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48 Years Ago: Roger Daltrey Walks Out on the Who

The early days of the Who were tumultuous times. Four different personalities were learning to coexist. The band changed its name three times. Pete Townshend and Keith Moon began to revel in the joy of destroying their instruments. And Roger Daltrey often found himself at odds with the rest of the band.

In an interview in the documentary, ‘Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who,’ Pete even recounts what he thought of his bandmates at the time. John Entwistle, Moon and himself all fell in the “genius” column, but “Roger was a singer; that was it.” Although the Who were often fueled by friction, in 1965 that tension almost killed the band.

Following the last two shows of a European tour in September of ’65, Roger and Keith got into a brawl, which Daltrey later chalked up to his disgust with the Who’s drug use and its effect on their performances. Roger got the boot and the Who announced they would replace him with Boz Burrell. The London bassist/singer was a member of R&B band that featured future Small Faces keyboardist Ian MacLagan. Boz never played a gig with the Who. The whole thing was short-lived and Daltrey was reinstated before the band’s next gig. Burrell went on to become part of King Crimson and co-found Bad Company.

Roger was brought back to the Who as long as he stopped any violent behavior. During his school days, Daltrey had earned a reputation as a bully. He later reflected on leaving his fighting ways behind. “I thought if I lost the band I was dead. If I didn’t stick with the Who, I would be a sheet metal worker for the rest of my life,” Daltrey said in ‘The Who and the Making of Tommy,’

But everything wasn’t always hunky dory. On November 19, 1965, Daltrey reportedly stormed off the stage after the Who’s performance of their new single, ‘My Generation’ at a concert called the Glad Rag Ball at Wembley’s Empire Pool. The show featured Donovan, Wilson Pickett and others and was being filmed for a TV program to air in December. It was the largest audience (10,000) the Who had seen in their young career. Although Daltrey blamed his issues on the public address system, nerves might have played a role as well.

Footage of the Who playing ‘My Generation’ on that night still exists — see above — showing Roger looking angrier than usual and listlessly wandering around the stage (although we don’t see him leave). Some reports indicate that Daltrey quit the band after the show and that, again, Burrell was announced as a replacement. However, it’s possible that the dust-up in September and this incident in November got mixed together over time, and it’s not clear if Daltrey walked out on the group.

It’s easy to see how the two events could be jumbled. For example, in the ‘Amazing Journey’ documentary, footage is shown from the Glad Rag Ball in November while Roger is discussing the fight in September (likely because no film exists of the Denmark concerts). The events have become conflated, in some way. Regardless of exactly what happened backstage, it was quashed almost immediately, because the Who (with Daltrey) played a show the following night – along with another 24 gigs before the year ended. The kids were all right.

Next: Ugly Band Breakups

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