The Who lead singer Roger Daltrey forged a parallel solo career beginning in 1973, when the group had begun to fall apart in the aftermath of Quadrophenia. Born March 1, 1944 in London, Daltrey grew up in the same Shepherd’s Bush neighborhood as future Who bandmates Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, performing with them as the Detours as early as his late teen years. Over time, Daltrey developed into one of rock’s most powerful lead vocalists, a position to which he staked his claim on the Who’s 1971 masterpiece Who’s Next; his on-stage persona was one of macho swagger, accompanied by such antics as twirling his microphone like a lasso.
Opera, Blood, and Teara
The Life You Give: Roger Daltrey
in celebration of his life in music
March 1 at 3pm EST
Daltrey first traveled the solo route in 1973 with an album titled simply Daltrey, featuring mostly material penned by a then-unknown Leo Sayer that served as a departure from the Who’s signature hard rock sound. The Who reconvened for The Who by Numbers in 1975, a year that saw Daltrey release his second solo album, Ride a Rock Horse, and appear in Ken Russell’s films Lisztomania (as composer Franz Liszt) and an adaptation of Tommy (in the title role). While the Who went on hiatus for several years, Daltrey released One of the Boys in 1977 and appeared in the 1978 film The Legacy. During the Who’s post-Keith Moon era, Daltrey co-produced and starred in the film McVicar, a biography of train robber John McVicar; members of the Who appeared on its soundtrack, which essentially served as a full-fledged Daltrey album and found him bridging the gap between hard rock and the pop songs of his earlier solo work. After the Who officially disbanded in 1983, Daltrey’s solo albums became uniformly hard-rocking affairs, most notable among them 1985’s Under a Raging Moon. In addition to the Who’s 1989 reunion tour, Daltrey continued to act in occasional television and film roles, as well as releasing the solo album Rocks in the Head in 1992.
A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and the Who
To celebrate turning 50, Daltrey played two nights at Carnegie Hall in 1994 and the recordings were issued later that year as A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and the Who, with a companion DVD surfacing in 1998. In 1999 he performed alongside artists such as Darlene Love and Zak Starkey at a Royal Albert Hall show by an act billed as the British Rock Symphony. Fueled by a full orchestra and gospel choir, the set list consisted of classic material originally performed by the Who and their contemporaries. A related studio album followed, as did wider European and U.S. tours, before a live DVD appeared in 2000. Daltrey returned to the Albert Hall in November 2000 for the inaugural Teenage Cancer Trust benefit show. He became a patron of the charity, overseeing a run of yearly star-studded events at the venue that lasted well into the next decade.
In May 2006 he performed “Highbury Highs,” a song especially written for a ceremony to mark Arsenal’s final football game at the Highbury Stadium in North London. By 2009, he was touring the U.S. once again with a lineup that included Pete Townshend’s brother Simon, and Daltrey retained this band for a 2011 Teenage Cancer Trust performance of Tommy. In November 2013, a mere six months after his friend and former Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Daltrey accompanied him on sessions for an album entitled Going Back Home. Featuring reinterpretations of material from throughout Johnson’s career, the record was launched with a gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in February 2014. He continued his charity efforts by recording a cover of Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door,” of which all sales proceeds benefited Teen Cancer America.
As Long as I Have You
In the midst of a 2014-2016 anniversary tour with the Who, Daltrey recorded his next album, which arrived in 2018. As Long as I Have You (Polydor) featured Townshend on guitar, Mick Talbot on keys, and Sean Genockey on guitar. In addition to new songs, the set also included covers of songs by Nick Cave, Stevie Wonder, Stephen Stills, and more.
by Steve Huey / Source: Britannica
Tommy is the fourth album by the English rock band The Who, released by Track and Polydor in the United Kingdom and Decca and MCA in the United States. A double album telling a loose story about a “deaf, dumb, and blind boy” who becomes the leader of a messianic movement, Tommy was the first musical work to be billed overtly as a rock opera. Released in 1969, the album was mostly composed by guitarist Pete Townshend. In 1998 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant” value.
The opera was written to express how Townshend felt after being taught by Meher Baba and other writings and expressing the enlightenment he believes he received — “a metaphorical story of different states of consciousness.”
Tommy Walker: The main character of the story, from whom the album gets its name.
Captain Walker: Tommy’s father.
Mrs. Walker: Tommy’s mother. (First name given as Nora in the film version)
The Lover: a romantic partner of Tommy’s mother. (Uncle Frank Hobbs in the film version)
Uncle Ernie: Tommy’s “wicked uncle”, a paedophile. The de facto antagonist
Cousin Kevin: Tommy’s cousin, the sadistic “school bully” who brutalizes Tommy when left at home with him. The de facto antagonist
The Hawker: The leader of a cult, where Tommy’s mother takes him in hope for a cure for his affliction.
Local Lad: The reigning champion of a pinball tournament, until Tommy defeats him and takes the title of “Pinball Wizard”. (This character was merged with Cousin Kevin for the Broadway version.)
The Acid Queen (AKA “The Gypsy”): A prostitute who deals in hallucinogens and attempts to heal Tommy.
