Roger interview in The Times - Part One

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Sat May 3 07:21:23 CDT 2008

May 1, 2008
Roger Daltrey: homoeopathy saved my baby's life 
by John Naish

This is rock'n'roll central - a penthouse office festooned with the relics of
a classic band: platinum discs, signed posters, original album artworks and
tour-bus photos cover the walls. On a stuffed leather sofa sits The Who's
iconic frontman, Roger Daltrey, his compact frame taut with energy as he
holds forth . . . about teenage cancer, running a gym, shunning drugs,
country walking and the day homoeopathy saved his baby's life.

Daltrey, 64, is the veteran embodiment of a wasted era, surviving days and
ways that left many wild guys in bodybags or asylums. But the former
sheet-metal worker who sang of sex, drugs, gender-bending - and My
Generation's notorious anthemic line, “Hope I die before I get old”, has
always been staunch about health and fitness. Nowadays this passion drives
his energetic support for the Teenage Cancer Trust, a charity that builds
specially designed units for NHS hospitals where adolescents can face
life-threatening illness in surroundings so welcoming, supportive and
familiar that it may significantly boost their survival rates.

The charity staged its high-profile annual event last month; six days of
fundraising concerts at the Albert Hall including generation-spanning music
from the likes of Madness and the Fratellis. But now, behind the glamour,
the serious hard work starts again - building five new units this year, to
add to the five that already exist. It has to be done in the face of an
often obstructive health service, says Daltrey, his laser-blue gaze fixed
with frustration. “There are so many hurdles to jump to get everyone to
accept that they need a teenage cancer unit. The people in the hierarchies,
everyone's fighting their corner. It seems that they can lose sight of the
patients; the people become numbers.

“It takes from three to five years to get through the bureaucracy and get one
unit installed. By the time we've done that the bloody price has doubled.
Ridiculous!” He throws up his arms and laughs loudly, flashing his pearlies
in a toothpaste-ad smile.

He's in great nick for a 64-year-old

The first impression of Daltrey has to be his height (5ft 6-ish), but it's
quickly displaced by his room-filling expansiveness - a wide-open cocksure
affability with just a shard of don't-mess, like a friendly clap on the back
from a Kray twin. He's looking tanned, fit and in better nick than his
fellow 64-year-old rock stars, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (well, OK,
everyone looks better than Richards).

He's also constantly animated, sitting back and forward on the sofa as he
pushes the cancer trust's case. “It's not thinking about how to deal with
medical issues - the hospitals' clinical staff do that. We provide an
environment that is fitted to the people that enter it.

“Through that alone, we are getting a 15 per cent to 20 per cent improvement
in outcomes. That's the psychological impact of how you treat a patient. If
you could offer the NHS a drug that had a 20 per cent improvement in
survival rates, they would throw money all over you. But it's a drug-related
culture, and they don't appreciate the environmental approach we are taking.
We let the teenagers do the designing. It has to be designed so that the
clinicians can work, but the teenagers come up with the things that they
want. The décor, we let them do it. They're the experts. It's amazing how
much having a kitchen means to them, cooking their own food, and having
their own dayroom. They can stay up all night - there aren't all these
rules. We try to give these kids a positive experience of hospital.”

Daltrey's family doctor started the charity, but eight years ago he stepped in
to give serious help when he realised that some stardust could boost the
vital fundraising profile. “I thought, ‘Get out there, Roger, do it'.”

Surely though, the motivation to help teenagers must go deeper? Public
introspection doesn't sit easily with Daltrey's eternal-geezer outlook, but
he's willing to give it a go: “I've had cancer in my family, but it's
nothing to do with that. I look at my life, I've been so privileged, I've
won the lottery every day, making music and being paid to do it. Without
teenagers back then, it would never have happened. They were there for me,
now I'm there for them.”

 -Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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