach, whippin’ his headscarf in the air singin’ a medley of Muddy Waters tunes.
Townshend is 76, collaborating with his beautiful, talented, and much younger wife, Rachel Fuller. Entwistle’s playing his French horn on a cloud, having exited the eternal stage door at 57, not old by any means, but far-past spring chickendom. Moon The Loon? Accidental overdose on medicine to treat his alcoholism in ’78 at the age of 32. Ain’t that a bitch? And Rog is 78, trout fishing and relishing his legacy. He’s expressed disdain at the current state of the music industry, all but puttin’ the kibosh on hopes for new music. He has, however, assumed role as executive producer, along with Townshend, on the upcoming biopic of Keith Moon, "The Real Me."
What's left of The Who will continue to tour this year, bless ‘em.
Roger Daltrey once sang, “I hope I die before I get old!”
Keith Moon said, “’old me brandy, dear boy!”
Long Live Rock!
Be it dead or alive.
Happy Birthday, Roger.