Roger Daltrey Masterclass

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Thu Oct 22 10:56:21 UTC 2009

>From Staticblog:

At ACM at UCO, The Who’s Roger Daltrey Caused a Big Sensation

As soon as the video presentation showing four young English rockers in Mod gear started rolling, and president Scott Booker arrived on the Maker’s stage in Bricktown brandishing a Union Jack Wednesday night, the rumors were confirmed: Roger Daltrey, the lead singer of The Who, was the guest lecturer for the evening at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Academy of Contemporary Music.

The singer, who first began performing with guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon in The High Numbers in the early 1960s before changing their name to The Who in 1964, spent 90 minutes in a casual question-and-answer session with Booker and the ACM at UCO student body. He discussed the band’s history, the current state of the music industry, and greeted Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne, a longtime fan who saw his first Who concert in Oklahoma City in the 1970s and performed last year in as part of a “VH1 Honors” tribute in Los Angeles.

“I’m very impressed with your college — it’s fabulous,” Daltrey said as the interview began. “And well done to the Lips!”

Daltrey, who performs a solo concert Thursday night at WinStar Casino in Thackerville, talked about being a disengaged student in the 1950s, and how a BBC television report on a young American rocker changed his life.

“The only thing that saved me was I saw Elvis Presley on TV,” he said. “There was this clip of this guy singing ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and looking like something from outer space. It was just when my world changed. Something came out of the music, this drive and energy, and I thought, ‘That’s what I’m going to be.’ Pete actually wrote a song called ‘Real Good-Looking Boy,’ and it’s kind of about people who thought they could look like Elvis. And I was one of them, and all my mates thought they could look like Elvis, and of course, none of us did.”

The Who started out playing rhythm and blues before their music transformed into a powerful, muscular sound that contrasted sharply with The Beatles’ pop approach and The Rolling Stones’ loyal love affair with the blues. The Who were a rock ‘n’ roll band, first and foremost, and brought a visceral fire to songs such as “My Generation,” “I Can See For Miles,” “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” and a literary, poetic approach to the lyrics. Eventually, the band was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s loudest rock band, but the Who were not simply dealing in volume. The group is often credited with creating or perfecting the “rock opera” through concept albums such as “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia.”

While the group called it quits in the early ’80s, it reunited to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a series of concerts in 1989, and has continued to perform for occasional tours since. Moon, known for his manic drumming and excessive lifestyle, died in 1978 and Entwistle passed away in 2002, but Daltrey and Townshend continue to write and record as The Who with side musicians, including Townshend’s brother Simon, who was present at the ACM at UCO event, and drummer Zac Starkey, who is Ringo Starr’s son but was taught to drum by Moon.

For much of the band’s history, The Who was known for smashing its instruments on stage at the end of performances. Daltrey said he regretted that most journalists never reported the most important part of those smashing sessions.

“The most wonderful thing about that was, it was an art form,” Daltrey said. “What people don’t get about it, and what the journalists never wrote about, was the sound that it created. It was a total art form, it was music without space. That guitar was like an animal being slaughtered, and Pete did it with incredible artistry. It wasn’t just brutal destruction. He used to wail and howl, and Keith’s drumming would be so chaotic but perfectly in rhythm with the whole thing.”

Daltrey discussed few regrets, but told the ACM at UCO students to be careful about protecting their ears on stage. Beginning in the ’80s, Townshend suffered from tinnitus, and abstained from playing electric guitar for a few years while the ringing in his ears subsided. But Entwistle was not so lucky: Daltrey said the bassist was almost completely deaf for the last seven years of his life, and had to lean on an amplifier in order to feel The Who’s sound and stay in rhythm.

Booker asked the singer about the relationships that develop in successful rock bands. Daltrey, 65, said that in the best bands, the dynamic evolves from being just friends to being something “more than family.”

“You’re working on different levels, touching on different bits of the human journey,” he said. “I don’t know, it’s a really weird thing that happens. If any of us were in trouble, we’d probably know it without picking the phone up.”

This week, ACM at UCO performance class students, who regularly learn and perform important songs from contemporary music history, are working on The Who’s first single, 1965’s “I Can’t Explain.” Booker asked Daltrey if he had any advice for the students on how to get the most out of the song.

“No… none whatsoever,” he said. “Perform it how you feel it.”

 -Brian in Atlanta
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