The Doctor: A doctor who attempts to heal Tommy and finds out that his disabilities are mental rather than physical. (also known as The Specialist, and in the film, “A. Quackson” is the payee on Frank’s check.)
Sally Simpson: One of Tommy’s “disciples”.
Story in chronological order
“Overture”/”It’s a Boy” – British Army Captain Walker is reported missing in action during World War I, and is not expected ever to be seen again. Shortly after his wife, Mrs. Walker, receives this news, she gives birth to their son, Tommy. In the film version, Captain Walker is a Royal Air Force pilot
“1921” – Approximately four years later, Captain Walker returns home and discovers that his wife has found a new lover. Captain Walker confronts the two and kills the lover. Tommy witnesses this through his mirror. To cover up the crime, Tommy’s parents tell Tommy that he didn’t see it, didn’t hear it, and he will say “nothing to no one ever in life”. A traumatized Tommy becomes deaf, dumb, and blind. (In the film version, however, this plot point is changed: Captain Walker confronts his wife and is killed by the lover.)
“Amazing Journey”/”Sparks” – Tommy’s subconscious reveals itself to him as a tall stranger dressed in silvery robes, and the vision sets him on an internal spiritual journey upon which he learns to interpret all physical sensations as music.
“Eyesight to the Blind (The Hawker)” – Tommy’s parents take him to a church of a cult religion to try to cure him. “Eyesight…” is the cult leader’s song.
“Christmas” – Tommy’s parents, reminded by the advent of a religious time of year, worry that his soul is at risk of damnation, since he is unaware of Jesus or prayer.
“Cousin Kevin” – Tommy’s parents become complacent and leave him in the care of his cousin Kevin, who bullies and tortures Tommy without fear of anyone finding out. He ultimately gets bored with Tommy’s limited reactions.
“Acid Queen”/”Underture” – Tommy’s parents once again try to cure him, this time by placing him in the care of a woman who tries to coax Tommy into full consciousness with hallucinogenic drugs and sex. “Underture” is an extensive instrumental representing Tommy’s experience on acid.
“Do You Think It’s Alright?”/”Fiddle About” – Tommy is left in the care of his uncle Ernie, an alcoholic child molester who, like cousin Kevin, takes the opportunity to abuse Tommy without fear of being caught.
“Pinball Wizard” – Tommy is discovered to have a talent for pinball, and quickly defeats the game’s tournament champion. This propels Tommy to international celebrity status. “Pinball Wizard” is the reigning champion’s song.
“There’s a Doctor”/”Go to the Mirror” – Tommy’s parents find a medical specialist to once more try to understand and cure his symptoms. After numerous tests, they are told that there is nothing medically wrong with him, and that his problems are psychosomatic. However, as they are trying to reach him, Tommy’s subconscious is also trying to reach out to them.
“Tommy Can You Hear Me?”/”Smash the Mirror” – Tommy’s mother continues to try to reach him, and becomes frustrated that he completely ignores her while staring directly at a mirror. Out of this frustration she smashes the mirror.
“Sensation”/”Miracle Cure” – The smashing of the mirror snaps Tommy back into reality. Tommy’s cure becomes a public sensation and he attains guru-like status. Thereafter he assumes a quasi-messianic mantle and tries to lead his fans to an enlightenment similar to his own.
“Sally Simpson” – One of Tommy’s “disciples”, Sally is a reverend’s daughter who sneaks out of her home to attend one of Tommy’s sermons. She ultimately attempts to touch him, only to be thrown from the stage by security and suffers a gash on her face.
“I’m Free” – Tommy attempts to spiritually enlighten those that are listening to his sermons. All subsequent versions (except Live at Leeds) place this song immediately after “Smash the Mirror” as a direct reaction to his “cure.”
“Welcome”/”Tommy’s Holiday Camp” – Tommy opens his own home to anyone willing to join him, and urges them to bring as many people with them as they can. His house is quickly filled though, so he builds a holiday camp to try to accommodate everybody. Tommy’s uncle Ernie is running the holiday camp and it’s implied he is using the camp as an opportunity for profit and is ignoring the camp’s purpose of heightening people spiritually.
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Tommy demands that his followers play pinball and blind, deafen and mute themselves in order to truly reach their spiritual height, but the heavy-handedness of his cult and the exploitation of its followers by his family and associates cause his followers to revolt against him. Abandoned by his followers and worshipers, Tommy gains a new enlightenment.
This is also the path the movie takes.
In its original album version, the story is quite scattered, and details were often filled in post facto by Townshend in interviews. As other adaptations of the album appeared, some details were filled out and others were changed. Notably, some later versions change the time frame from post-World War I/1921 to post-World War II/1951. The film version of Tommy also changes a major plot point: instead of Captain Walker killing his wife’s new lover, the lover kills Captain Walker.
Analysis and history
When Tommy was released, critics were split between those who thought the album was a masterpiece, the beginnings of a new genre, and those that felt it was exploitative because of its dark theme. The album was banned by the BBC and certain U.S. radio stations. Ultimately, the album became a huge commercial success, as did The Who’s frequent live performances of the rock opera in the following years, elevating The Who to a new level of prestige and international stardom.