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Roger Daltrey’s New Autobiography Explains How The Punk Became the Godfather

Roger Daltrey’s new autobiography, Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite (we’ll explain the title in a moment), is a fun read, but if you’re as diehard a fan of The Who as I am, you can’t help but notice it contains a few missed opportunities. Daltrey is the lead singer for one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s through the early 1980s, yet fails to comment on some of his group’s most important moments.

But he does discuss some of the many squabbles that involved him, his band mates, and his managers. As Dave Marsh wrote in Before I Get Old, his excellent 1983 history of the band, completed immediately after their “first” farewell tour:

If the music world [of the 1960s] could be compared to a neighborhood, then the Who were the one family in every block who simply cannot keep their squabbles private, who make a mess that dangles out of the windows and into the yard and who unashamedly tangle with one another publicly in ways that mortify the neighbors. The Beatles might have argued among themselves  as much as the Who, but they were discreet. The Stones were scruffier by far, but their very essence was never losing their cool. The Who battled it out right in public.

Daltrey punctuated a few of those arguments with his fists – most notoriously, an October 1973 argument with The Who’s songwriter, guitarist, and resident genius Pete Townshend, while shooting a promotional film clip during a rehearsal for the  British leg of the world tour to promote their then-new album Quadrophenia:

Pete, fueled by the best part of a bottle of brandy, went off like a firecracker. He was up in my face, prodding me. “You’ll do what you’re fucking well told,” he sneered. This is not the way to talk to me, but I still backed off. The roadies knew what I was capable of so they sprang into action and held me back.

“Let him go!” screamed Pete. “I’ll kill the little fucker.” They let me go.

Next thing I knew, he’d swung a twenty-four-pound [sic] Les Paul guitar at me. [Actually, even the heaviest Les Pauls of the 1970s weighed about half that – Ed.] It whistled past my ear and glanced off my shoulder, very nearly bringing a much earlier end to The Who. I still hadn’t retaliated, but I was beginning to feel quite put out. He’d called me a little fucker, after all.

Finally, after almost ten years of Peaceful Perce, after another left hook narrowly dodged, I replied with an uppercut to the jaw. Pete went up and backward like he’d been poleaxed. And then he fell down hard, cracking his head on the stage. I thought I’d killed him.

To make matters only slightly worse, our publicist Keith Altham chose that moment to bring the American managing director from our newly signed record company onto the sound stage. The bigwig’s first sight of his big new signing was of the lead vocalist knocking the lead guitarist out cold. “My God,” said the horrified MD. “Is it always like this?”

“No,” said Keith. “Today is one of their better days.”