Reporting Brian Ives
When you’re as famous a frontman as Roger Daltrey, that’s the legacy that’ll stick in the long run. The Who singer, however, is hellbent on being known as the public face of the Teenage Cancer Trust, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of teens and young adults with cancer. It first started in England more than two decades ago, and as its main patron, Daltrey has helped the organization expand stateside with Teen Cancer America. Unsurprisingly, that’s what Daltrey’s most passionate about in conversation. But since Radio.com got the man on the phone, of course we had to ask about the Who — especially since Townshend was widely quoted as saying the band would be going on the last tour in 2015.
So, what’s on the Who’s schedule for the coming months?
We’re maybe doing an album next year, and touring in 2015, which will be our last big tour. That’s not to say that we won’t play again. We’ll still do events, and we will find new ways to perform, whether it’s sitting down in smaller venues for a week, so we don’t have to do the schlepping. It’s the schlepping that’s killing us.
Other than you and Pete, who will play on the next album, if you do, in fact, record one?
Who knows? The Who, we’ll always have Pino [Palladino] on bass, I’m sure, and if the music is suitable for Zak [Starkey] on the drums, then great. I don’t know. The Who is Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. And the echoes of John [Entwistle] and Keith [Moon] will always reverberate whenever we play. I can’t tell you who we’ll use if we make a new album, until I hear the music.
For those who aren’t familiar with Teen Cancer America’s mission, can you explain it?
Well, Teen Cancer America has been born out of my work with the Teenage Cancer Trust in Britain, with the ambition and the aim of providing support and hospital facilities for the people with the specific age 13 to 23. Your system, at the moment, include teenagers in a category of people ages 13 to 39. We want to change that. Because 13-year-olds have nothing in common whatsoever with 39-year-olds.
To me, it’s so obvious, especially when you’ve had children of your own, that when they turn 13 , they’re not children, they’re very different from children. And incredibly different from adults. It seems that if it is recognized that children should have children’s hospitals, that it should be recognized for this serious, serious disease that is still the number one disease killing teenagers, that they should have something within the system. I’m not talking about the medicine; I’m talking about the environment.
Obviously, the program in England has been successful.
In England, we noticed by providing this service, we are showing quite significant success — upwards of 7 to percent, maybe even more. If you had a drug that did that, you would receive an awful lot of funding.
This is a huge undertaking for you.
I have a platform to try and at least do something with my life that will benefit others. I’ve always been interested in, not medicine as such, but our health.
Is there a plan to add more teenage cancer wards here in America?
We’re already got UCLA, they’re the first to come on board. What I want to do with this is to make Teen Cancer America’s logo to be the gold standard for teen cancer care in America. We’re talking to 25 hospitals nationwide, so they know we’re on to something with this. Any parent will tell you , one of the most difficult things when your teenager experiences trauma, is getting them to talk. What we’ve found is the best therapy for a teenager with cancer is (talking to) another teenager with cancer.
The Teenage Cancer Trust concerts that you have put on in England have become the stuff of legend. This year, you had Noel Gallagher of Oasis and Damon Albarn of Blur performing on the same stage. Will you bring those concerts over here?
I can’t do that side of it over here. All I can do over here is, I can present you with the issue, I can hope that you see the need. I can light the fire, and in that way, I’ll do anything I can. The music industry over here is built on the backs of teenagers, so this would be a good way of giving back. Your audience needs you. Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl have supported us.
Back to music for a minute. A deluxe box set version of Tommy is coming out on November 11. Tell me about the bonus material.
I haven’t heard it at all, I’ve had nothing to do with it!
OK! Well, you did a solo tour in 2011 where you played all of Tommy. So, obviously you feel that the album holds up well.
Well, if I had a choice to sing one who album on stage, it would always be Tommy. I think it’s the most complete piece of work we did. That’s not to say that the other albums aren’t great for different reasons, but Tommy would always be my choice.
Last year, the Who toured for Quadrophenia.
It’s always been an ungainly piece, Quadrophenia, but obviously songs like “Love Reign O’er Me” hold up.
Some people find the storyline in Quadrophenia a bit hard to follow.
Oh, I don’t want to get into that. That was last year, I’m through with that one!
For a while you were talking about doing a solo album. Have you shelved that idea because there’s talk of the Who doing another record?
If I could find the songs, I’d do one tomorrow. I have great difficulty in finding songs with the depth of songs of Pete Townshend’s.
A few years ago, you had a big birthday concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Most of your guests performed fairly well-known songs, but Lou Reed chose “Now And Then,” from Pete’s then-recent Psychoderelict album. Were you surprised?
No. I know a lot of people thought he was difficult, but I always found him alright! I saw him just four weeks ago. It’s always a shock when someone is no longer there anymore.