One of music’s most recognisable frontmen, Roger Daltrey shot to fame in the 1960s as the lead singer of The Who, and has remained on the nation’s musical conscious ever since. Not content with being part of one of the influential bands of modern music, Daltrey also boasts a successful solo career, with eight studio albums to his name.
This autumn Daltrey will be looking back at more than half a century in music with the release of his much anticipated memoir Thanks a lot, Mr Kibblewhite: My Story. On the day of publication - 18 October 2018 - Daltrey joined us here at Southbank Centre for a special in conversation talk. Ahead of that special event, and in recognition of his incredible career, we ttook the opportunity to look back at some of the singer’s classic collaborations in career that has seen him perform with an incredible range of musicians.
Why perform with one special guest, when you can perform with half a dozen? In February 1994, Daltrey and his fellow former band mates from The Who smashed box office records at New York’s Carnegie Hall with A Celebration: the Music of Pete Townshend and The Who. The special two-night concert saw The Julliard Orchestra and a number of special guests perform pieces from The Who’s back catalogue, including this remarkable version of Baba O’Riley featuring celebrated Irish musicians Sinead O’Connor and The Chieftans.
Daltrey has appeared with the legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper on more than one occasion - including the aforementioned Carnegie Hall shows. However, the only footage of the two in action together comes from 1999’s British Rock Symphony, which brought classic rock hits together with an orchestra. Though the series earned mixed reviews, Daltrey and Cooper’s performance of the Rolling Stones hit Start Me Up was a recognisable highlight.
Though he’s performed as a solo artist for four decades, Daltrey has never had a bigger hit than Giving It All Away, a track from his 1973 self-titled debut solo album. The song, which reached number five in the UK singles chart, had been written for Daltrey by the then unknown songwriters Leo Sayer and David Courtney. A decade on, Sayer’s own fame had seen him secure his own television series, offering a platform for something of a Giving It All Away reunion duet between writer and singer.
So removed from each other are the sounds of The Who and late 1970s disco, that in 1978 Pete Townshend wrote the track Sister Disco as a statement that the band’s sound would never incorporate disco elements. ‘With 'Sister Disco', I felt the need to say that the group would never, ever, in any way do anything like the Bee Gees. We stand over here and what we stand with is all right’. Forty years later, Daltrey was a little more open to the idea, as he joined disco pioneers Nile Rodgers & Chic to deliver a funked up version of The Who hit Who Are You at the annual gala of Rodgers’ charity, the We Are Family Foundation.
On Easter Monday, 1992, Daltrey was one of a number of huge musical names to join the remaining members of Queen on stage at Wembley Stadium for a special tribute concert to Freddie Mercury for AIDS Awareness. With Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi on guitar, Daltrey belted through I Want It All in front of a capacity crowd of 72,000 and a worldwide television and radio audience estimated to be close to a billion. An incredibly powerful performance, and oh, so much hair.
‘I’ll sing anything you like, Wilko, you write it and we’ll have a go at it’. The words of Daltrey to the former Dr. Feelgood and Blockheads guitarist, after Johnson had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013. Johnson’s response was typical of how he grabbed life following his diagnosis, telling the BBC, ‘Imagine having Roger Daltrey telling you I’ll sing anything you like, well, I just took advantage’. Typically self effacing, Johnson does himself a disservice; the ensuing collaboration album, recorded in just week, was warmly received by old and new fans alike.
Never heard of The Milestone? Don’t worry, few have. Back in 2014 this Scottish covers band were playing a set for the wedding of Susan and Carl Smith at Mar Hall in Renfrewshire, when they were interrupted by a hotel guest. But far from wishing to complain about the noise, this septuagenarian wanted to join in. It was of course, our man Daltrey - staying at the hotel ahead of a gig at Glasgow’s Hydro the following night - and enjoying the band so much from a nearby room, he decided to make an impromptu cameo. The ensuing jam through I Can’t Explain was filmed by a wedding guest and soon went viral.
Another offhand Daltrey performance came at the 2011 NME Music Awards, as he presented the Godlike Genius Award to Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl. As the last award of the night it’s become customary for the recipient to play a short set; Grohl took a different approach. ‘They said, ‘Why don’t you do four or five songs?’ And I said, ‘F*** that, why don’t we play for two f***in’ hours?’, he announced before roping in Daltrey by adding ‘I’d like to perform a song with an actual Godlike Genius, Mr Roger Daltrey’. Together they duly delivered an emphatic performance of Young Man Blues, which Daltrey would later explain was far from planned. ‘That’s what rock’n’roll used to be like, when people used to just get up and make it up on the spot. Which is what we did tonight – I hope we didn’t show up too much!’
Southbank Centre is the home of literature and spoken word events in the UK, and the venue for London Literature Festival and Poetry International. Throughout the year we host talks, discussions, readings and more featuring bestselling authors, award-winning poets and inspirational writers.