Roger interview in The Times - Part Two

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Sat May 3 07:22:08 CDT 2008

I wonder if he's had any health scares himself. He shrugs. “My health's good.
I have stomach problems, but I manage them. I swallowed a nail when I was 4
and had to have it surgically removed. The operating techniques were very
basic. My dad and I were playing a little game, ‘Hide the nail', and I
thought, ‘I'll get him'. So I ate the nail. The surgery caused a lot of
scarring.” How does he manage his stomach problems? “Alternative medicines.
Oh, you name it, I've done it. My experience of alternative medicines is
that they all work for certain people. You are unique and you have to find
the right thing for you. But, of course, alternative therapy is up against
huge vested interests.”

What got him into complementary therapies? He gazes into his palms, then says:
“I had a very, very dramatic experience with my son when he was nine months
old. He had gastro difficulties, started throwing up, could not keep any
food down and turned into skin and bone. At the hospital, they did every
test to him, and in the end they just handed him back to me. My wife and I
were in bits. My poor baby. The kid was dying. It was terrifying. I thought,
there's got to be something. I'd heard of homoeopathy, so I found a local
guy in the Yellow Pages and took my boy there. He gave him some powders.
Within two weeks he was putting weight on, keeping the food down. The
trouble recurred periodically for a couple of years, but he's now 27, a fit
and healthy young man.

“The bizarre thing is that I've got a chiropractor friend in LA whose baby
landed up in exactly the same state. He thought he was about to lose him.
But I recommended homoeopathic remedies, and he recovered too. That's God's
honest truth. Now I bet doctors would say, ‘Oh they'd have got better
anyway'. But I can't believe that.”

Daltrey has long harboured other health interests. As one of the original
1960s open-shirt rock shouters, he made a career of flashing his honed pecs
and abs. He's still whip-tight now. But asked about his fitness regime, he
claims: “I'm pretty lazy. I used to run and I used to do a few light
weights. But what made me fit was the stage shows. Those early Who shows
were like intense aerobic sessions. You don't have to diet if you're doing
Hmm, but didn't he open one of Britain's first ever lifestyle-friendly gyms -
a far cry from the old-school macho sweatboxes that still dominated in the
Seventies? “Oh, the gym - that was a waste of bloody money. I'm not a good
businessman,” he laughs. “Gyms were taking off in America. They were
wonderfully social. There are not many social things to do in England, apart
from the pub. I thought, ‘This is something that could really take off.'
Sadly, it was hard to inspire people to pay money to stay fit. The NHS does
great things but it has created a psychology where people think that
healthiness is, and should be, free. It ain't, mate. We're all paying an arm
and a leg in taxes. People kind of think that their bodies aren't their
business, that the NHS should pay for maintaining them.”

Health-freak rock'n'roller

Daltrey was also ahead of his time in being a health-freak rock'n'roller,
which is undoubtedly why he is one of The Who's two original surviving
members. The drummer Keith Moon died in 1978 after overdosing on
Herminevrin, prescribed to help the symptoms of alcoholism, and the bassist
John Entwistle died in 2002 of a heart attack in which cocaine was a factor.

Daltrey's refusal to binge on drugs, though, often meant cutting a solitary
figure on the hedonistic tour circuit. “I did try some of the drugs, but
singers need to be incredibly fit. I wanted to be a good singer, and I could
not do it with drugs inside me. It was lonely, especially through the
cocaine snowstorm that was the 1980s. All around me, people's personalities
were changing. And everyone becomes incredibly dull on cocaine.” But then,
Daltrey has always considered himself an outsider. “From early on I saw the
tribe of rock'n'roll as silly, because no one was being an individual. It
was too easy to be a part of that. I wanted to be more, to do it on my own
terms, rather than doing what you were supposed to do.”

It helped, too, that he left the whirl of London to live a stable country life
with his family in Sussex. “I was lucky in the 1970s to move out to a place
where I had space for my head - and I found the highest high out there. I
always loved space. I must have been 4 years old, playing on the bombsites
in London, but I called it ‘running away to the country'. Now I love walking
on the Sussex Weald. People think the South is crowded, but if you go
walking around there, you see views and views and views.”

Daltrey's been married to his second wife, Heather (mother to four of his
children), for 37 years. There's no secret to the relationship's success, he
says. “It's my wife. She puts up with me. People aren't supposed to be
married that long, but she's an angel. So it's easy. I've not been any model
husband” - he casts around the room, at the floor - “I've always been open
about our relationship. But I'm very proud and happy to be still together. I
still look at women.” He bursts into laughter. “Yeah, I still admire a
well-turned ankle. But that's the bloke in me.”

What about his other long-term relationship, with The Who's guitarist Pete
Townshend? Does he fret about his fellow survivor's wellbeing? “Nah, he has
an incredibly strong constitution. Despite all the stories about acrimony,
we do get on very well. It's a very affectionate relationship. We've been
working together for 45 years now, so don't ever try to get between us. But
we have got completely separate heads. The band is my life and it is all I
ever wanted out of my career. For Pete, it's just a section of his work, so
there's two different agendas.”

No thoughts of retirement, then? “My voice is better than ever. I've got more
control with it and I can do more things,” he says, entirely untroubled by
self-doubt. “At my age I can start to do things on my terms. I need to keep

The interview's drawing to a close, so I risk asking something that may just
vex Daltrey beyond endurance. Doesn't he get riled by journalists constantly
quoting, “Hope I die before I get old” at him in the light of the band's
deaths, his work with teenage cancer and his own advancing years? “What?” he
says, bolt upright. “No!” Then he relaxes. “I still believe those words. It
depends how you define ‘age'. Some of the youngest people I've met are not
young in years, but young in their mind. And I've met some really old
25-year-olds. It's about people who've kept their souls - it is a spiritual
thing. I will go on singing that line - and f*** anyone who disagrees!” 

 -Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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